Del Mar Scenes - Jan. 2018

Del Mar Updat
e from Dwight Worden - January 2018

Hello friends! Here is my January 2018 update:  welcome your feedback! Please feel free to share this with your Del Mar friends and neighbors.

~ Dwight 
Dwight's January Office Hours:
Friday, January 5, 2018

Time:  9:30 am-11:30 am
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:

Happy New Year!
As you new Mayor, I wish you all the very best for 2018. We live in paradise, and have much to appreciate along with some challenges to face. I look forward to working with you to move our small city forward.

Some Key 2017 Issues: Short Term Rentals; Affirmation of Constitutional Principles; SONGS Nuclear Waste; Climate Change, Paris Accord & Sea Level Rise; SANDAG Moves Forward.

Short Term Rental Update.
After 2 years of study, community input and debate, the city council has adopted an ordinance to institutionalize what we are calling the 7/28 program for short term rentals (STRs).  Here is what the program entails:

* STRs will be allowed without restriction in the Visitor Commercial, Residential Commercial, and several other commercial zones.

* Limited STR use will be allowed in the Residential ("R") zones, allowing STR use for a maximum of 28 days per year in minimum stays of 7 days.

* Unrestricted short term weekly rentals will be allowed in the Wavecrest and Villa L'Auberge existing time share projects.

* L'Auberge Hotel can allow short term rentals within the scope of its voter approved Specific Plan.

* Home Exchanges that don't involve payments are unrestricted. Home exchanges that involve commercial services or payment fall under the 7/28 rules.

* Rentals for 30 days or longer remain unrestricted.

* Hosting family, friends, visitors and the like are unregulated unless done for profit.

* Participation in the 7/28 program will require a simple registration process.

A "soft landing" will be provided by a forbearance period running until the Coastal Commission certifies the Del Mar 7/28 program as an LCP Amendment. During the forbearance period established STRs qualified under the STR moratorium (now expired) will be able to continue without facing enforcement. 

In my opinion, this program reflects a well-considered, reasonable balance. It will allow for substantial STR use in the city, including unrestricted STR uses in the RC, VC, and most commercial zones, while allowing limited STR uses on a  7/28 basis in all the residential neighborhoods. What will change is that the full-time STRs -- the mini-hotels -- will not be allowed in the residential neighborhoods. They will be restricted to the commercial  and  visitor zones designed for such intense commercial usage.

The city collected a lot of data from reliable sources before determining to endorse (4-1, Sinnott voting no) the 7/28 program, including data on how many STRs there are in Del Mar, their rates, their impact on neighborhoods and housing stock, and much more. In my opinion the council made a well thought out, balanced, decision with strong factual and legal support. While transitioning to the new rules may impose hardship on some, I know that protecting our residential neighborhoods as required by our voter-endorsed Community Plan is the right thing to do. I am confident we can defend our decisions as necessary, whether in court or before the Coastal Commission.

Affirmation of Basic Constitutional Rights.
I sponsored and our council adopted a Resolution reaffirming Del Mar's commitment to basic constitutional rights, that Del Mar will not participate in Muslim or other minority roundups, and will continue to pursue climate change and other issues based on science and not on ideology. I felt it was important to put us on record that we do not support Trump Administration positions on these issues. You can read the Resolution here   See below for more on Del Mar's planning for sea level rise.

SONGS Nuclear Waste.
Plans are underway to store millions of pounds of highly dangerous radioactive waste from the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in "temporary" casks buried in concrete on the beach at San Onofre. This is a colossally dangerous and bad idea. Council member Haviland and I sponsored, and the Council adopted, a Resolution opposing this plan and supporting safe interim and long-term off site storage. You can read our Resolution here.

Support for the Paris Accord.
With co-sponsorship from council member Haviland I introduced and the council adopted a Resolution (5-0)  in  support of the Paris Climate Accord as our way of stating Del Mar does not support withdrawal of the US from the accord. You can read the Resolution here.

Generally, I try to keep state and national politics out of our local city government. But, the issues addressed in the above resolutions impact us all. They deserve our attention.

SANDAG moves forward. SANDAG underwent traumatic scandal last year. Its executive director departed amid allegations that SANDAG did not provide voters with accurate forecasts before an important public vote, outside investigators were called in, state laws were passed to reform SANDAG, and change is in the wind, hopefully for the better. Del Mar council member Terry Sinnott, after a bumpy start over questionable climate change comments, has reaffirmed his 100% commitment to Del Mar's positions on climate change as he takes on the chair position at SANDAG. Having our Del Mar representative sit as chair of SANDAG should help us face key issues such as addressing railroad crossings and eventual relocation of the rails off the bluff.

