DEL MAR — Guided more by community input than the housing element, the Watermark Del Mar development team created an additional design featuring 38 units, 10 fewer than the previous proposal.
It is the fourth iteration of the multifamily project slated for a 2.37-acre vacant lot at the intersection of Jimmy Durante Boulevard and San Dieguito Drive and one of two options that will be presented for approval.
“The 48-unit project is still on the table as proposed,” Kitchell Vice President Don Glatthorn said. “We had a wide range of responses to the 48-unit proposal that ranged from enthusiastic support to active opposition.
“There were many people who loved it and told us they thought that project could go forward, which is why we’re keeping it as an option,” he added. “And there were other people that thought it was too dense. So we really, sincerely reached out with the revised design to the people who were not happy with our first 48-unit proposal.”
In addition to adding more trees, changing the building styles, creating more open space and increasing setbacks, the reduced version has a new affordable housing component.
The 48-unit option provides seven affordable units, with four gifted in perpetuity to a nonprofit benefit corporation. In the new plan there will be six affordable, with three gifted.
The project is included in the city’s state-approved housing element as a way to meet its affordable housing requirements.
The design team, which includes Kitchell, Watermark DM LP and San Dieguito Land Partners, has been working on the project for about five years. It started with 57 units and has been reduced based on community input.
In creating the most recent design, which started about 10 months ago, Glatthorn said his team divided feedback from residents into categories and subgroups and addressed each one.
“We said we weren’t going to let density drive this thing anymore,” he said. “We’re going to have the community concerns drive our design and that’s where it ended up. We didn’t decide to design a 38-unit project.
“We decided to take those areas of concern into account and create a project we think is an outstanding design that is not driven by the housing element density goal of 20 to 25 units to the acre,” Glatthorn added.
He said people were “uncomfortable” with that level of density, including “one influential person” who thought it shouldn’t exceed the current highest permitted zoning density, which is 17.6 units per acre.
The 38-unit plan has 16 units per acre, with 2.2 residences per building and a floor area ratio of .60. The 48-unit proposal has 3.7 homes per building and a .67 FAR. Lot coverage went from .45 percent to .39 percent.
“We said, ‘Let’s design the project and then count units and see where it comes up,’” Glatthorn said. “ We wanted to design the right project that responds to these community concerns and comments we heard.”
Some of those concerns were a lack of open space, building coverage, insufficient guest parking, traffic and noise.
Most buildings are now duplex configurations with light and air on three of four sides. One building closest to the existing neighborhood on Heather Lane to the south was eliminated.
“So that improves the livability and makes it a more open-feeling project,” Glatthorn said. “Creating more open space allowed us to take the air conditioning units off the roofs, which reduces the noise impacts to the neighbors and creates large, more functional courtyard areas.”
Although Watermark met the city requirement for guest parking spaces with 12 — or one for every four units — the redesign includes 19 spaces, or one for every two.
“People felt because street parking wasn’t available we should exceed the requirement,” he said.
The Watermark team also has plans to collaborate with the city and San Diego Gas & Electric to underground the power lines associated with the site.
“We’ve also improved the pedestrian experience by eliminating the retaining wall on Jimmy Durante and bringing the slope to the edge of the sidewalk,” Glatthorn said. “We pulled the retaining wall onto the site and will cover that with shrubs and vines so it looks more like a soft, continuous sloping hill versus a hard edge.”
The larger plan features nine trees on Jimmy Durante and two on San Dieguito. The redesign has 19 and seven, respectively. Overall five Torrey pines will be transplanted onsite and 32 new trees will be added.
“Along both street frontages we’re created a very dense landscape and shrub treatment that will dramatically soften the project and frankly, when it fully matures, it will probably be hard to see (the project),” Glatthorn said.
On the northeast corner of the lot, the recreation room and pool have been pulled back and there is now only a free-standing single unit there.
In response to concerns from residents on Heather Lane, the second floor building mass adjacent to that neighborhood was decreased and the gap between the area and Watermark was increased by 25 feet in one area.
Rooftop decks on those buildings were eliminated, as were others in the project. The developers also took out the parking garage access ramp to keep headlights from shining into the neighborhoods.
Glatthorn said his team invited residents to view the new alternative privately or at a Dec. 3 workshop, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Del Mar Plaza.
He said about 25 people have seen the plans privately.
“So far there’s been a very positive response to the new alternative,” Glatthorn said. “Some who expressed concerns about the 48 say the 38 is an excellent improvement and something they can get behind.”
Glatthorn said the lengthy process was not unexpected.
“We did not go into this thinking it was going to be easy or that we would win 100 percent support,” he said. “But we made a concerted effort to deliver exceptional options through exceptional design. We could have been done sooner had we not been concerned about getting it exactly right.”
Glatthorn said another smaller alternative will not be created.
“We are done,” he said. “The original 48-unit proposal provides additional housing opportunities. The 38-unit proposal, we think, more adequately addresses the community comments and input we received.
“We think that both of these are really good options for the city,” he added. “We look forward to having the Design Review Board, Planning Commission, City Council and community at large weigh in and tell us which of the two they prefer.”