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Planning Commission OKs housing element for Del Mar

DEL MAR — After considering the three major areas of the mandated housing element that most concerned residents, the Planning Commission approved an updated version of the document at a special Jan. 2 meeting that will be presented to City Council later this month before being sent to the state Department of Housing and Community Development for a required preliminary review. 

Most notable is the removal of a proposal that would have increased density in the central commercial zone to allow 20 dwelling units per acre — an indicator to HCD that affordable housing could be accommodated.

The revised housing element also includes changes to condominium conversion regulations.

The current city code allows rental apartments to be converted to condos if mitigation measures are applied and enforced and two-thirds are designated for affordable housing.

When the proposal to reduce that requirement to 10 percent to 30 percent was introduced, residents feared that would displace renters.

“I’m very concerned about where these people are going to go,” resident Bill Michalsky said.

In the revised document, limits will be placed on the number of units that could be converted annually, renters will have first right of refusal to buy the condos and programs will be implemented to help displaced tenants.

“This will only work if we have realistic measures to protect the renters,” resident Tom McGreal said.

Commissioners agreed the conversions could also help upgrade the area along Stratford Court if property owners are given incentives.

The original housing element proposal also recommended modifications to the second-dwelling unit ordinance that would allow 550 square feet of such a unit to be exempt from floor area ratio calculations.

It also permitted them to partially encroach into rear-yard setbacks. Modifications include capping the number of second-dwelling units and limiting them to affordable rental rates.

Other new programs include allowing higher density housing in the north commercial, professional commercial and public facilities zones, but not in areas identified as parks and open space.

The city will also continue working with the 22nd District Agricultural Association to allow housing there, but most agree that likely won’t occur in the short term.

The city must have a housing element certified by HCD by April 27.

The state requires the document to undergo a preliminary review by the agency before it is submitted for final certification.

That process takes about 90 days, so the preliminary plan must be submitted by Jan. 27. Council will review the document at its Jan. 14 meeting.

Following a regional assessment by the San Diego Association of Governments for the 2013-2020 cycle, Del Mar must identify sites for 71 housing units.

Of those, 10 are penalty units for not currently having a certified plan and 22 must be affordable to those who fall in the low- or very-low income category.

While the units don’t need to be built, the city must demonstrate they can be.

The city’s housing element has 54 identified programs, most of which are supported by residents. Planning Manager Adam Birnbaum said the biggest challenge for the city is the site inventory, or list of places where affordable units could be built, because, like most coastal cities, Del Mar is essentially built out and land prices are high.

“We don’t have a big goal,” Don Countryman, from the Del Mar Housing Corporation, said in reference to the 22 units.

“Although this is difficult it’s, not impossible to create these units,” he said.


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