Paperwork filed that may force Watermark vote

Paperwork filed that may force Watermark vote
A group opposed to the size of Watermark Del Mar, a 48-unit multifamily complex slated for the corner of Jimmy Durante Boulevard and San Dieguito Drive, submitted to the city a proposed initiative for the November general election. They have until May 20 to collect about 285 signatures, representing 10 percent of registered Del Mar voters. Courtesy rendering

DEL MAR — A group opposed to the size of a 48-unit multifamily complex slated for the corner of Jimmy Durante Boulevard and San Dieguito Drive submitted a proposed initiative for the November general election.

The ballot measure would ask residents if voter approval should be required before a discretionary permit is issued for any proposed development of land in a commercial zone that contains 25,000 square feet or more and allows a density bonus or requires a specific plan, a zoning code change or an increase of the building height limit, floor area ratio or lot coverage from that of the existing underlying zone.

The paperwork was turned into the city April 1 by the Del Mar Hillside Community Association, led by Arnold Wiesel, who lives near Watermark Del Mar, the proposed development.

He said once the city verifies the document his group will begin collecting signatures, probably around April 22.

Wiesel said paid professional signature gathers would not be used

“Primarily we’ll have residents going door to door but we might also have a couple of spots set up downtown on the weekends because you can’t always catch people in their homes,” he said. “We’ll look for a convenient place to do that.”

So far Wiesel has a core group of about a dozen volunteers ready to hit the streets, with offers from several other people to help out.

“A lot of people want to be part of this,” he said. “The bigger the number the quicker and easier it will be.”

Signature gatherers will carry registration forms for those who aren’t registered to vote, Wiesel said.

The group will have until May 20 to collect approximately 285 signatures, representing 10 percent of registered voters in the county’s smallest city.

Since March 8, 128 people have signed an informal online petition supporting such a vote.

“Obviously we want as many residents to participate so to change Del Mar drastically will become a legal decision of the voters,” Wiesel said.

City officials weren’t sure exactly how many parcels other than the 2.3-acre lot, currently used for overflow parking for events at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, would be affected should the initiative pass.

“There are at least a few but not a great number,” Planning Manager Adam Birnbaum said.

Watermark features 48 units ranging from studios to three-bedroom townhomes in 12 one- and two-story buildings, 108 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.

The lot is currently zoned for commercial use. An office complex that was approved several years ago was never built.

There are a few methods that can be used to change zoning in the city. Council members in July 2014 authorized the use of a specific plan to do so.

That process, which subjects the project to the standard permitting process and Design Review Board and Planning Commission approval, is more transparent and allows for more public input, members of the development team said.

“We’re continuing to follow the process that the city council adopted in July 2014, and if the process changes in the future we’ll evaluate our options at that time,” said Don Glatthorn from Kitchell, one of the partners in the development team.

“Right now, we’re focused on making our proposal better by exploring design options to address comments we’ve received,” he added. “The vast majority of the input has been enthusiastic and positive. Our objective is to deliver an exceptionally well-designed project that enhances the community so we will continue to gain support.”

Wiesel and his group say they aren’t opposed to the project but rather its size and a zoning change without voter approval.

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