And more:  We're about to open a new, sustainably designed City Hall/Town Hall; we adopted new DRB Guidelines and an improved Citizen Participation (CPP) process as recommended by our Ad Hoc committee, we have a balanced budget, with continued progress on reducing our pension (PERS) exposure; we're launching major new streetscape work, we have a great new Public Works Director (Joe Bride) and Finance Director (Monica Molina), we're collecting Measure Q money to fund significant under-grounding work, we're starting a public art program, we're adding and improving ADA access,  crosswalks, and bike lanes, we completed our first roundabout, and we're continuing work on Shores Park . . . lots of good things happening in our town, helping to offset some wrenchingly difficult issues that have challenged us as a community.


A preliminary Specific Plan proposal for a resort on Del Mar's North Bluff.
(Click on the image above for a larger PDF version of the above plan plus legend.)

A development group (Zephry Development and the Robert Green Co.) has acquired the rights to approx. 16 acres on the bluff at the northern Del Mar boundary, south of Border Ave. and west of Camino Del Mar, overlooking the ocean. This property has been in private hands for many decades, closed to public access. 

In the early 1970s the City of Del Mar acquired 4.5 acres of this bluff, adjacent to these 16 acres and just north of North Beach (Dog Beach), as a natural preserve, The Scripps Preserve. This beautiful open space, offering impressive views of the ocean, lagoon, and backcountry, was acquired through the generosity of the Scripps Foundation and Helen Woodward. (At the time, both James Scripps and Helen Woodward lived in Del Mar.) Mr. Scripps, through the Scripps Foundation, purchased and donated the 4.5-acre Preserve to the City. At the same time, Ms. Woodward purchased the adjoining property to protect it from more intensive development, and agreed to build a single, low profile house. These two actions precluded a proposal to build a large number of units on this property. Thanks to these generous actions by Mr. Scripps and Ms. Woodward, we have a beautiful bluff-top preserve that we are charged with protecting for all time. You can see the Preserve donation documentation here: Resolution No 624.

The development group is proposing to put a high end hotel/resort on the 16 acres adjacent to The Scripps Preserve . Initial proposals call for about 290 hotel rooms and 86 villas. Part of the resort plan would open the property, for the first time, to public access, with a walking path along the bluffs, public parking, public use of meeting rooms, a restaurant and cafe, and other public amenities. Affordable housing and affordable visitor serving accommodations as well as other public benefits are also under discussion. 

The 16 acres is currently designated residential in Del Mar's Community Plan and zoning, able to accommodate in the range of 18-22 homes. Implementation of the resort project will require a Specific Plan and amendment of the Del Mar Community Plan. Amendment of the Community Plan requires a 4/5ths vote of the City Council or voter approval.  Del Mar has a high threshold for making such changes. An EIR, view studies, traffic studies, and more, are all required and yet to be completed.

I'll be reserving my judgment on the resort proposal until we see the EIR and other key analyses. What will the view impacts be? The traffic? Beach access? How dense will it be? Will there be meaningful public access and real benefits to Del Mar and the public, or just window dressing? Will it be set back from the bluff and never need a seawall? Can the project help Del Mar meet its State- mandated affordable housing goals and the Coastal Commission's goals for affordable visitor serving facilities? How would the resort project impact Del Mar's North Beach, the Scripps Preserve, and dog beach? What will the impacts be to neighbors in Solana Beach? These, and more, are all important issues on which we need to get the facts.

If approved, the project would generate substantial Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) for Del Mar, perhaps in the $5 million per year range. That's a factor to be considered, for sure. The driving criterion for me, however, is the project's land use compatibility with Del Mar. I'd love to hear your opinions on that, especially when the EIR and other documentation are available so we all have a grasp of the facts.

Scripps North Bluff Preserve today. Note the original Helen Woodward house visible through the bushes.
Whether or not the Resort project proceeds, it is likely something will be built on the 16 acres. If not the Resort, then 18-22 homes would likely be buildable under current zoning. With or without a resort or housing project, the demands on north (dog) beach continue to increase. As a city we need to plan ahead to maintain what we love about our Preserve and dog beach no matter what the future brings to the private property on the bluff top. My goal is to maintain the 4 acre Scripps Preserve as originally intended--as a low impact preserve for strolling, enjoying the view, and contemplation.  Low key natural trails (with the minimal number of benches already there), a bit of shade, and that's about it, though restoring native flora would be a worthy project for the Preserve.  You can read the
 initial thoughts on these issues from the Planning Subcommittee - me and Council member Haviland - in this staff report (click on item 12, North bluff) presented to the city council on Dec. 18, 2017.

