Shrinking Housing Possibilities

Responding to the concerns of residents who signed the referendum to repeal Ordinance 973, the Planning Commission on January 12 unanimously recommended that City Council approve a Community Plan Amendment that would reduce the potential maximum number of housing units in the North Commercial Zone by 43% and prohibit multiple dwelling units on the 6.78 acres adjacent to the lagoon and riverbank. “This change is intended to address the community concerns … that have been expressed and heard,” staff said.


Ordinance 973 was passed by the previous Council on a 3-2 vote to meet Del Mar’s state-mandated “5th Cycle” housing requirement to amend the North Commercial zone providing the potential for affordable housing during 2013-2021, by April 15, 2021. This has realistically meant finding properties in North Commercial that if modified can accommodate more housing units than currently allowed. Ordinance 973 would allow multiple housing units as a use in the North Commercial Zone at the Jimmy Durante/San Dieguito Drive roundabout area where only one dwelling unit is currently allowed per lot if that unit would be accessory to a commercial use. Existing Floor Area ratios and height limitations in the Commercial Zone and review by the Design Review Board would stay in place. However specific concerns related to access during emergencies, sea level rise, and density were voiced by residents especially those who lived in the adjacent areas.


The North Commercial Community Plan Amendment recommended for City Council approval would significantly reduce potential units by clustering all potential for multiple dwelling units along Jimmy Durante Boulevard, not San Dieguito Drive, and away from the lagoon and riverbank, according to the staff report.


Resident and referendum leader Arnold Wiesel attended the meeting and objected to the proposed Community Plan Amendment required to satisfy 5th Cycle Programs 2E and 2G and objected to the new Overlay Zone (required rezone of the two vacant Watermark lots per Program 2G) based on an “inadequate and incomplete” Environmental Impact Report. When asked if he was willing to “reconsider your decision given the reduction of units and increase in environmental protection,” Wiesel said he could not answer for all the residents who signed the petition and was unwilling to respond even as an individual.


The Commission’s recommendation goes to City Council for a decision as we go to press. In the meantime the Council has appointed Mayor Gaasterland and Councilman Druker as a two person subcommittee to work with representatives of the referendum drive to reach a compromise. Otherwise the City faces decertification, a potential increase in the number of affordable units required, more by-right development that could include lots on the North Bluff above Dog Beach, significant financial penalties, and loss of local control, including Design Review, for failing to meet our Housing Element goals.