THE PROPOSED DEL MAR RESORT
ON THE NORTH BLUFF
The CPP and Future Reviews
August 31, 2018
I write to supplement the August newsletter I sent earlier as your mayor with this update on the proposed Del Mar Resort, given the many community conversations sparked by the story poles on the North Bluff and the recent CPP meeting at Town Hall. As always, I welcome your comments at:
The proposed Del Mar Resort on the North Bluff is a big deal for Del Mar. It is the largest and most significant project Del Mar has reviewed since the Del Mar Plaza and the Del Mar Hotel (now L'Auberge) were processed thirty years ago. Will it be good for the community? Is it too big? Will the decision makers listen to the voices of the people? How will it manage traffic and other impacts? Should there be a public vote? What are its community benefits? I am hearing these and other questions. Here is my take on where things stand.
. If you are not familiar with the project, you can check out the preliminary plans on the Del Mar city website here: bit.lyDMResortSP, and you can review the developer's presentation of the project here: bit.ly/DMResortPresentation.
THE REVIEW PROCESS
Informal pre-application process. Del Mar encouraged the Resort developers to engage in a series of informal community meetings to collect community input before filing an application with the city. This they have done, and more such meetings are scheduled which the public can attend. You can see the meeting schedule here: https://thedelmarresort.com/events/.
The CPP Process
. Del Mar also requires a Citizen Participation Program (CPP) process to collect community feedback before an application is filed. The idea is to assure the developer hears community perspectives and concerns early so that their application can be prepared responsively. The CPP is not a formal public hearing, it's an opportunity to look at the concept and give feedback before the application is filed. Note that the written comments submitted at a CPP become part of the official record as the project moves through the process, and the developer will file a response summarizing how it has addressed the input received.
The Resort project held its final CPP event on Monday, August 27th, but that process remains open through September 24 for receiving comments, suggestions, and criticisms. To comment send your thoughts to: Matt Battor, City of Del Mar: firstname.lastname@example.org. Unfortunately, some of the news coverage caused people to think there would be an opportunity to give public testimony at the August 27 CPP, but that was mistaken. There will be opportunities for public testimony once the application is filed -- at DRB, Planning Commission, City Council, and Coastal Commission. The CPP format for this project was consistent with Del Mar rules for conducting all CPPs.
My take on the CPP:
Although comments at the August 27 CPP could only be made either in direct conversation with project representatives or by written comment, the developers definitely got a LOT of comments and a clear sense of what the very large group of attendees thought about the scale of the project. So, it will be very interesting to see how they respond to those comments. My sense is that they need to respond in a significant way with meaningful revisions.
. Also, keep in mind that the environmental review process will be very significant -- providing important analysis of a wide variety of impacts and an opportunity for public engagement and comment. The draft EIR should be out sometime this fall. It will address many of the issues of concern: bluff stability, parking, traffic, community compatibility, etc. It will identify impacts in Solana Beach as well as Del Mar, and it will identify mitigation measures for both Del Mar and Solana Beach. Your comments on the draft EIR when it is released are welcome.
. Del Mar has commissioned an economic study of the project to address economic costs and benefits to Del Mar and surrounding communities, including Solana Beach. That report should also be available this fall. My recommendation: hold your powder and review both the draft EIR and the economic report before forming conclusions about project impacts and costs/benefits.
. The Resort project has not yet even started the formal process. Only after the CPP comment period closes and complete applications are filed with the city will that formal process start. To date, the developers have filed a draft Specific Plan, but it has been deemed "incomplete." A revised Specific Plan with project revisions is expected in the September/October time frame. In addition to a revised Specific Plan, the developers will be filing for many approvals including the following key approvals:
- A Community Plan Amendment. The Community Plan's current designation for the property of "very low density" must be changed to some form of Resort Commercial. Such Community Plan amendments can only be approved by 4/5ths vote of the City Council or by public vote.
- A Specific Plan. The Specific Plan sets out the proposed zoning standards for the property governing height, setbacks, density, FAR, etc.
- A Local Coastal Program (LCP) Amendment
- A Coastal Development Permit
The project will be reviewed in public hearings by: The Del Mar Design Review Board, The Del Mar Planning Commission, the Del Mar City Council, and by the California Coastal Commission. There will be opportunities for public input and testimony at each level of review. None of these hearings has yet been held or scheduled.
THE FINAL PROJECT
History tells us that large projects in Del Mar rarely, if ever, come out the end of the review process exactly like they started out. The Del Mar Plaza was reduced in scope by about 30%. Watermark started at over 50 units, then dropped to 47, and is now in the review process at 37. The recently approved 941 Camino Del Mar project at the old gas station site went through similar revisions. Revisions are a normal part of the process, especially for large projects. Don't panic if you don't like what you see right now for the Resort; rather, make sure your concerns are presented in the still-open CPP comment period and in the formal hearing processes coming up. Public feedback will be important in directing project revisions, and in the ultimate decision on project approval or disapproval.
Should there be a public vote?
I will support a public vote on the project if, when we see the final project at the end of the formal process, the community wants one. But, it is too early to take a fixed position on that issue. If the project is revised and meets with strong community support, there may be no need for a vote. If it remains controversial a public vote will be the best way to make this important decision.