Del Mar Update from Dwight Worden

Hello friends! Here is my April 2017 newsletter as your City Councilmember. I'll address a few topical issues for Del Mar in  each of these periodic newsletters, welcoming your feedback! Please feel free to share this with your Del Mar friends and neighbors.

~ Dwight 
Dwight's April Office Hours

Friday, April 7, 2017 - 9:30-11:30 am    No appointment necessary; drop in and let's talk!

     Note: My May 5 office hours are canceled due to the City Council budget workshop

Location: Del Mar Community Building, 225 9th St., Del Mar
Can't make it, but have something to say? Email me at:

Effective Law Enforcement for Del Mar: Is a Local Police Department a Better Answer?

This is a BIG issue for Del Mar. I support a robust, fact-based community consideration of this issue. 

The best available information, just released last week (Finance Committee recommendation, consultant study, staff report) indicates the potential for real benefit in a local PD.  These reports show that a local PD can give better service at less cost than what we currently pay for sheriff services; liability is manageable; and pension costs will go down. But I also see some downsides. Accordingly, my mind is open and I support a robust process for the community and Council to discuss this in detail and give it careful consideration.  

The criteria I will be using to evaluate the option of a Del Mar Police Department will include:

1. Can we set up and run a Del Mar PD for the same amount or less money than we pay for Sheriff services?

2. Can we get better service, tailored to the unique needs of Del Mar, its residents, and businesses?

3. Can we prudently manage risks, including pension exposure and liability issues?

4. How will setting up and operating a large department of city government change our community?  

5. Once the community has evaluated the facts and options, does the community want to do this or not?

I have received many emails, calls, etc. from residents expressing their views, including a few that were emotional and ad hominem (fancy Latin for personal attacks/name-calling) rather than factual. Please know that I'm very focused on a fact-based evaluation and discussion. On this important issue, let's all do a deep dive into the facts -- read the studies and recommendations, watch the Council presentations and comments, listen carefully and respectfully to all sides, and express our views based on facts and considered opinions.  Stay away from the personal. I'm open minded on this issue and will take seriously your thoughtful input on the merits. Name-calling, not so much.

Go here to read the voluminous staff report and related consultant reports on the issues. A good overview is available by watching the video of the City Council meeting of April 3, 2017, especially the City Manager's presentation by PowerPoint summarizing all the studies and key issues. If you listen through the public testimony and council discussion you will also have a good start on understanding the perspective of those who support, and those who oppose, a Del Mar PD. If you want the full picture so far, include a review of the Red Dots we received on the issue .  

Council's action, which I supported, was to schedule a council workshop to further review the voluminous information received and to discuss how we might best engage the community on this important topic. 

I look forward to discussing this important issue with you, and urge you to be involved in this important community decision.

Philosophy of Government 
In these tough political times, I want to take a moment and share my basic philosophy of government. It has worked for me for 30 years as a lawyer practicing land use, environmental, and government law, and it grounds me as a Council member. 

My local government philosophy is guided by core values that I believe produce good government, having  practiced them for more than 30 years. 

*  Grass roots community engagement and transparency:  I believe in government from the roots up, and not top-down from Council and Manager to citizens. Transparency in government is key to effective community participation, and I view part of my mission to enhance transparency.

* Everyone is entitled to be listened to with respect and to have their viewpoints considered. Anyone who takes the time to show up at a meeting, to write an email, to make a call, or to study an issue has earned my attention. I will listen carefully to what you have to say. As noted in the police article above, I will not give weight to non-factual, ad hominem arguments or attacks, and believe they are a disservice to civil discourse and good decision-making.

*  Everyone is entitled to have access to the processes of city government -- the ins and outs that make it tick. I regularly meet with folks from all perspectives. I share with anyone who asks how city government works, how to get critical information, how to make your voice heard, and how to participate effectively. That process is for everyone, and it is at the core of successful participatory democracy. You, the citizen, decide what your positions are. Whether or not I agree with you on the merits, I view my role, in part, as a "mechanic of city government"--I understand it and how it works, and will share my advice with you on how to engage your government to make it responsive to your issues and concerns. 

* I believe in civility and our Del Mar Code of Civil Discourse. I listen to anyone with input to give and will respond politely. I'm most influenced, however, by input that is fact based and thoughtfully delivered, so if you want to persuade me, that's your best approach.

* I believe in, and stand in awe of, the talent and commitment in our community. It is evident on our advisory committees, our ad hoc committees and task forces, and we see it every day in community members volunteering and participating in their government and community organizations. The resumes of those who volunteer for Del Mar often reveal world-class careers and talent -- and yet, these citizens gladly add community work to their busy schedules. I have my own opinions on many things, but my job as council member is also to try and discern the community will. That's why I hold office hours, write this newsletter, do my best to answer every email and phone call I receive, and am always pestering you for input. Your insights are the fuel that runs my engine! Believe me, I regularly adjust my positions based on what I hear from you.

