Watermark Appeals Turned Down by California Coastal Commission

The 50-unit Watermark development project cleared a major hurdle today when the California Coastal Commission declined to grant a full hearing of the appeals filed by Del Mar Hillside Community Association and Jill Schulz, challenging the City of Del Mar’s decision to grant a permit for the Watermark project.


The project, slated for the dirt parking lot at the southeast corner of Jimmy Durante Blvd and San Dieguito Dr. (near the roundabout), involves construction of a new 4-story, 48-ft. high, 132,894 sq. ft. multi-family residential development comprised of three residential levels, and a podium parking garage. Of the 50 total residential units, 10 would be earmarked as affordable. Two lots would be consolidated for a total site size of 2.37 acres.


Before granting a full hearing on the appeals, the CCC first determines whether the project raises any substantial issue as to conformance with the City of Del Mar’s certified Local Coastal Program or the public access policies of the Coastal Act. By unanimous vote, the CCC determined that there were no substantial issues, bringing both appeals to an end.


Several Commissioners focused on the affordable units, with 6 of the units to be available at rates set for “low income,” (80% of the County’s median income), 2 units at the “very low income” level (50% of median income), and 2 units at the “extremely low income” level (30% of median income). CCC Chair Donne Brownsey noted that the Watermark project is an example where the developer has made inclusion of affordable housing pencil out, even at the “extremely low” income level, which means that individuals “at all income levels” will be “living in the coastal zone.”


Claims raised by one or both of the appellants included height, lot coverage and floor area ratio issues; the protection of coastal lagoons, wetland resources and buffers, steep slopes, floodplain zones, environmentally sensitive habitat, and nesting habitat; the public access provisions of the Coastal Act, and more.


As approved by the City of Del Mar, the project includes preservation of approx. 0.91 acres, including a wetland, wetland buffer, and upland habitat on steep slopes. These preserved areas will be designated as open space and protected, with invasive species removed and replaced with native plants, and will be protected through a deed restriction or similar measure.


Previous coverage of Watermark in The Sandpiper
Commentary: Watermark Politics (May 2022)