By Kristina Houck
Community members gathered July 29 at the Powerhouse Community Center to learn about a proposed housing project in Del Mar.
Still in the early stages of planning, a development team has proposed a one- and two-story multi-unit project called Watermark Del Mar at the vacant property southwest of the intersection of Jimmy Durante Boulevard and San Dieguito Road.
The two-hour open house allowed members of the public to ask questions and share concerns about the planning process, design concept and housing element.
“I think Del Mar wants to be involved in every piece of land that’s in the community,” said Tony Cassolato, a managing member of San Dieguito Land Partners LLC, which owns the property. “We want to give people the opportunity to tell us if they want this or not.”
The city had previously approved the construction of an office building at the site, but some residents opposed the project and requested the land be used for affordable housing, Cassolato said.
The design concept for Watermark Del Mar features 54 units on the 2.3-acre site. Plans include seven affordable housing units, four of which would be deeded at no cost to Del Mar Community Connections, a local volunteer organization.
“I think a residential project is better, especially because it will help Del Mar with their affordable housing component that they’re having trouble meeting,” said Joanne Sharp, a member of Del Mar Community Connections and a Del Mar resident of 35 years. “It would be nice to have some place in Del Mar where people could live who aren’t making a million dollars a year.”
Del Mar resident Laura Glatthorn also preferred the proposed residential project to the approved commercial project.
“I think it looks beautiful,” Glatthorn said. “I’d rather see this project go ahead more than the commercial.
“I have a ton of friends who would like to live here and can’t afford it. It would be nice to bring some younger blood in, instead of people that are so set in their ways that they don’t want to see change.”
Some attendees had concerns about the project.
Kevin McHugh owns property across the street from the proposed project where Del Mar Automotive, Del Mar Blue Print and other local businesses are located. McHugh said the city has declined his request to build and expand on his property.
“I wonder how they get around all the codes,” said McHugh, who lives in Rancho Santa Fe. “How come they don’t have to follow all the rules that were put in place for the last 20 years?
“The other project met most of the regulations. This one doesn’t seem to. Anytime we want to do something it’s always, ‘No.’”
Project designer John Maple explained that San Dieguito Land Partners plans to work with existing land rules but they are requesting the city amend the zoning to allow for residential use. The site is currently located in a commercial zone.
“We’re not asking for anything here, other than the city has recommended a zone change,” said Maple, the president of Solana Beach-based Maple M3. “The goal here is to get it rezoned and really create a community.”
After filing an application for the project with the city in August, San Dieguito Land Partners will hold public workshops to request even more input from the public.
“It’s a lot of different parts and pieces to put together,” said Robert Scott, principal planner of Del Mar-based RJS Planning + Sustainability, Inc. “People are going to have their comments on the project, and those may be consistent with or inconsistent with some of the goals of the project. It’s balancing issues and finding the sweet spot.”