Framing Housing Law: A Cliffs Notes version of Del Mar housing

State Law

  • Requires San Diego County to provide 171,000 new housing units by 2029. Del Mar’s assignment is 175 units.
  • Allows single family parcels to lot-split to 2 parcels and build 2 units per parcel, for a total of 4 units. This is the “SB 9” process.
  • Allows an Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) on a single family lot in addition to the main home, or a “Junior ADU” inside the home. No DRB required; other review is very limited.
  • Requires that certain development projects be “by right” meaning no discretionary review—only “objective” standards can be applied
  • Funds a Strike Force and empowers the state Attorney General to challenge cities that do not comply. 28 cities are already on the hit list, including Encinitas.
  • Coastal Act review is limited mainly to public access and resource protection.

City Law

  • The City’s new Housing Element outlining how Del Mar will provide those 175 units is pending final approval by the state.
  • Implements the ADU law so that ADUs are allowed with very limited city review.
  • Updates the City’s Local Coastal Program (LCP) to implement SB 9. Until approved by the CCC, SB 9 rules are in abeyance in Del Mar.

Housing Shortage. The state, the region, and cities, including Del Mar, acknowledge a housing shortage. General consensus is to stop building in the fire-prone outskirts and focus on infill, near transit where there are services and infrastructure. Science tells us the best way to address climate change is to change from sprawl development to infill development.


The State Fix. The state identified local zoning overrides like the ADU and SB 9 laws as the best strategy to meet housing needs. Prior programs implemented through State Redevelopment Law have been repealed. The state focus is now on mandatory local zoning requirements. While there are state funding and housing programs to help, the main burden falls on local governments.


Supporters. Supporters argue that adding more units is the only way to balance the supply-demand curve and bring prices down. They contend single family zoning is exclusionary, elitist, and drives prices up. They see the ADU and SB 9 laws as necessary to a fix. They point out that economic studies show only a small percentage of single family lots will be able to take advantage of SB 9 and ADU rules due to economics.


Opponents. Opponents contend these state mandates threaten to destroy our communities by converting them to crowded multifamily areas, short of parking, lacking services, and with deteriorated quality of life. They note no funding for upgrading police, fire, sewer, and other necessary services comes with these programs nor are any of the units required to be affordable—the state trusts the market. These opponents believe the better way is to retain local control and let each city figure out how best to tackle the problem.


Maintaining Healthy Communities. Baked into all this is a local need to maintain a strong, healthy Del Mar, with diverse housing opportunities and equity. Del Mar is strong when firefighters, teachers, haircutters, lifeguards, and others can live in town as part of our community fabric, and not have to live in Temecula and commute aggravating climate change. A strong Del Mar also accommodates young families with kids, student housing, and senior housing needs.


Del Mar’s Strategy. Del Mar is trying valiantly to meet its state requirements and at the same time preserve the Del Mar we all value. It’s not easy! Del Mar proposes 54 affordable units on the fairgrounds, 80 or so ADUs scattered throughout town (15 affordable), 22 affordable units in the North Commercial, and scattered affordable units elsewhere. We have 3 years, with the clock running, to strike an agreement with the fairgrounds. If we fail, 250 units, give or take, including 54+ affordable will be required “by right” on the North or South Bluff as the make up call.

The City’s new Housing Element (“6th Cycle”) was adopted in March 2021, but has not yet been certified by California’s Department of Housing and Community Development.