At its Jan. 20, 2022 Board meeting, the North County Transit District (NCTD) approved full fencing for the Del Mar Bluffs, unless the City of Del Mar accepts the terms of a “modified fencing plan” by Feb. 28. The modified plan reduces the total fencing and adds lower-profile fencing for significant areas, but requires Del Mar to sign a license agreement that shifts certain liability and maintenance obligations to Del Mar. The fencing motion passed 7-0, with 1 abstention (Gaasterland), and 1 not voting (Rodriguez).
Del Mar’s alternate on the NCTD Board, Council member Terry Gaasterland, 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 1-7 vote, with one member not voting (Rodriguez apparently having problems staying connected to the Zoom meeting).
The approved plan fences the entire area from Coast Blvd. south to the Del Mar Woods south boundary, using 6’ high welded wire mesh fencing throughout, except for 4’ fencing within 150’ of the railroad crossing at Coast Blvd. The fencing would be installed in two phases: the first phase to begin within 3-4 months, and the second phase occurring after NCTD Legal Counsel review, and identification of funding (approx. 2 years from now). Phase 1 includes fencing from Coast Blvd. to the south end of Seagrove Park, a short length of fence at 13th St., and a long section of fence from just south of 9th St. to approx. the south Del Mar Woods boundary.
The “modified fencing 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’ fencing throughout, to a combination of some 6’ fencing and some lower-profile types, including 3’6” post-and-cable fencing. NCTD Board Chair Tony Kranz described the modified plan as having been developed by the Working Group comprising NCTD, the City of Del Mar, and California Coastal Commission.
The City of Del Mar vigorously opposed the approved plan in several letters submitted to NCTD over Mayor Worden’s signature, asserting that only limited, targeted fencing was appropriate, and asking that fencing south of 11th St. be deferred until SANDAG’s Coastal Connections study, which will identify 4-6 potential legal crossings, is completed (expected this summer). The City also asserted that environmental review and compliance, geotechnical studies, and collaboration with key government stakeholders including SANDAG and California Coastal Commission are critical to any fencing plan, but they are missing from the proposal approved by the NCTD Board on Jan. 20.
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 the license agreement proffered to Del Mar is similar to ones that have been accepted by his city (Encinitas) and other cities in similar situations.
Gaasterland asserted that the City of Del Mar is willing to enter into a license agreement, but has requested clarifications with respect to the liability provisions and 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 accepted liability and funded certain costs in similar circumstances, and didn’t think it was fair to treat Del Mar differently.