Del Mar Updat
e from Dwight Worden - July/August
Hello friends! Here is my July-August 2017 update:
Resolving Contentious Issues,
Short Term Rentals Update, and
Del Mar Police Department - Yes or No? I
welcome your feedback! Please feel free to share this with your Del Mar friends and neighbors.
Dwight's August Office Hours:
No appointment necessary; drop in and let's talk!
Del Mar Community Building, 225 9th St., Del Mar
Can't make it, but have something to say?
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Resolving Contentious Issues
With at least two highly contentious issues up for resolution - STRs and policing - I'd like to share thoughts on
how we should make decisions on contested issues. I certainly can't recommend the model of political decision-making we see too often at the federal level, marked by extreme partisanship "alternative facts," and lack of civil discourse.
It is a matter of great importance to me that we do not let this negative, unproductive, approach infect Del Mar.
Now more than ever it matters how our little city runs and how we reach decisions. We are all entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts, and a decision-making process that values fact finding, careful analysis, and a commitment to the values of our Community Plan should be our lodestar.
Progress in Del Mar depends on a civil, rigorous, and relentless pursuit of facts, on listening, on respecting opposing viewpoints.
This is hard. It requires discipline to vet facts before adopting positions. It can be uncomfortable to listen to those with whom we do not agree. It can be a challenge to recognize that, sometimes, we may need to change our preconceived notions. If a good process is respected and followed, in the end, we should be able to respect the decision that is made, whether we agree with it or not.
I've committed myself to a good government process from day one. I listen to everyone who has something to say. I do my research on facts. I vet what I receive, whether it comes from the public, city staff, or other sources. I try to respond to everyone who takes the time to contact me, responding to emails, returning calls, holding open office hours, writing this newsletter and publishing my views from time to time in the Sandpiper and on my website, and reaching out to the community. The public input I receive matters - whether I end up agreeing with it or not. I respect our city staff, but I am not part of the staff, nor do I work for the staff. I represent and work for the public.
In this issue of my Newsletter I will address two issues facing Del Mar: Short Term Rentals and whether or not Del Mar should start its own Police Department. These are both complex and highly charged issues for Del Mar. Overriding their importance, to me at least, is how we address them.
Will we listen to opposing viewpoints with respect and an open mind? Or, will we form a fixed opinion and judgment before the facts are in, and dismiss facts and viewpoints that don't support our preconceived notions? Will we characterize those who disagree with us as not "listening," as "bad people," or as having ulterior motives? Or, will we recognize that one can listen carefully and respectfully and yet disagree? Can we respect those with opposing views, or will we demonize them?
My opinions and positions have been shaped, and sometimes changed, based on facts and public input - and just as important, I have carefully listened to some opinions and factual assertions that I have ultimately found to be unpersuasive, and they have also served to give ultimate form to my opinion and positions. As a result of this process, I can defend my decisions and votes with facts and analysis, and I can also say that I did my best to support civil discourse and thorough analysis. (See below for a substantive update on STRs).
On the Police Department issue, I am reserving judgment, holding my powder dry, until all the facts are in and vetted. So far, we have many of the needed facts and analysis from city consultants, city staff, the Sheriff's office, our ranger, and others with expertise. We have options and nuances that still need to be investigated--can we augment Sheriff services to meet our needs? Based on comments from the Sheriff's office at the recent forum, the door may be open on this option more than we thought. Are we confident in the financial and staffing numbers in the consultant reports, or will vetting disclose weaknesses?
Ultimately, I will judge the options based upon the following:
* Can we get better service for equal or less cost?
* Can we get a better community-based approach?
* Will our own PD, even if cost effective, create an undesirable bureaucracy?
* Will our own PD bring too many risks?
* Which option does the community prefer?
For a summary of the pros and cons, and more info on this issue, see below.
Short Term Rentals:
Good News and Good Progress.
We are fashioning a program to protect our residential neighborhoods while allowing residents and owners to engage in some short-term rental activity that is appropriate for residential neighborhoods.
Council is making good progress on the STR issue. Starting from the "baseline" that short-term rentals (less than 30 days) are not allowed by our current Code in residential zones (other than the hybrid RC zone),
Council has now reached consensus that STRs should be allowed in all residential zones for a maximum of 28 days per year, with a 7-day minimum rental. This limited STR use is consistent with the residential purposes of the Community Plan and of these zones. More intensive STR uses (the full time mini-hotels) should be confined to the Visitor Commercial, Residential Commercial, and other commercial zones designed for these more intensive and commercial uses.