Looking towards Crest Canyon at King Tide time, Jan. 1, 2018.
The lagoon at King Tide time, Jan. 1, 2018.

Del Mar is well underway with its mandatory sea level rise planning effort. A science-based risk analysis has been completed identifying what is at risk in Del Mar from sea level rise and related increased flood risks due to climate change. At risk is everything from Powerhouse Park, the beach itself, private homes, sewer lift stations, the restored San Dieguito Lagoon, the city fire station, streets and bridges, the public works yard, and more. The good news is that there is time to plan and adapt. How to adapt is being addressed in the City's Adaptation Plan. 

The draft Adaptation Plan has generated controversy for some as home owners on the beach and in low lying areas, understandably, expressed concern about how increased flooding and sea level rise and planning to address it might affect their private interests, including their ability to refinance, sell, etc. Some owners are also concerned whether or not they might be forced to retreat, perhaps losing their properties. Of equal concern and importance, the beach is a public resource belonging to all, not just those lucky enough to live near it.  Maintaining a natural, walkable beach while also protecting nearby private rights is the challenging task we face.

The City appointed a highly qualified Citizens Advisory Committee to help address these issues and to develop our draft Adaptation Plan. It is called the Sea Level Rise Technical Advisory Committee or "STAC." It has five private property owners living in the risk zones as members with deep knowledge of Del Mar's private interests and needs, a PhD representative of the Surfrider Foundation, a top scientist from Scripps Institute of Oceanography, the environmental planner for the Fairgrounds, a data scientist from the Scripps Research Institute, and a principal planner from the San Diego Region office of the California Coastal Commission. This is a powerhouse team doing a great job for us. STAC is supported by technical and scientific consultant ESA and senior Del Mar staff, with support from council liaisons Worden and Druker. The whole program is funded by a grant from the Coastal Commission.

Overall, the goal is to identify a "tool box" of strategies that can be used by private owners, the City and other public owners to address increased flooding and sea level rise if and when certain thresholds are met. The concept is agnostic as to how soon Del Mar might see risk from climate change, i.e., if sea level rise does not occur as quickly or severely as predicted, use of the tool box can be deferred. If climate change does bring sea level rise to Del Mar, as the overwhelming scientific consensus predicts it will, or perhaps quicker or more severe than current projections, the tool box will be ready to help public and private parties cope when identified thresholds of change identified in the Plan are crossed. This avoids the arguments and uncertainties of trying to predict exactly when certain levels of sea rise and flooding will occur.

As a community we will have a discussion about how to use the toolbox regarding our public assets. Should we armor Powerhouse Park to protect it from erosion, or let it retreat naturally? How will we manage the public beach and coastal access? Should we try to flood proof the Public Works Yard, or relocate it? And so on. As to private properties, it will be up to the private owners to decide whether, how, and when, to use the tools in the tool box to protect their private properties. 

The Adaptation Plan is scheduled for final STAC review later this month. From there it will go to the Planning Commission for public hearing and review, then to the City Council for adoption, and finally to the Coastal Commission for certification as an amendment to the City's Local Coastal Program, (LCP). I hope you will take the time to read up, to participate, and to let us know your perspective on these issues. They affect us all. You can read more about STAC, the risk analysis, the Adaptation Plan, and the schedule here: Sea Level Rise and STAC

29th street looking north: Maintaining a walkable beach is an important goal of planning ahead for climate change and sea level rise.


Taking Care of the Basics: Street Paving, Sewer and Water Improvements

While our efforts to address sea level rise, police issues, STRs, and other high profile issues
New paving on 9th Street east of Camino Del Mar, December 2017.
grab most of the attention, our city is also attending to the basics. We have an accelerated program to repave residential streets, to improve and upgrade our aging sewer and water systems, to bring reclaimed water to parts of our town, to maintain and improve our public landsca ping, to embark on downtown streetscape improvements, and to put other on-the-ground improvements to work. 

You may see such improvements  in your  neighborhood before long. Scheduling requires taking into account street paving, sewer, and water work, the urgency of the need in each area, and doing our best to dig up your street only once. 

Over the last few years, and budgeted for this year, the City is spending more than ever--by a lot--on these basics.  If you'd like to know more, contact our Public Works Department, or let me know your questions and I'll do my best to get you answers.