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Two measures heading for Del Mar ballot in November

Del Mar voters will cast ballots on two local initiatives in the November election, one regarding proposed changes in the rules for beachfront development, and the other related to a proposed mixed-use project at the corner of Camino Del Mar and 10th Street.

The City Council voted to put both measures before voters at its meeting on Monday, Aug. 6.

The more controversial of the two measures would change the way home size is calculated for 28 beachfront properties in the city. Currently, property owners are allowed to include the Shoreline Protection Area (SPA) in their calculations, which is a strip of beach along the coast earmarked for public beach access.

If the initiative passes, the SPA would not be included in the calculation, reducing the size of the building allowed on those beachfront lots.

Rick Thompson, who lives in a large beachfront home in Del Mar, circulated a petition to put the initiative on the ballot. City and county elections officials certified that at least 313 of the signatures were from registered Del Mar voters, forcing the council to either adopt the measure or put it on the ballot.

The city's other options were to refuse to put it on the ballot, risking a lawsuit, or file a legal action seeking to declare the measure illegal. After a discussion, the council opted, on a 3-1 vote with Councilman Terry Sinnott dissenting, to let voters decide. Sinnott said he would have chosen to fight the measure in court. Councilwoman Ellie Haviland was absent.

All four council members present made it clear that they oppose the initiative, and the panel agreed to sign a ballot argument against it. They also agreed not to spend any city money defending any legal challenge to the initiative.

"I think it's a bad idea, I do not support it, I will not vote for it and I will encourage others to vote against it," said Mayor Dwight Worden. Among the reasons he cited for opposing the measure are that if approved, it could limit a homeowner's ability to rebuild in the event of a fire or natural disaster. He also said it could have unintended consequences regarding development in other parts of the city.

Rather than fight the measure in court, council members Dave Druker and Sherryl Parks said they believe Del Mar voters will do the right thing and reject the measure.

"I would trust the citizens of Del Mar to figure this out for themselves," said Druker.

Nearly all of the speakers at Monday's meeting opposed the measure, while only Thompson and his attorney, Taiga Takahashi, supported it.

"There's a simple, clear goal," said Thompson. "Fair and consistent development of beachfront lots, and preserving the character of our residential community." At earlier hearings, Thompson has said one purpose of the initiative is to prevent the "mansionization" of Del Mar's coastline.

However, some of those who spoke Monday accused Thompson of hypocrisy, because his recently remodeled home is one of the largest along the Del Mar shore. Initiative opponents have also said Thompson is pursuing the initiative to prevent his neighbor to the south, Sandra Naftzger, from building the size home she wants on her vacant beachfront lot.

Opponents have also said the signature gatherers used misleading and untrue information to get Del Mar residents to sign the initiative petition.

"This initiative is full of lies," said Natalie Naftzger Davis, who owns a home immediately to the south of her sister Sandra's lot that she said was built by her grandparents in the 1930s. Naftzger Davis said Thompson and his wife are "hell bent on preventing the development of the lot next door."

City officials have said the initiative would not affect Sandra Naftzger's project, since it has already been submitted to the city for approval. Sandra Naftzger recently resubmitted her plans to the city, which call for a two-story primary residence of 4,591 square feet, and two smaller guesthouses, with a grand total of 6,728 square feet, said Del Mar associate planner Evan Langan.

The Thompsons' home is 7,700 square feet, according to a California Coastal Commission report prepared when the Thompsons applied for a permit to build a new seawall in 2017.

Also on Monday, the council voted 4-0 to put a measure on the ballot regarding a set of new zoning and planning guidelines for a property at 941 Camino Del Mar. Kitchell Development wants to put a 35,000-square-foot mixed-use project on the half-acre site, which currently has a vacant two-story building on it, said associate city planner Evan Langan.

Langan said the lot is one of the last available large parcels in the Del Mar Village area. "To see it redeveloped is a good thing for the city, it's been an eyesore for quite some time."

Voters will be weighing in on the planning rules that would allow the project to be built. The project itself will go before the city's Design Review Board, whose decision can be appealed to the City Council. The new planning and zoning rules will also need approval by the California Coastal Commission, said Langan.

The developer has said he wants to include a restaurant and retail space in the project, as well as six condos and two affordable housing units, said Langan. The six condos will be on the second story of the building.

The council also agreed to write a statement in support of the 941 Camino Del Mar measure.

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