A $20,000 grant from the Walter J. and Betty C. Zable Foundation to the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy will be used to help close a funding gap to complete the River Path Del Mar extension, which will run from Jimmy Durante Boulevard crossing, seen here in the background, east to the Old Grand Avenue Bridge, where this picture was taken. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
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Zoning amendment discussion continues

DEL MAR — Council and community continued to weigh the impact of a potential zoning amendment to two commercial areas in Del Mar at a July 1 City Council meeting.

The move is aimed at creating more housing opportunities in the wealthy beach community – particularly when it comes to affordable units.

The zoning amendment would update the allowed uses of the north commercial and professional commercial zones, changing the allowed quantity of dwelling units per acre from one to 20 for both areas.

The north commercial zone is a 13.1-acre area that skirts the San Dieguito River near Jimmy Durante Boulevard, and the professional commercial zone is a 1.3-acre area off of Camino Del Mar, between 8th and 9th streets.

The amendment would open the door for developers to propose mixed-use or residential projects within the area.

Some residents are apprehensive about what these zoning changes might mean for their neighborhoods. The city is pursuing a draft environmental impact report to gauge the possible impacts of the use allowance on factors like transportation, noise and aesthetics.

The action is just one of many outlined by the city’s housing element, which lays out 60 tasks the city must undertake in order to generate more housing opportunities. The housing element is soon to expire in 2021.

As the city attempts to complete the seven tasks left in this cycle and prepare for the next, staff are bracing themselves for the next wave of housing mandates.

The state apportioned 171,685 housing units to San Diego County based on the region’s needs for the upcoming housing cycle. Del Mar is anticipated to receive about 170 of those units —  more than double what they were allocated for the current cycle.

The city currently has zero “affordable units,” though three are on their way.

The north commercial zone is now home to various office buildings, industrial buildings, and businesses such as Bird Flight and Viewpoint Brewery.

The site has a maximum potential to accommodate 262 housing units, though this number doesn’t take into account the area’s current building constraints, according to Planning Director Kathy Garcia.

As such, the north commercial zone could accommodate a maximum 52 affordable units. The city has a 20% set aside for affordable housing, compelling developers to include low-income or very-low-income housing in their mixed use or residential projects.

Resident Tracy Martinez, who lives close to the north commercial zone, called the proposed changes “probably one of the biggest threats to the community plan.”

Martinez addressed the potential negative impact on aesthetics, quality of life and home values. Four residents presented during public comment — Martinez worried that many who live near the affected zones are not informed about the rezoning and possible ramifications.

On the other end of town, the professional commercial zone’s four parcels could accommodate a maximum of 26 dwelling units if the zoning were increased.

Resident Laura DeMarco pointed out that the existing residential area surrounding the professional commercial zone is “already the highest density in Del Mar.”

For now, the council recommended keeping development standards in the two zones the same. This means there will be in no changes to floor area ratio, height limitations or setback requirements in the immediate future. To some, this serves as a comfort.

Pamela Slater-Price, a resident who lives adjacent to the north commercial zone, said that even with zoning changes, potential development would be “somewhat limited” by these standards.

Slater-Price said the main concern to neighbors would likely be traffic impacts. The north commercial zone sits between the Del Mar Fairgrounds and Del Mar’s downtown area, straddling the city’s northbound route to the I-5.

Resident Arnie Weisel said adding more density to the north commercial zone could “further burden” an already congested area, potentially impacting emergency response times to the community.

“It’s a very potentially dangerous situation that needs to be very carefully studied,” he said.

The draft environmental impact report will be released in the fall, after which the city’s Planning Commission will hold a hearing and make a recommendation to council.

Staff anticipate that council could pass an ordinance establishing the zoning amendment in winter of 2019, though the amendment would still need to be submitted as a Local Coastal Program Amendment to the California Coastal Commission.

In the interim, council directed staff to hold two workshops for residents before council considers an ordinance.

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