Letters/Opinion: Lawsuit filed against Del Mar

Dear Residents and Commercial Property Owners of Del Mar,

I’m writing to advise you that I recently filed a lawsuit against Del Mar, identified as: Conkwright vs. Del Mar, case #37-2011-00054394-CU-PT-NC.

The basis for this lawsuit is summarized by the speech I read to the City Council at its Feb. 22 hearing, and my correspondence for the May 9, 2011 City Council closed session hearing (to read both the Feb. 22 speech and May 9 correspondence, see below).

It’s not my desire to close down Del Mar businesses, but rather to convince a judge that 1201 should not be singled out and required to comply with a parking ordinance that has never been enforced against other similarly zoned properties.

I hope you will advise your city councilpersons that it will be better for them to acknowledge the situation and clean up their mess rather than continue to defend what has been a corrupt system. Otherwise, a judge will eventually order the city of Del Mar to enforce the parking ordinance in a uniform manner.

George Conkwright owner, 1201 Camino del Mar

Correspondence for May 9, 2011 City Council closed session Hearing

George Conkwright, 1201 Camino del Mar

At the Feb. 22 City Council hearing I read the speech (see below). Still, the City Council voted to uphold Ralph Peck’s appeal. This City Council vote requires me to file a lawsuit within 90 days, and that lawsuit will be filed soon. My goal in filing it is not to shut down other businesses, but to convince a judge that 1201 should not be singled out and required to comply with a parking ordinance that has never been enforced against other similarly- zoned properties.

The City Council now has two possible courses of action:

(1) You can fight the lawsuit, and continue to defend what has been a corrupt system of “back door permits” issued to under-parked properties.

(2) Or you can acknowledge that there’s been a lot of “discrepant use permits” issued in Del Mar, and pass by resolution a “sunset clause” . . . which, at some point in the future, terminates uses that don’t comply with a new and reasonable parking ordinance. Alternately, those under-parked properties could be allowed to fund spaces in a public parking garage.

If you continue to single out 1201 for enforcement of an impossible parking ordinance, the City’s involvement in all these “discrepant use permits” will become public knowledge. My requests for production of documents will require that you eventually acknowledge that many of Del Mar’s restaurants and other uses, including the Del Mar Library, were never properly permitted. It’s all documented in public records. For example, the specific plan for the Plaza states:

“Outdoor dining shall be allowed on terraces associated with a restaurant space provided an equivalent amount of interior restaurant square footage is not used during services of outdoor dining.” It also states “total interior and exterior dining areas shall not exceed 14,400 square feet.”

Smashburger’s development exceeded the Plaza’s maximum restaurant footage, and provides no additional parking for the inside space or the outside food-serving patio, which is partially located on private property. In fact, Del Mar has never required parking for any outside food-serving deck . . . anywhere in town . . . except at 1201 Camino del Mar.

Failure to acknowledge what’s happened in the past, and take action to correct it, will also continue to burden Del Mar’s re-vitalization efforts, since at least one third of the commercial properties in this town have been given use permits far greater than they can ever gain by re-development. For the next 50 years these under-parked properties will remain unchanged, since they have no incentive to re-develop.

How long will it take for the City Council to figure all this out . . . and issue the appropriate restaurant use permits to the best-parked building in town?

The clock is running, and I’m losing rent. Thank you for your time

February 22, 2011 City Council speech

George Conkwright, 1201 Camino del Mar

I built 1201 40 years ago before many of you came to town. Today, Del Mar is a picture of what happened during those last 40 years, and it should tell you there’s something wrong here.

The City’s planning and design review process has created beautiful residential properties . . . but that same process failed in developing the downtown.

Del Mar’s commercial district is mostly nondescript old buildings that were given back-door permits for uses way beyond their ability to provide parking for those uses. And it was done while the City staff and Del Mar residents walked by every day and turned a blind eye.

To put this parking issue in perspective:

1201 sits on a 20,000 sq. ft. lot, and has 15,000 sq. ft. dedicated to parking.

It’s the best-parked building in town. Today it’s become a public parking lot for its under-parked neighbors.

1201 has more on-site parking than all the following restaurants combined:

Board & Brew


Starbucks and

Bruegger’s Bagels

Crepes & Corks


Cafe Secret

Jimmy O’s

Sushi Japone


These 10 restaurants, AND all the buildings they’re housed in, which represents over 50,000 sq. ft. of space . . . all combined . . . have less parking than 1201 Camino del Mar.

How did this situation come about? Where 1201 has been held hostage to re-development for 25 years . . . while during that time . . . residents of this City have seen hundreds of new restaurant seats created in buildings with little or no parking? It came about because Del Mar has an impossible parking ordinance . . . and City Councils that have been unwilling to address the problem . . . or enforce the parking ordinance in a uniform manner.

No other commercial building . . . except 1201 . . . has ever been required to provide parking for outside decks. No other commercial building has been held to the parking standards to which you’ve held 1201 Camino del Mar.

Del Mar has two political factions: One faction wants to see an economically viable downtown that generates sales tax. The other faction consists of a few local neighbors who don’t want any change. That dissent . . . plus an impossible parking ordinance . . . has led to a corrupt system where the City issued back door permits to their friends. The deeper you delve into Del Mar’s restaurant permits, the more corruption you’ll find.

The City Council passed the Pilot Program because they want to re-vitalize the downtown, and because they realized the current Parking Ordinance is unduly restrictive.

Re-developing this 800 sq. ft. office suite into a restaurant has already taken over three years.

Since last summer, 1201 has been in compliance with the Pilot Program. Additionally, I have agreed to comply with the conditions stated in Mrs. Garcia’s Dec. 14 letter. If that’s not good enough, tonight’s hearing will exhaust my administrative remedies.

Your vote tonight will be to either . . . go back and review the past . . . or move forward with Del Mar’s re-development. Thank you for your time.



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