Jill Gartman | Pine Needles Drive
California’s housing-element law requires local governments like Del Mar to adopt plans, regulatory systems, and zoning that provides opportunities for new housing development. After three and half hours of presentation, public comment, and often heated council discussion, the City Council voted 3-2 to approve Del Mar’s Draft 6th Cycle Housing Element, including the North Commercial area for rezoning, but excluding Shores Park and the tennis courts. Gaasterland and Druker cast No votes.
“We just do not have adequate zoning for affordable housing in the eyes of the state nor does Del Mar have a track record for producing affordable housing units in the last 20 years,” said Joseph Smith, Senior Planner, at the City Council’s October 5th meeting.
For the 6th Cycle, Del Mar was assigned 163 total housing units by SANDAG (San Diego Association of Governents) plus an estimated 12 penalty units for 5th Cycle noncompliance. Of those 175 total units, 113 must be affordable housing. Responding to a renewed suggestion by residents that Del Mar dispute these numbers, Amanda Lee, Principal Planner, shared that Housing and Community Development (HCD) and SANDAG have confirmed “there is no opportunity to change the 6th Cycle RHNA numbers or to delay processing the 6th Cycle Housing Element.”
Fairgrounds housing will be required to avoid up-zoning Del Mar’s largest vacant parcels - North Bluff and South Bluff (Staver Property) - and the Draft 6th Element does prioritize working with the Fairgrounds to build affordable housing. However, Del Mar will not receive credit unless it actually inks a Fairground deal in the first three years of the eight year 6th Cycle. Council member Gaasterland objected to the three-year time frame, but city staff were clear that HCD will not accept an eight-year timetable, given Del Mar’s track record of past failures on Fairgrounds housing. In fact, city staff said HCD would require a contingency plan at the three-year mark, triggering rezoning of North and South bluffs if Fairgrounds housing falls through.
In addition to the Fairgrounds, accessory dwelling unit (ADU) production was prioritized and will help the city meet its housing goals in the “moderate income” category, plus up to 15 of the required 113 affordable units. Streamlining and incentive programs will also be put in place for building affordable units, but if after a period of time, Del Mar still is not seeing success in actual units, an Affordable Housing Overlay program is included in the draft as a backup plan.
Due to the number of zoning changes proposed, several residents proposed alternatives for low-income affordable housing. City planning staff succinctly explained that the city does not get credit for sites zoned less than 20 dwelling units per acre (20 du/ac), strategies that produce only moderate- and above-moderate income units, and plans for affordable units with no commitment in place (although staff has proposed HCD will grant Del Mar three years to ink an actual Fairgrounds agreement).
Del Mar will get credit for zones that allow 20 du/ac to create “adequate sites” for affordable units; rezones to 20-25 du/ac to allow housing by-right (vacant lots); adequate sites on City property; and actual agreements/commitments to build affordable units.
For those interested in digging deep, city planners shared examples of what residents can expect development due to the Draft 6th Cycle Housing Element to look like. This can be viewed on the City’s website. [10-5-20 City Council Meeting Item 7 at 30:50]
Planning staff concluded their presentation to City Council by expressing that the proposed Housing Element Update is consistent with the Community Plan goals because it maintains Design Review Board, Floor Area Ratios, height limits and setbacks; insures adequate housing for diverse age and socio-economic groups within the community; facilities housing for seniors close to the village center; and facilitates lower cost housing for low and moderate income households.
One thing is certain: it will be critical for Del Mar to produce tangible evidence that it means business on affordable housing in the first three years of the 6th Cycle Housing Element.