Residents gather in opposition of Watermark Del Mar

By Kristina Houck

It seemed as though Del Mar residents favored residential over commercial development on vacant property on the southwest corner of Jimmy Durante Boulevard and San Dieguito Road, according to comments at a July 29 community open house at the Powerhouse Community Center. But a group of community members gathered Nov. 7 to prove some locals are against Watermark Del Mar.

Nearly 40 attendees assembled at the Parish Hall in St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, most in clear opposition to the one- and two-story multi-unit project proposed by San Dieguito Land Partners LLC. Del Mar Councilman Al Corti and Councilwoman Sherryl Parks also attended the meeting to hear what those in attendance had to say.

Unveiled during the open house in the summer, the design concept for Watermark Del Mar features 54 one- to four-bedroom apartments and townhomes 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.

Del Mar resident Arnold Wiesel, who said he lives about 300 feet away from the project site, organized the meeting to assemble opponents of the project after learning that San Dieguito Land Partners filed a permit application for the project with the city.

“I just don’t know how this happened,” said Wiesel, who also serves as president of the Del Mar Hillside Community Association. “It does seem like a runaway train because you would think everyone, especially our council people, would have a very delicate sense of balance with an optimum of priority to represent.”

In a letter to the editor to the Del Mar Times, Del Mar Mayor Terry Sinnott confirmed the city has received an application for a specific plan for the property at the corner of Jimmy Durante Boulevard and San Dieguito Road, and it does propose multi-family housing. Submitted last week, the application is now undergoing an initial review by staff, he said.

Because the application was recently filed, there have not yet been any public hearings, or review or action by the planning commission or the city council, Sinnott said. The proposal, Sinnott noted, will be subject to noticed public hearings, an environmental review, council review and the city’s design review process, including the city’s Citizen Participation Program.

“…The process is in place to thoroughly review the proposal and to seek community input,” Sinnott said. “Our City Council, planning commission and design review board will work hard to achieve a positive project outcome for Del Mar.”

Council members added the project among the list of future topics for council agendas during a special meeting and workshop on Sept. 9.

The city in 2008 approved the construction of a commercial project known as the Riverview Office Complex at the site, but some residents opposed the project and requested the land be used for affordable housing, said Tony Cassolato, a managing member of San Dieguito Land Partners, during the open house. Because the site is located in a commercial zone, the applicant is requesting the city amend the zoning to allow for residential use.

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