NCTD Board Gives Del Mar a “Last Chance” for Modified Fence Plan, with Feb. 28 Deadline; Approves Full Fencing If Del Mar Does Not Accept the Modified Plan

At its Board meeting today, the North County Transit District approved a motion by Board Chair Tony Kranz (Encinitas) that presents a “last chance” opportunity for the City of Del Mar to accept NCTD’s offer of a modified fencing plan by a Feb. 28 deadline. The modified plan reduces the total fencing and adds lower-profile fencing for significant areas, but requires Del Mar to sign a licensing agreement that includes certain liability and maintenance provisions. If the City does not accept this offer by Feb. 28, then the motion passed by the Board approves the fencing proposal that was included in the Staff Recommendation.


The motion passed with 7 voting Yes, 1 abstention (Gaasterland), and 1 not voting (Rodriguez).


The fencing plan in the Staff Recommendation essentially fences the entire area from Coast Blvd. south to approximately the Del Mar Woods south boundary, using 6′ high fencing throughout, except for 4′ fencing within 150′ of the railroad crossing at Coast Blvd. The fencing would happen in two phases, with the first phase to begin within 3-4 months, and the second phase after NCTD Legal Counsel review and identification of funding (approx. 2 years from now).


The “modified plan” is essentially the plan that was presented by NCTD to the Del Mar City Council in October 2021. It reduces the original 12,960 linear feet of fencing to 6,748 linear feet, and changes the original plan for 6′ chain link fencing throughout, to a combination of some 6′ black wire mesh fencing and some lower-profile types of fencing, including 3’6″ post-and-cable fencing. Kranz described the modified plan as having been developed by the Working Group comprising NCTD, the City of Del Mar, and California Coastal Commission.


Chair Kranz noted that the modified plan would leave the upper bluff trail still accessible, which he identified as an appropriate result. He reiterated, however, that the liability issue was essential, and similar to ones that have been accepted by his city (Encinitas) and other cities in similar situations.


Council member Gaasterland, who is Del Mar’s alternate NCTD representative and participated in the meeting, made a substitute motion to postpone the vote on fencing until there is an opportunity to conduct environmental and geotechnical studies; to separate the lower and upper bluff fencing into 2 separate projects, and to defer the fencing until there has been environmental review and compliance with the Coastal Act and CEQA. Board member Rodriguez seconded the motion, but the substitute motion failed by a vote of 7-1 vote, with one member not voting (Rodriguez apparently having problems staying connected to the Zoom meeting).


According to Council member Gaasterland, the City of Del Mar is willing to enter into a license agreement, but has requested clarifications with respect to the liability provisions, as well as the maintenance obligations, which require that Del Mar assume responsibility for repair, maintenance and replacement of the fences as needed.


Board members Sharon Jenkins and Corinna Contreras noted that other cities have funded certain elements and accepted liability in similar circumstances, and didn’t think it was fair to treat Del Mar differently.




The staff recommendation in the Board packet for today’s NCTD Board meeting was to fence the entirety of the Del Mar Bluff, from Coast Blvd. south to approximately the boundary between Del Mar Woods and the Staver property (below 4th St., south of Spinnaker Ct.). This fencing was proposed to occur in two phases, with phase 1 to begin shortly.


The City of Del Mar vigorously opposed the staff recommendation in several letters submitted over Mayor Worden’s signature, asking for the following:


  • Limited, targeted fencing at track level: The City asked that NCTD limit the installation of fencing to the area from Coast Blvd to 13th St. or 11th St., along with increased safety signage. The City noted this limited fencing was supported by NCTD’s own safety data, whereas fencing the entire eastern upper bluff does not address legitimate safety concerns because the vast majority of the upper bluff does not allow for track level access.


  • Legal crossings: Noting that legal crossings would allow for safe public access across the tracks and to the beach, the City asked that additional fencing beyond Coast Blvd and 13th (or 11th) be deferred until completion of SANDAG’s Coastal Connections study, which will identify 4-6 potential pedestrian access improvements. The expected completion date of the study is summer 2022.


  • Environmental review and compliance, geotechnical studies, and collaboration with key government stakeholders including SANDAG and California Coastal Commission: These elements were all asserted as critical to any fencing plan, and missing from the proposal for today’s NCTD Board meeting.


In an important development, the California Coastal Commission weighed in yesterday, opposing the staff recommendation in a strong letter sent on CCC’s behalf by the office of the California Attorney General. Noting that the fencing would disrupt or eliminate “pedestrian access on existing, informal access trails along the bluffs and down onto the beach that have been heavily used by the public for decades to traverse the blufftop, enjoy scenic coastal views and access the beach and ocean,” the letter raised a number of objections to the proposed fencing. These objections focused on the importance of the Coastal Connections study and public access, assertions that the proposed project does not comport with state law, the lack of environmental review, and the project’s inconsistency with the resource and scenic view protection policies of the Coastal Act.


The Sandpiper will provide additional coverage of this issue, online and in our print issues.