The program will include good neighbor policies, will limit STR occupancy, and will be supported by a very simple, non-intrusive registration process to facilitate enforcement and to provide neighbors with a contact number in case of problems.
A key goal is to discontinue the full time STRs that are imposing intensive commercial uses in neighborhoods intended to be residential in character.
STR businesses will still be allowed in the Visitor Commercial, RC, and other commercial zones, and Council is evaluating STR uses for special situations. But these "mini-hotels" - year-round, high-intensity, high-turnover STRs -- will have to move out of our residential neighborhoods.
Here are the highlights why this middle ground approach is good for the community:
* For the first time there will be limits and protections for residents living near STR uses:
No one in a residential zone will be forced to live next to an STR operated for more than 28 days per year;
No one will experience the disruptive process of turnover every 2-3 days;
The number of people on site will be limited to 2 people per bedroom;
The number of cars will be limited to the number of off-street parking spaces;
* A voluntary "Good Neighbor Policy" (that may become mandatory if the voluntary approach doesn't work) will be given to every STR guest;
* A posted contact number will be required so nuisances can be addressed as they occur;
* Del Mar's long-term rental housing stock, vitally important to providing housing for diverse socio-economic groups, will be preserved and not converted to the much more intensive and lucrative business of full time STR use;
* For the first time, STR renting for up to 28 days in 7 day increments will be legal for our residents and property owners in ALL residential zones. This will accommodate our residents who want to rent their property while they go on vacation, to raise some cash, or for other personal reasons while providing options for visitors;
* Rentals for 30 days or more, including for the racing season (which is typically 4-6 weeks) will remain unaffected. The right to STR rent for up to 28 days in 7 day increments is in addition to these 30 day+ rights;
* The right to have friends, college students, guests, etc. come and go and stay for short or long periods will remain unaffected. The new regulations will affect only rentals and exchanges where rent or other value changes hands.
* A "soft landing" will be offered to allow time for those who are covered by the current STR moratorium to come into compliance.
* The most recent census reported the City of Del Mar's population as 4,161, with 34.3% living alone, and the remaining living in households with an average of 2.57 people reflecting an average occupancy of 2.02 per household. Those numbers provide context for the special neighborhood character our Community Plan is intended to preserve. By contrast, the much higher occupancy rates of STRs can bring 10, 15 or even more people, and multiple cars, to a 3 or 4 bedroom home. The new rules will reduce the intensity of use in our residential zones back to what it should be.
I think this approach reflects a good compromise position. It won't make everyone happy, but it will work for most residents, and it will provide options for visitors. If it needs to be changed in the future, we can do that too. Most importantly, it balances competing interests in a way that honors the intent and purposes of our Community Plan and residential zones.
Make no mistake, however, it won't work for those who want to run full time "mini-hotels" in our residential zones. Since their business model relies on high-intensity, year-round use, they are, perhaps understandably, not interested in compromise or a middle ground and are the loudest objectors. The attorney who speaks for them has made it clear that they oppose any minimum stay limits and any limits on the number of days per year with respect to STR uses in residential zones. I respectfully submit that I have listened with an open mind, but have ended up disagreeing with their positions on these issues.
This article represents my personal views as one of your 5 council members. I welcome comments and feedback.
DEL MAR POLICE DEPARTMENT:
Yes or No?
For decades Del Mar has received police service from the County Sheriff by contract. We are now considering options: (1) stick with the Sheriff; (2) stick with the Sheriff but supplement services (3) form our own city police department (DMPD).
I urge everyone to carefully consider the detailed facts and analysis available (and still emerging), and listen critically to a wide variety of viewpoints, before firming up your position.
I'm still in the midst of that process myself, and I hope that the community as a whole will engage in that process. I see a three-step process making sense. Step 1, get the facts out and vet them. That's where we are now. Step 2, have a community discussion to debate the pros and cons. Step 3, take our time to make a decision, including consideration of how we should make the final decision: By council vote? By community survey? By public vote? I am open on how best to make the final decision.
