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The Sandpiper Board

In its January 2020 issue the Woodpecker made claims about Del Mar’s short-term rental litigation, sea level rise planning, and jobs data. Bottom line from this fact check: the Woodpecker continues to skew the facts to fit its political agenda. By publishing anonymously, without disclosing its editors or writers, it continues to fall far short of the transparency and accountability we believe Del Marians deserve.


CLAIM: “…in 2017, the city effectively banned Short Term Rental Businesses (STRB).”

FACTS: STRBs have never been banned in Del Mar. They are allowed in the Visitor zones, the Commercial zones, the RC zone, and in Specific Plan areas. In 2017 the city adopted its 28-7 Plan, for the first time legally allowing STRBs in the other R zones for 28 days per year in 7-day minimum increments. What the Woodpecker calls a 2017 “ban” was actually a new ordinance authorizing STRB uses in residential zones.

CLAIM: The Woodpecker claimed that a list of five statements represent “More Court Findings,” and published the entire list in quotation marks, which indicate that the text is verbatim from the Court order, including this language:
“There is substantial evidence that in 1981, Dwight Worden as the Del Mar City Attorney issued a memorandum declaring that STRBs are a residential use, not a commercial use.”

FACTS: The claim that the text listed above as #4 is a “Court Finding” is a five-Pinocchio falsehood. The text is not included in any way in the Court’s Order – the Order does not mention Dwight Worden at all, nor does it make any reference to a 1981 memorandum. Despite the quotation marks, the Court order contains no list, and two items in the Woodpecker’s list either add words not found in the Court Order, or omit words without indicating the omission by ellipses – yet, the entirety is presented as a direct quotation from the Court.

CLAIM: The STRB lawsuits filed against the City by “a large group of residents and property owners” have resulted in the City “wasting resources,“ and the Superior Court rulings in these cases “Place Del Mark Back Into Reality.” At the outset, it should be noted that the only publicly-identified member of the group that filed three lawsuits against the City, the Del Mar Alliance (DMA) for the Preservation of Beach Access and Village, is Ralph DeMarco. The Woodpecker offers no evidence that DMA is “a large group of residents and property owners.” Reasonable people can disagree over whether the Council’s 28/7 short-term rental program is good or bad, or whether it is a good use of resources to defend in Court the City’s right to control its own zoning and to follow the Community Plan’s directive to separate commercial and residential activities into separate zones. Four lawsuits have been filed over STRBs, three by DMA, and one filed by the city against the Coastal Commission. Most of the money spent on these cases has gone to defending the city against cases brought by DMA. The status of the cases is:

1. Challenge to the 28-7 ordinance filed by DMA: Dismissed
2. Challenge to the city’s interpretation Resolution by DMA: DMA won a ruling that the City needs to do a CEQA review—merits of the 28/7 program not reached.
3. Public Records Act claim related to STRBs: City prevailed, with a Court ruling in its favor, but was ordered to pay a fee award to petitioners for a delay on a document production.

4. Case filed by City challenging Coastal Commission’s right to override Del Mar’s local control of its zoning by imposing a 100 days per year, minimum 3 day stay as a condition of approval, and denying the city’s 28/7 plan: The court dismissed the case for mootness based on expiration of a Coastal Act deadline, and did not reach the merits of the case.

None of these cases has been decided on the merits, and decisions by the City as to how best preserve its local zoning authority, and implement its 28/7 plan, are pending.


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