DEL MAR — Having not received a response to a letter sent in December, council members voted 3-1-1 at the April 7 meeting to send a follow-up letter to the San Diego Association of Governments that outlines concerns with a proposed project that will add a seasonal train platform at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, double track a 1.1-mile stretch of the railway and replace the San Dieguito Railway River Bridge.
Councilman Don Mosier, who cast the dissenting vote, said he supports many of the mitigation requests to reduce noise, lighting and vibration impacts to the nearby residential community.
But he couldn’t support sending the letter unless a request to shorten the seasonal platform by 250 feet was removed.
“Since this issue first came up I’ve been investigating the shortening of the platform,” said Mosier, the city’s representative to North County Transit District and a member of the SANDAG planning commission.
He said he spoke with officials at both agencies. “In order to fund this project (SANDAG and NCTD) have to comply with the rules of the Federal Railway Administration … and the Public Utilities Commission, which governs public transport,” he said.
Mosier said a federal policy adopted in 2005 requires all new commuter and inner-city rail platform stations to have a platform running the full length of the passenger boarding area of the station.
Projects that don’t comply with the rule “will not qualify for grant funding,” Mosier said.
“So for … Del Mar to insist that this platform be shorter as their primary opening concern is nonproductive,” he added. “It’s saying, ‘Del Mar says SANDAG and NCTD should ignore federal law, ignore state law and adhere to Del Mar’s wishes.’
“I think that’s why you didn’t get a response from the first letter,” Mosier added. “You’re asking SANDAG and NCTD to do something they can’t possibly do. I don’t know where anybody got the impression that they have flexibility to shorten the platform because they don’t by federal law and state law.
“Del Mar has a credibility issue at SANDAG because of past issues like this and we’re sustaining that,” he said. “We’re trying to gain credibility in a regional setting and yet Del Mar insists everything has to be done our way. That’s not the way to gain credibility. That’s the way to lose credibility.”
Resident Bill Michalsky, co-chairman of the city’s ad hoc San Dieguito Double Track Project Committee, said residents don’t oppose the platform.
“We’re happy to have the platform,” he said. “We’re happy to get cars off the road. But this is a big price and there should be more pushback from our community to NCTD, to Amtrak and especially to SANDAG to get them to realize that it’s not about not having it in our backyard. It’s just about how far into our backyard.
“And this is considerable,” Michalsky said. “Don’t role over to SANDAG’s desire. I think this is just too much of an impact.”
Councilman Al Corti, who recused himself from the council discussion because he owns property within 500 feet of the project, spoke as a resident.
He said he didn’t support the letter because “we’re sending a strong message that conceptually we’re in favor of the double track and platform” but with modifications.
Corti said he opposes double tracking all together, especially because there are no set plans on double tracking the rest of railway in Del Mar.
To spend $125 million of taxpayer money to add a mile of double tracking in the north side of town when they haven’t responded to how they are going to double track the rest, I think that’s problematic, he said.
“I don’t see the benefit to Del Mar,” Corti added. “As a matter of fact I see more problems coming as a result of it. I think that double tracking through Del Mar is the wrong thing to do, and I think this is sending the message that it’s acceptable.”
Councilwoman Sherryl Parks said she supported sending the letter because in her opinion, residents weren’t given “the straight scoop” about the project in the beginning.
“It would have been helpful (knowing) what are the rules,” she said. “I don’t think that’s what was first done. … People do better if they know what the facts are right up front and then deal with the solutions. I’m sad about it.”
“I share some of your frustration,” Mosier said. “There has been some disconnect. … That’s not unique to this project. … And yes I get frustrated with federal rules all the time but that doesn’t allow you to get around them.”
Mayor Lee Haydu and Councilman Terry Sinnott also supported sending the letter and then following up with SANDAG and NCTD officials to identify which mitigation measures can be included before the project’s environmental impact report is released this summer for public comment.