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Watermark may go to a vote

DEL MAR — It appears residents could decide the fate of Watermark Del Mar, a 48-unit multifamily complex slated for the corner of Jimmy Durante Boulevard and San Dieguito Drive.

A group opposed to the size of the project submitted petitions to the city on May 18 with more than enough signatures to qualify for a ballot measure in the November election.

The measure would ask if voter approval should be required before a permit is issued for proposed land developments in a commercial zone that are 25,000 square feet or larger, allow a density bonus or require a specific plan, a zoning code change or an increase of the building height limit, floor area ratio or lot coverage from that of the existing underlying zone.

Measure B, a voter approved initiative, is a similar law in place that governs large developments in the downtown area. If passed, the new measure would be citywide.

Del Mar has about 2,855 registered voters, meaning 286 signatures — 10 percent — were needed to qualify the measure for the upcoming general election.

Arnold Wiesel, who lives near Watermark Del Mar, said his group collected more 430 signatures, representing 15 percent of registered voters.

They did so without the use of paid gatherers, Wiesel said. The initial plan was to go door-to-door to collect signatures. But Wiesel said a core group of about 20 residents completed the job by standing in front of the post office on four consecutive Saturdays.

“We had overwhelming support from the community,” he said. “I mean it was big, big. We actually reached our number in less than two weeks.”

The city has 30 days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, from the day the petition was submitted to determine whether the signatures are sufficient and qualified. Del Mar’s city clerk said she will be coordinating with the county Registrar of Voters on that process.

If the petition contains the required number of signatures, it will then go to the City Council for certification at the next scheduled meeting.

If certified at that meeting — most likely July 5 at the earliest — council members can adopt the ordinance, submit it to voters or order a report.

Watermark’s 48 units range from studios to three-bedroom townhomes in 12 one- and two-story buildings.

Seven are affordable. Four will be deeded at no cost to a nonprofit benefit corporation selected by the city. They will help the Del Mar meet the state-approved requirements of its housing element.

The lot is currently zoned for commercial use. An office complex that was approved several years ago was never built.

There are a few methods that can be used to change zoning in Del Mar. Council members in July 2014 authorized the use of a specific plan to do so.

That process, which subjects the project to the standard permitting process and Design Review Board and Planning Commission approval, is more transparent and allows for more public input, members of the development team said.

Wiesel said he and his group aren’t opposed to the project but rather its size and a zoning change without voter approval.

“I would hope that the real point here is that the City Council has clear communication now from its constituency that it wants the right to vote to protect the quality that has made Del Mar a community people want to visit and wish they could live in,” Wiesel said.

“We want more representation to make certain major developments are what the residents want, not three city council members,” he added.

The development team, which includes Watermark DM LP, San Dieguito Land Partners and Kitchell, used comments received during public workshops and open houses to modify the complex, which has been presented to the community several times since 2013.

The project has been scaled back from its initial design, which featured 57 units. The corner of the intersection purposefully has one-story buildings.

Don Glatthorn from Kitchell said his team will continue the process adopted by the city two years ago.

“If the process changes in the future we’ll evaluate our options at that time,” he said. “Right now we’re focused on making our proposal better by exploring design options to address comments we’ve received.

“The vast majority of the input has been enthusiastic and positive,” he added. “Our objective is to deliver an exceptionally well-designed project that enhances the community.”

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