By Kristina Houck
In an effort to preserve the property as open space, a Del Mar resident is circulating a petition to prevent a small city-owned parcel from being sold for development.
Located on Hidden Pines Road, the vacant parcel was formerly used as a water pump site. The Del Mar City Council on March 18, 2013 adopted a resolution with the intent to sell the land, and the Planning Commission on Jan. 14 declared the parcel in conformance with the city’s general plan. But some residents argue the 25-foot-wide, 127-foot-long space is too small for development.
“The city has been describing this as just another nonconforming lot, whereas it’s really the most nonconforming lot ever,” said Clive Freeman, who owns a home that borders the western side of the parcel. Since launching the petition in January, he has collected more than 80 signatures, he said.
The property was mapped in 1947, but the city’s zoning code was established in the 1976 Del Mar Community Plan. Therefore, the 3,170-square-foot plot is located in a zone for single-family residential development where lots must be a minimum of 10,000 square feet.
“The parcel is a legal parcel with development rights and the purchaser of the property could choose to build on the property, or keep it as open space,” said Assistant City Manager Mark Delin.
In an interview, Delin noted about 30 percent of parcels in the R1-10 zone are not in conformance with the city’s general plan. In an email with Freeman, he specified that there are 775 parcels in the R1-10 zone throughout Del Mar. Of these, 266 are nonconforming and 71 are also in the Wildland Urban Interface zone, which essentially creates a buffer between development and the Torrey Pines State Reserve.
Using the city’s online tool at delmar.geoviewer8.com, Freeman discovered there are no other parcels smaller than 5,000 square feet in the R1-10 zone that are designated as Wildland Urban Interface. The next largest nonconforming parcel in the zone is 5,130 square feet, according to the data.
If the Hidden Pines Road property is sold for development, Freeman said he is concerned it will set a precedent that Del Mar will “move toward concrete and money rather than open space in the community.”
“The drive to turn currently open space into developed properties is going to be amplified in the future,” Freeman said. “I think that’s not widely appreciated.”
This wouldn’t be the first time Del Mar has sold city-owned property.
In 2010, the city sold a 22,215-square-foot lot on Balboa Avenue for $4.4 million. Del Mar used the funds to pay off the city’s debt on the Shores property and fund the Beach Safety Center.
“The important point to note is that as a city asset, this parcel belongs to all of the residents of Del Mar, and if sold, the funds could be used to help fund a variety of city projects that would benefit the community,” Delin said.
Currently, the city’s Finance Committee is evaluating other city-owned parcels for potential sale, he added.
“The council may or may not determine to sell any other property,” Delin said.
An appraisal on the Hidden Pines Road property has been completed, but the parcel has not yet been listed for sale. Delin could not disclose any other details about the appraisal.
Although the value of the land has not yet been disclosed, Carmel Valley residents Pieter van Rooyen and Rita van Rooyen have already made an offer. The couple purchased the currently undeveloped land bordering the eastern side of the parcel in 2012.
If they purchase the city-owned property, Rita van Rooyen said she and her husband would not change the plans for their yet-to-be-built home and would keep the plot as open space.
There have been at least two other instances where residents have helped purchase property in the city to preserve it as open space. Unlike the Hidden Pines Road property, however, the parcels had been private property.
In 1978, the city created a special assessment district after neighbors jointly purchased private property on Luneta Drive.
In 1995, the city and a group of residents cooperatively purchased private property on Crest Road. Residents raised $91,125 and the city committed $80,000 in open space funds and a $16,306 loan to preserve the land as open space.
Although the date has not yet been scheduled, city staff could bring the Hidden Pines Road issue before the council again as early as April 7 during a closed session. Real estate negotiations are closed session discussions, Delin said.
“When it’s firmed up, we’ll certainly let people in the area know,” he said.