Del Mar Update from Dwight Worden

Hello friends! Here is my October, 2016 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 November Office Hours

Friday, November 4, 2016 - 9:30-11:30 am 

Stop in to chat--no appointment required.  Location: Del Mar Community Building, 225 9th St., Del Mar. Can't make it, but have something to say? Email me at:

New City Hall Under Construction.  
Official groundbreaking occurred September 19, 2016 for the City's new civic center and city hall complex. When complete, there will be a new Town Hall for council and other meetings, a city hall for employees and staff, a large plaza, 140+ parking spaces, mostly underneath, expansion areas for future use, gardens, view decks, trellised areas, and more.  The entire complex will be state of the art energy efficient. Overall, the new facilities will have about the same number of square feet as the old facilities, but with a much more efficient layout and more parking, so we're not getting bigger, just better. Construction should be complete sometime in summer 2018 on budget. ( At left: Mayor Parks and I joined many residents at the 9/19 groundbreaking. Photo: Bill Morris)

Short Term Rentals Continue to Divide Council and Community.  
Council, and the community, are split on how best to handle Short Term Rentals (STRs). Mayor Parks and I interpret the Community Plan and zoning as not allowing STR businesses in our residential zones. We are willing to accommodate a limited exemption like the one allowed by the IRS for rentals for a few weeks per year, to accommodate those wanting to rent their homes during vacations, while visiting relatives, etc. This position would keep full time mini-hotel businesses out of our residential zones while accommodating some STR use. That's consistent with the Community Plan and reasonable. Other council members have disparate views but seem to prefer more broadly allowing STRs in our residential zones which would likely require Community Plan and Zoning changes. 

I've written two papers on the topic. The first is my analysis of why the Del Mar Community Plan and Zoning Code do NOT currently allow STRs in residential zones but DO allow them in the Visitor Commercial and other commercial zones, as well as in the Residential Commercial zone (along Stratford) and in the condos at L'Aubergre. We have plenty of room for STRs in these zones. My second paper reviews the difficulties of enforcing an "allow but regulate" approach in the residential zones and why I think that approach won't work.

You can read my papers here:


Bottom line : I'm ready to make a decision. This issue is tearing our community apart and we've had ample time to consider this issue and for everyone to be heard.  I voted to support extension of the current moratorium on new STRs holding off enforcement against existing STRs while Council decides on a long term solution, but I also made it clear that I expect that decision by early next year and I will not support extending the moratorium beyond that time.

Rail Crossings  
A couple of months ago I wrote a white paper on the complex issues faced when trying to find a safe and legal way to get pedestrians across the railroad tracks on the Del Mar bluffs. You can read the paper here

Since I wrote that paper a citizen's group formed, submitted a petition with 600+ signatures, and took the issue to Council and to NCTD. Along with Mayor Parks, I met with leaders of this group to hear and understand their concerns. Both the Del Mar Council and NCTD (led by Del Mar's NCTD representative Don Mosier) have, so far, responded positively to their input supporting finding a better, safer, and legal way for folks to cross in this area. We'll be working on that in the coming months as well as pursuing options to get the rails off the bluffs.

The double-track complication: Looking forward, a complicating factor to achieving a legal pedestrian crossing is the fact that NCTD wants to double  track  this whole corridor to increase passenger and freight service to well over 100 trains per day from the current 50+ trains per day. That could be a good thing if the  rails  are  taken off  the bluffs. More  trains carrying  more freight and people means significantly fewer cars and trucks on our highways, less energy consumption, less greenhouse gas, and a better transit system. But, how in  the  world will the  rails  be doubled on the bluffs in  the  face of sea level rise and accelerated bluff erosion?  That strikes me as a losing, and expensive, long-term option. 

Near-term and short-term solutions: I'm a strong advocate of providing a legal and  safe  crossing somewhere between 15th Street and Torrey Pines beach in the near term, and of a long-term  solution  moving the  rails  to a tunnel under Del Mar,  turning  the bluffs into a park. Both goals bring major challenges. San Clemente recently got PUC approval for at-grade rail crossings in their community, albeit after a ten year struggle to overcome opposition and millions of dollars spent on a comprehensive rail-trail program to "channel" pedestrians into safe crossings. I'm pushing for Del Mar to investigate a similar program. Encinitas is also working on at-grade crossings in Cardiff and Leucadia. So,hopefully, we won't have to entirely reinvent the wheel here -- but neither San Clemente nor Encinitas  involved a bluff, or other complexities we face, and Encinitas, although ahead of us, has yet to receive approval of their proposed crossings. I don't underestimate the challenges to overcome. In addition to the uphill climb to get PUC approval, an at-grade crossing on the bluffs in Del Mar would need to have warning bells and lights and likely a wayside horn as well. Depending on where it is placed and how it is designed, these requirements could be a big issue for local neighbors. Likewise, wherever an at grade crossing is located is likely to increase parking and pedestrian use in the area, issues that also can be of local concern. 

