DEL MAR — In addition to selecting two out of five candidates for the city’s soon-to-be-vacant council seats, voters will be able to weigh in on three ballot measures affecting various issues in Del Mar. Below is a breakdown of each of the measures:
Voters will have the opportunity to determine the future of the blighted, former gas station lot on Camino Del Mar.
The parcel is currently still subject to the regulations of the Garden Del Mar Specific Plan, which was approved by voters in 2008, but never built.
Kitchell Development Company purchased the property a few years ago and created a plan for a two-story, mixed-use development labeled 941 Camino Del Mar, which would include six condominiums, two affordable housing units and several commercial spaces on the 25,500-square-foot lot.
The City Council approved the project’s specific plan in July. A specific plan lays out a unique set of development standards for a project, creating its own zoning regulations separate from municipal code. It also requires the developer to provide “exceptional public benefit” to the community.
The council approved several required permits in October after a De Novo Hearing heard the concerns of several residents whose scenic views would be heavily impacted. In order to move forward, the project awaits a final decision by the voters, as well as approval by the California Coastal Commission.
Voters will only be determining the approval of the Specific Plan — which will determine the “regulatory framework” of the site — not the actual development itself. However, a “no” would nullify the council’s approval of the project, and the former Garden Del Mar Specific Plan would remain in place.
Otherwise known as the “Shoreline Protection Initiative,” Measure R will allow voters to weigh in on whether the Shoreline Protection Area (SPA) — a public easement — should be included in the calculation of a beachfront lot’s total area.
In 2017, the city’s Planning Commission determined the SPA should indeed be included, resulting in larger allowed development.
Earlier this year, resident Richard Thompson began circulating a petition to reverse the commission’s decision. He was able to gain enough signatures from registered voters to qualify the initiative for the ballot, which was approved by City Council in August — although all council members present agreed to write the argument opposing the measure. The argument states that Measure R, if passed, would expose the city to “expensive and time-consuming multi-million dollar lawsuits by property owners who feel Measure R is an illegal taking of property rights.”
Residents at prior meetings said Thompson was motivated by a desire to stop his neighbor from building a 6,564-square-foot home on the lot next door.
The ballot garnered its fair share of negative attention, prompting one anonymous resident to publish an ad in the Del Mar Times titled “Where The Surf Meets the Turd in Old Del Mar.” Several “No on R” yard signs can be seen around town, supported by the group Residents For Fairness, and the measure is broadly opposed by City Council candidates.
Even Thompson has since changed his tune, encouraging residents to vote “no” on the ballot measure for which he wrote the supporting argument — which argues that the measure would restore “fair and consistent local rules for beachfront lots,” as well as preserve the city’s small-town character.
“I think I successfully made my point,” he said, expressing that his major qualm with the city was a deficiency in proper notice when “major decisions” are made.
“(The Shoreline Protection Initiative was) borne out of extreme frustration of what I thought was an unresponsive city,” he said.
A press release posted on the initiative’s website expressed Thompson’s desire for the city to improve the notification process, keeping neighbors informed when properties within their surrounding neighborhood are under review by the council or the Planning Commission.
The effects of Measure P — though still subject to a vote — may not see the light of day.
Del Mar, originally founded as a charter city, has since lost that status. Charter status allows a city to follow its own ordinances — rather than the state’s laws — when it comes to municipal affairs.
In July, the City Council passed a resolution to add a charter amendment to the ballot, allowing voters to choose whether Del Mar is to have more local control when it comes to zoning and land-use decisions.
However, Senate Bill 1333 will likely nullify the effect of this measure entirely, by requiring charter cities to comply with general law when it comes to land-use and housing. The bill was formulated to address the state’s lack of affordable housing options. It was approved by Gov. Jerry Brown in late September, and will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2019 unless challenged in court.
“The city attorney advised the City Council that if final passage occurs, it will effectively negate the local Charter Amendment on the November ballot,” said Amanda Lee, the city’s principal planner.
For more information on Del Mar ballot measures visit: https://www.delmar.ca.us/686/Del-Mar-Measures.
Lexy Brodt covers all things Del Mar and Solana Beach for The Coast News, with a primary interest in coastal development. A North County native turned UW-Madison alumna, she has produced for Wisconsin Public Radio and reported for The San Diego Union-Tribune and Wisconsin State Journal.