Update: Rail Crossings and Relocating the Rails off the Bluff  

Del Mar's Council supports a two-pronged solution to the myriad of problems caused by the current rails on the bluff: 1) We want, in the near term, at least one safe and legal way for folks to cross the tracks between 15th St and the State Beach. 2) We want to accelerate the long-term plans (currently 2050 at best) for relocating the rails off the bluff.

Achieving these goals is neither easy nor cheap, but I think we are making some progress. Mayor Sinnott (who serves as SANDAG vice-chair and Del Mar rep) and I are working as a team to engage SANDAG on this issue, since it is the primary planning and funding source for rail projects. We are currently hip deep in dialog with SANDAG staff and in review of key rail documents. 

I can report that there are five alternate alignments, all of which include a tunnel (one under Camino Del Mar, one by the I-5, one roughly under Crest Canyon, and two alternates in the same general area) identified in a preliminary study by SANDAG about 10 years ago. See the map and summary chart of those alternatives here.

SANDAG staff, at our urging, will now be recommending a budget item this year to update these studies. If approved by the SANDAG Board, we will have current feasibility information on these options. Obtaining this information is the first step in an advocacy program to move up the schedule for actually relocating the rails. 

Additionally, Mayor Sinnott and I will be undertaking an outreach to the other north coastal cities crossed by the railroad. Carlsbad is studying the feasibility of lowering the rails into a trench through its town, and Encinitas is starting to look at its options. We  hope to be able to fashion a recommended north coast solution for the rail line from Oceanside to Del Mar. We believe that will be a better strategy than if each city pursues its own solution, will be better received by SANDAG, and will have a better chance of obtaining funding. 

SANDAG's long-term goals for the rail line is to double current rail traffic from 50+ trains per day to over 100 trains per day, to eliminate current safety problems (roughly a dozen deaths occur per year of people hit by trains between Oceanside and San Diego, and that's before the rail traffic doubles), to increase train speed and shorten travel times, and to reduce service interruptions. None of these goals can be achieved leaving the rails on the bluffs. If this is reality, why wait until 2050, spending millions in the interim to put band aids on the eroding bluffs?

Meanwhile, Councilmember Dave Druker, Del Mar's NCTD rep, is working closely with NCTD to solicit its help to address our need for a near-term crossing. You can watch our council meetings for our update reports on all these rail-related activities. 

Short Term Rentals: Update  

Del Mar is currently going though a two-step process to address short-term rentals. In Step One, the Council will be formally interpreting the existing code--does it allow STRs or not? The City Code has a process for rendering such interpretations where the code is unclear, which begins with the Planning Commission. On Feb. 14, the PC made a determination that they could not find language in the code allowing STRs and therefore could not render an interpretation. That decision was appealed to the City Council. Council is set to conduct a de novo hearing on April 17. 

Once the City Council interprets the Code with respect to this issue, we will have a baseline -- clarity as to what is allowed by current City law -- and can then go to Step Two: are there revisions to the current code that should be considered?  It is only in the second step that we can address what the rules should be, and start to identify any code revisions that we, as a community deem appropriate.


Union Bank Ribbon-cutting:  
I enjoyed participating in the ribbon-cutting for the new Union Bank location in the Del Mar Plaza, and am hopeful that the new, local ownership of the Plaza will turn around this key property.

CDM from 9th to Carmel Valley--Segment 5:
This controversial project involving a proposal to go to one lane each way, to eliminate the no-stop right turn from Carmel Valley Road to CDM, and to add a multi-purpose trail and other updates, was sent back to the drawing board following a packed house City Council review.  Most in attendance expressed concern or opposition fearing that the road changes would aggravate traffic backups or cut-through traffic impacting neighborhoods. Council members Druker and Parks, at council request, are taking the lead on the next steps, and when a revised project is ready it will go back to TPAC for review and hearing, and then eventually back to Council. I'm hoping we can find a project that will be embraced by the Del Mar community and our neighbors in San Diego. Perhaps an option to retain the two lanes of traffic coming north on CDM, but adding the multi-purpose path on the west? I'll be looking to TPAC to engage with the public and bring something to Council that can garner community consensus.

North Bluff Project: A Resort Hotel Coming to Del Mar?
Rights to develop the roughly 16 acres of private property on top of the bluff running from Border (the extension of Via De La Valle) to the City's North Bluff Preserve above dog beach, bounded by CDM and the ocean, have been acquired by developers. The buyers say they plan to pursue a high-end resort hotel, to include public amenities. They pledge to integrate the project with the Del Mar community, and to engage the community in its review and design.  This project is just starting, so stay tuned for more!

Bluegrass  Concert at the Del Mar Library.     My band, Prairie Sky, presented a free bluegrass music concert at the Del Mar Library on Thursday March 23. There was a great turnout, and we all had lots of fun.