DEL MAR — As Watermark Del Mar moves through the city’s development process, a group of residents opposed to the 48-unit multifamily complex is moving forward with efforts to force a public vote.
Led by Arnold Wiesel, who lives near the project slated for the corner of Jimmy Durante Boulevard and San Dieguito Drive, opponents say the density is too high, the buildings are too close to existing single-family homes and the setbacks and building heights violate building codes.
They also claim Watermark is inconsistent with the community character, will negatively impact traffic in the area, contribute to noise and light pollution and block views of the natural bluffs and hillside.
“It’s horrendous,” Wiesel said. “This is all about the money. I don’t hear anybody in the city saying it’s about community character. This is going to be a massive hotel.”
“This is an Airbnb haven,” resident Tracy Martinez said, referring to the vacation home-sharing business.
Proposed by Watermark DM LP, a partnership between San Dieguito Land Partners, LLC and Kitchell, the development will include 48 units ranging from studios to three-bedroom townhouses in one- and two-story buildings, 112 parking spaces in an underground structure, a pool and spa area and a small recreation room.
Plans also call for seven affordable units, four of which will be deeded at no cost to a nonprofit benefit corporation selected by the city — most likely Del Mar Community Connections.
The affordable units will help the city meet the state-approved requirements of its housing element.
“Something that is going to be that impactful should be subject to a public vote,” Wiesel said.
Tony Cassolato, of San Dieguito Land Partners LLC, said about 90 percent of the comments received during a two-day Community Participation Program in January were positive.
Cassolato stressed that the project is in the early stages of development.
“Nothing is set in stone,” he said in January. “Right now we’re just here to listen and accommodate some of the concerns.”
The 2.3-acre lot is currently zoned for commercial so a zoning change will be required to accommodate residential units.
City Council voted in July 2014 to allow the developer to use a specific plan, which creates a special set of development standards for a particular area, encompasses all legislative actions and regulatory development parameters and allows the public benefit of a project to be addressed.
Wiesel said his group is working with attorneys to create an initiative for the November ballot that would require voter approval for major changes to planning policy documents.
Wiesel said it will be similar to Proposition A, which was passed in Encinitas in 2013. To get an initiative on the ballot Wiesel’s group would need to collect signatures from 10 percent of the approximately 3,300 registered voters in Del Mar.
Wiesel said he expects the City Council to try to approve the Watermark specific plan before the November election.
Should that happen he said he will work to gather the same number of required signatures to force a referendum, similar to actions taken in Carlsbad’s failed Measure A to develop the strawberry fields east of Interstate 5 and One Paseo in Carmel Valley.
Watermark was originally slated to include 54 units, but the developer recently released revised plans. Since then Wiesel has held two opposition meetings. About 15 attended the first and nine were at a Feb. 27 onsite gathering to discuss the initiative and possible referendum.
Wiesel declined to publicly discuss plans to fund the opposition efforts.
The developer is holding workshops from 6 to 8 p.m. March 10 and 24 at L’Auberge Del Mar to provide information on the design, density, environmental issues, traffic and parking, pedestrian access and connectivity, aesthetics and the affordable housing component.