Renderings show a view looking northward onto the potential Marisol project. Photo renderings courtesy of Zephyr Partners
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Residents voice concerns over North Bluff development

DEL MAR — The Del Mar Planning Commission discussed the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) regarding the Marisol Specific Plan Initiative at its Jan. 14 meeting and residents in attendance voiced their concerns.

“It is public practice of a draft EIR to have a planning commission meeting where public comment is encouraged and people are informed about the EIR,” Matt Bator, the principle planner, said.

Most of the residents who spoke brought up their concerns with the EIR and advocated for their fellow residents to vote no for Measure G, the Marisol Specific Plan Initiative, on the upcoming ballot on March 3.

The Marisol Specific Plan is all-inclusive regulatory plan that would allow for future development of the North Bluff. If approved, the Specific Plan will feature residential villas, commercial use, and “visitor-serving accommodations.”

Marisol Specific Plan is a legislative document and an EIR is not required; however, the developers interested in the North Bluff requested to go through the process of an EIR.

“What was requested of the city by the developers to start the process, to continue the process actually that was started with the Del Mar Resort,” Bator said. “At this point in time it is true that for the Initiative CEQA is not required, but at some point in the future, if approved, this disclosure document about potential significant impacts to the environment will be required for an actual project.”

The EIR highlights the impacts that should be avoided or mitigated in order to be less than significant.

The environmental topics which received the most public attention were Aesthetics, Geology and Soils, and Traffic/Transportation.

City Councilwoman Terry Gaasterland spoke and said she was speaking as a “private citizen.” “This is just the beginning,” Gaasterland said. “Del Mar is easy prey with just a few hundred signatures required to put a zoning change onto a ballot initiative … we want to be in control of this as a city where we can talk about and debate it bring it to the Design Review Board … the Design Review Board is reduced to advisory by this initiative … Don’t trade our bluffs for empty promises.”

The EIR clarifies that any future project would be subject to Del Mar’s Local Coastal Program, which will address potential bluff issues such as erosion and protecting the shoreline. Although the initiative itself is not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), if the initiative is approved the potential project will be subjected to the CEQA as well as review by the city of Del Mar.

“I’m in favor of this measure for a number of reasons,” Del Mar resident Tim Haviland said. “Access to the bluffs, revenue for the city, an amenity that I think will be a huge enhancement for the city. I have run on those bluffs for years … you get to a point where you can run no farther because there is a fence there. This will open that up and give us access to the bluffs.”

Zephyr, the builder of the initiative, has clarified that it is committed to preserving the bluff.

“The Marisol Initiative is limited to legislative matters, it seeks approval of a community plan amendment, zoning map amendments, LCP amendments and the Specific Plan … Specifically, section 5.1.3 of the Specific Plan acknowledges that, ‘CEQA review is required by law for all the projects permits and administrative approvals, and states explicitly, because I wrote it that, ‘all feasible mitigation measures shall be implemented,’” David Watson, the attorney representing Zephyr, said.

The initiative allows for development with a maximum height of 46 feet which would include 22 affordable housing units, 31 villas and 65 hotel rooms as well as some other elements. Zephyr has advertised the benefits this could potentially bring to the community include $4.5 million in occupancy tax.

“Del Mar doesn’t need to sell its soul,” Pam Slater-Price, Del Mar resident and former county supervisor, said. “It doesn’t need to sell itself for a few extra dollars … If you are a voter in Del Mar don’t sell out Del Mar for a few silver coins, it’s just not worth it.”

The EIR will complete its 45-day review period on Feb. 3. Public comments will be accepted up until 5:30 that day. Comments must be submitted by the above deadline to mbator@delmar.ca.us in order to become a part of the Draft EIR and its record of comments.

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