Pros and Cons: In an effort to stimulate thought and debate, here is a summary of the developing arguments pro and con on a Del Mar PD. They don't cover everything, but they do summarize what I have gleaned are the major points on both sides that seem to have some merit. Neither the pro nor the con position is "right" or "wrong." Rather, it depends on the priorities and values one uses to evaluate them. So, I hope we can recognize that those with whom we may not agree may have reached their position with as much integrity as we have. Setting out key pro and con summaries helps me evaluate the issues, and I hope it helps you too. Let me know if you think I missed something important:
* All the reports show that a DMPD can be cost competitive while providing a better level of service than what we get from the Sheriff. For about the same cost as Del Mar pays the Sheriff for one full time deputy, a DMPD could provide two full time deputies. This conclusion is a reflection of the high, and ever escalating, cost for a relatively modest level of service from the Sheriff.
* A DMPD could provide community based service that the large and bureaucratic Sheriff department cannot. With the Sheriff, Del Mar is a small fish in a big pond. Our own PD would be like our fire and lifeguard departments, focused on our needs. A DMPD would develop a deep understanding of Del Mar, responding quickly to community calls in a way that the Sheriff cannot. With our own PD Del Mar would be the only fish in the pond.
* Del Mar would continue to receive key services at no additional cost from the Sheriff such as SWAT, the crime lab, Astria helicopter, jail and booking services, bomb squad, etc., as well as mutual aid when needed. Del Mar would be able to handle any eventuality that might occur.
* Combining our existing parking enforcement and ranger programs into a new DMPD would provide better, more cost effective, service across a range of Del Mar needs from nuisance prevention (noise complaints, rowdy bar patrons, barking dogs, etc.), to community policing (facilitating neighborhood watch, home inspections, door checks on local businesses, neighborhood patrols by bike or car, responding to alarms, etc.) to addressing traffic and crime issues.
* Del Mar would decide how its police would be deployed and what the priorities would be, not the distant and bureaucratic Sheriff command structure, where the Captain responsible for Del Mar changes on a nearly annual basis.
* The reports and studies document that liability, pension, labor, finding a site, start up costs, and other issues can all be handled cost effectively and safely. Read the studies to see for yourself.
* Augmenting the current Sheriff's level of service would be expensive and still leave us that small fish in a big pond.
* If a Del Marian has a problem on the beach and calls the Del Mar lifeguards, chances are they know the caller. They pick up the phone on 3 or so rings, and provide great service. Why shouldn't we expect the same from police services? We don't get that from the Sheriff where calls often get put on hold, and wait 45 minutes or more for a field response. The Sheriff deputies are rarely seen in town as they have duties elsewhere and they turnover often. A local PD can bring the kind of service we want at a competitive cost.
* Bottom line: If you want better service at a competitive cost, a DMPD makes great sense. It's been studied in detail by consultants, by the city finance committee, and by outside sources. Sure, it would reflect a big change, but that would be change for the better.
* A DMPD would likely be the largest department in the city--bigger than the Planning Department, Lifeguard, or fire service--bringing bureaucratic issues we will regret. This idea that little Del Mar can support and manage a police department runs counter to our small town experience.
* Sticking with the Sheriff is a known proposition. It has worked for Del Mar for decades. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
* Creating our own PD brings unknown risks. It will change city management as it takes on an oversight role for a large, new department. It may well bring labor, pension, insurance, and liability issues that are now all handled by the Sheriff. Why would Del Mar want to take on those risks and responsibilities?
* If your vision for Del Mar is a quiet, residential community with a small city government tending to the basics, then sticking with the Sheriff is the way to go.
* Finding a place to house a DMPD will be difficult and expensive. Putting it in City Hall will drive neighbors crazy. Buying and building in Del Mar is very expensive. Renting will incur ongoing costs indefinitely. The Sheriff takes care of all this for us--why change that?
* Even if a DMPD is cost competitive (a claim that needs further vetting), abandoning the Sheriff to set up our own PD is a risky gamble that is unnecessary. We contract for many other services. Contracting with the Sheriff has worked for decades and can continue to work.
* Bottom Line: Del Mar is a terrific place. Our crime rates are low. We're doing fine with the current level of Sheriff service. If we want more, let's augment Sheriff services. It's worth the extra cost and less risky than striking out into the unknown by creating our own PD.
Watch for this issue on a future Council agenda, and please share your views with me and other councilmembers.
Got Issues of Concern?
Send me an email -- email@example.com -- and let me know. I'll see what I can do!
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