A billion dollar challenge: Raising a billion+ for a tunnel, which is what it probably would cost, is a daunting task. But, daunting challenges can sometimes be overcome one step at a time. So, first step: let's get NCTD and SANDAG to put up money for a feasibility study to identify where the best location is for such a tunnel, what its basic design would be, including a preliminary cost estimate. Would it be under Camino Del Mar? By the tennis courts? Under Crest Canyon? By the I-5? Could it be designed to eliminate the expensive lagoon crossings? How would it be vented and what would the local impacts be? That kind of preliminary study is affordable and doable.  Right now all we  have  is an unfunded goal in the SANDAG 2050  Transportation  Plan to put the rails in a tunnel under Del Mar at an unspecified location with no  funding  program. One billion+ is a lot, but hey, we are spending 2 billion on the new trolley line and about 3 billion on San Diego's "pure water" program. The value of the rail corridor to the regional economy is at least as high as those projects. My point: put in context, the cost of a tunnel may not be so scary, especially when compared to the cost of trying to double track the bluffs while fighting an expensive and destructive ongoing battle against bluff erosion that ultimately will be lost.

My hope is that a realistic preliminary analysis will brings facts to the debate and will show that, for environmental, long-term rail efficiency, cost, safety, and regional economic reasons, moving the rails off the bluffs is the better, more cost-effective long-term solution.  We will get a stupendous bluff top rail-trail park when the tracks go. We should stop spending money on band aids and start building a fund to relocate the rails.

Roundabout Coming to Jimmy Durante and San Dieguito Drive intersection.  
The controversial roundabout for the intersection of Jimmy Durante and San Dieguito Drive will be under construction within weeks. Roundabouts reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, slow traffic, make pedestrian crossing safer, and aid the smooth flow of traffic when serving traffic volumes within design capacity. Problems can come when traffic volumes exceed capacity. At that point, just like other intersection controls, the system breaks downs and can jam up with gridlock. Under those conditions residents and visitors trying to get out of San Dieguito are at a disadvantage, because cars in the roundabout have the right of way. If it is jammed, drivers exiting San Dieguito would need to rely on courtesy to let them in. Given that we regularly have gridlock in this area during the fair and races, and now during Kaaboo, that caused me great concern. It is why I insisted on conditions in the approval of the roundabout for traffic control during such episodes to ensure our residents can get in and out. I'll be looking for feedback on what people think once the roundabout is up and running.


Street repairs coming to your neighborhood
Street repairs:  The city council just approved about $750 million for local street paving and resurfacing. You may see action in your neighborhood soon! Without raising taxes we plan to spiff up all our needy local streets with repairs and resurfacing over the next few years. The city is also doing repairs to all our needy public sewer lines, many of which are decades old. Our Public Works staff has studied all our streets and sewer lines and has ranked them as to need. We'll be fixing them up as soon as possible, while coordinating the schedule to minimize the need to dig up a newly resurfaced street to do work on pipelines.

Removed section of Boardwalk
Lagoon boardwalk update:  Our beloved lagoon boardwalk has been half removed. The good news is that, finally, wetlands restoration of the south parking lot at the fairgrounds is underway, and half the boardwalk will remain for strolling into the restored wetlands. No doubt, you've noticed the equipment and dirt piles as this project is underway. The Coastal Commission wanted the entire boardwalk removed. Del Mar, The River Park JPA, and River Park Conservancy all wanted the boardwalk to stay. This contentious issue was resolved by keeping half the boardwalk.

New mirrors under I-5
Trail mirrors:   I'm proud of these new mirrors serving the Coast to Crest Trail where it crosses under the I-5. As a bike rider, I found it was dangerous to ride through the underpass unable to see, so I suggested the mirrors and agreed to pay for them. They went up in October. Note you can see the trail ahead in the new mirrors.

"I was told there would be cake":  Our beautiful library had its twenty year celebration in October. What a beautiful building and asset to our community! The library offers not only books, computers, music and films, but live concerts, classes, kids' activities, a community meeting room, and much more. Stop in and say hi to the great staff. If you missed it, here's a picture of the 20 year anniversary cake.

Ice plant, be gone!:   Along with many others, I participated in the annual coastal beach and lagoon cleanup held in September. My "crew" worked to remove invasive ice plant from the area of our beautiful new River Trail. Lots of pulling and digging, but I'm proud to say we got it all--filling most of a large dumpster. If you haven't checked it out, stop by and stroll the new path. You can park in our public lot at the corner of Jimmy Durante and San Dieguito Drive.

Other crews cleaned dog beach, the Coast to Crest Trail, and we even had crews in kayaks cleaning the lagoon, including Conservancy Executive Director Trish Boaz and councilmember Don Mosier.

A huge thanks to Don Mosier:  Hard working, smart as a whip, data driven, independent, and deeply committed to Del Mar's welfare -- all that and more describe Councilmember Don Mosier. Don has served us in many ways, including as mayor, councilmember, as our NCTD and River Park JPA representative, and as chair of the San Dieguito River Park JPA.

Don is leaving the city council after eight years of distinguished service. Along with so many others, I give my sincere thanks. Don has offered to help us after he leaves council (December 7) with implementation of our new Climate Action Plan which he successfully championed to adoption earlier this year.  I, for one, will be looking to facilitate keeping him engaged. (At left: Don and I unveiled the San Dieguito Lagoon plaque honoring long-term Coastal Commission Executive Director Peter Douglas.)