Council approves specific plan for downtown project despite Measure B uncertainty

Council approves specific plan for downtown project despite Measure B uncertainty
L’Auberge Del Mar and Del Mar Plaza are the only two projects ever built under voter-approved Measure B, which was recently deemed unenforceable based on the outcome of a lawsuit involving a Malibu initiative fashioned after Del Mar’s. Courtesy photo

 

DEL MAR — Council members at the June 18 meeting unanimously repealed an existing specific plan and approved a new one for a 25,524-square-foot parcel on Camino del Mar previously home to a gas station.

The existing specific plan was for Garden Del Mar, a commercial, restaurant and retail complex that was approved by voters in 2008 but never built.

Del Mar-based Kitchell Development Company has since bought the property — located east of the downtown thoroughfare between Ninth and 10th streets — and is proposing to build a two-story “flexible-use” complex with office, retail and restaurant space and “residential hospitality” units.

Don Glatthorn, Kitchell vice president, described the latter as condominiums that would be sold to individual owners who could live there or rent them out full or part time.

Should owners choose to rent out their units, Glatthorn said they would have to go through an onsite manager and not online booking sites such as Airbnb.

The design also includes a floral or garden shop with a coffee bar, wine bar and/or small-plates kitchen with intertwined seating that could be rented for private parties, as well as underground parking.

The new specific plan allows for up to 11 residential units. In its current iteration, there are eight. Six are on the second story and two that will be deemed affordable are on the first floor.

A specific plan lays out development parameters for a property and sets new zoning laws that supersede existing regulations.

The process was used for L’Auberge Del Mar and Del Mar Plaza and has been approved for Watermark Del Mar at the corner of Jimmy Durante Boulevard and San Dieguito Drive, as well as a proposed bluff-top luxury resort.

A specific plan requires the developer to offer “exceptional benefits” to the community. In addition to an extra affordable housing unit, Kitchell will be providing nearly $140,000 in funding, including $35,000 for downtown streetscape improvements, $50,000 for completion of the Shores Park master plan and $15,000 for public art.

Because of its location, the proposed project would have been subject to voter approval under Measure B, an initiative that requires voter approval for downtown developments larger than 25,000 square feet.

However, Measure B was recently deemed unenforceable based on the outcome of a lawsuit involving a Malibu initiative fashioned after it.

The fate of 941 Camino Del Mar will still be decided in the November election, but people will be voting on the specific plan only and not the overall project.

Speakers at the June 18 all said they support the proposal.

“What a great catalyst to have at the south end of town,” Del Mar Pizza owner Robert Fleet said. “I think it’s in total harmony with the character of Del Mar. It just fits. It looks great. This is what we need.”

Jim Watkins said the area between Ninth and 13th streets lacks shopping opportunities, uniqueness, charm, character and pedestrian traffic.

“Without retail you simply you can’t have a vibrant downtown,” he said, adding that many of the structures “don’t follow the Del Mar character.”

“As a result, the downtown is dysfunctional,” Watkins said. “It’s not unique. It’s not charming. (It) has little appeal, does not serve the residents and provides very, very little sales tax.

“941 actually addresses all of these issues,” he added. “It has the retail, which is needed so badly. It has the residential … and the charming Craftsman style so badly needed to bring back the character of Del Mar in our downtown.”

“This property has been vacant for 18 years,” Pam Slater-Price said. “I think this is a great opportunity for the city of Del Mar.”

If the specific plan is successful at the ballot, the project itself will require approvals from Del Mar’s Planning Commission, Design Review Board and City Council, as well as the California Coastal Commission.

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