Letters/Opinion: October, November, December 2019, January 2020
Oct. 17 issue:
Reasons for my vote
In a recent post on social media, Del Mar resident Hershell Price criticized my vote against a last-minute amendment to the 2020 budget for San Diego’s Regional Transportation Plan. I’m not surprised. Mr. Price has long advocated for more freeways and fewer apartments in San Diego.
Taken out of context as it is, Mr. Price would have you believe that I oppose transportation improvements. Nothing could be further from the fact. I support sensible, environmentally sustainable transportation improvements that would help us reduce freeway congestion, reverse the trend of ever-longer commute times from home to work, and reduce carbon emissions.
The last-minute amendment to the 2020 Regional Transportation budget that I opposed, along with the representatives from Carlsbad, Encinitas, Solana Beach, National City, Imperial Beach and Lemon Grove, removed $60 million from the North Coastal portion of I-5, and re-distributed that money to the State Route 78 in North County and to SR 67 in East County. Since this section of I-5 is currently under construction, this is the most cost-effective time to make these improvements. That money will now be used to pay partially for the design and environmental review of adding HOV lanes along the SR 78 corridor, and for widening SR 67 to four lanes. While these projects are no doubt worthy, their benefit pales in comparison to improvements along the northern I-5 corridor.
In deciding how to allocate our limited regional transportation funds, the SANDAG Board must weigh many factors, including safety, cost/benefits, environmental impacts – and we must do this under the state mandates of reducing carbon emissions. None of us on the Board are traffic or highway safety experts. We rely heavily on the information and recommendations provided to us by our professional staff. In doing so, we also must juggle political constraints and conflicts among the voting members.
In voting against the amendment, I was concerned that further widening of freeways will undermine our efforts to meet the State’s mandated targets for reducing Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. I was also aware that the amendment had not been reviewed or vetted by our staff, and they did not recommend it. The revision was not fiscally prudent, and I am concerned that if SANDAG fails to meet its State-imposed target for GHG emissions, we expose SANDAG to lawsuits to enforce compliance.
Given these considerations, if offered the chance to vote again on this issue, I would vote the same way. If you would like to learn more about my vote, or about the facts of the matter, please contact me. I would be happy to discuss the issues with you.
City of Del Mar
Council Member Haviland: We have questions. Do you have answers?
Affordable Housing has become a hot-button concern for cities all around San Diego County. The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) has allocated a quota of “affordable housing units” that must be created within each city under their jurisdiction.
Through meticulous attention to detail and wonderfully presented logic, Solana Beach Mayor David Zito and Del Mar City Councilperson Terry Gaasterland mounted an argument to SANDAG that concluded: 1) The data SANDAG used to calculate these quotas was inherently flawed, and 2) The allotments disproportionally punished smaller cities like Coronado, Del Mar and Solana Beach to the benefit of unincorporated areas like Bonita and larger cities like Encinitas, Carlsbad and La Mesa. In Del Mar, for example, the SANDAG folks failed to calculate the many temporary jobs associated with the racetrack, the County Fair and KAABOO.
After laying out the evidence, these elected officials presented a clear and convincing case for “small city exemptions.” If this proposal had passed both Del Mar and Solana Beach would have received much lower quotas. Unfortunately, it failed to pass by just one vote, and that vote was cast by Del Mar City Councilperson Ellie Haviland! Do you believe it?! This elected official voted against her city and constituents on this hugely important issue! Perhaps coincidentally, Ms. Haviland, her family, and her family trust own approximately twenty rental properties in La Mesa, Bonita and San Diego County -- areas favorably affected by SANDAG’s miscalculations at the expense of Del Mar.
I think we deserve some public answers from Ms. Haviland! Here are the questions: 1) What was your thought process and logic for voting against the opportunity to reduce this unfair burden placed upon your city by SANDAG (i.e. What the heck were you thinking?)? 2) What is your position on the dangerous bluff resort, as this seems to play right into the developers’ hands? 3) Were the aforementioned real estate holdings properly disclosed to both SANDAG and the citizens of Del Mar? If not, why not?
Looking forward to your public response, Ellie. I am sure this publication will provide enough space for you to state your case.
Community Choice Energy: Thanks for
the ‘Yes’ votes
The Del Mar City Council approved moving forward with Community Choice Energy (CCE) by a 4-1 vote at their October 7th meeting, with Councilmember Gaasterland opposed. Her concerns were cited in a letter to the October 10th Del Mar Times. The council received a detailed cost/benefit analysis from EES Consultants at their meeting on April 15th, and many of Gaasterland’s concerns are answered in that report. Other details will be determined by the new Joint Powers Authority Board, and Del Mar will have a vote to influence those decisions.
The council subcommittee of Dwight Worden and Ellie Haviland has been working on implementing the council direction to move forward with joining a CCE for the last 3 years. Most importantly, the Climate Action Plan, adopted in June, 2016, highlighted that moving towards the 2035 goal of 100% clean energy could only be achieved with the local control inherent in the CCE governance model. The subcommittee also conferred with Solana Beach, the only city in San Diego County with an operating CCE, to understand the financial risks and benefits of a larger, regional CCE. I have been involved with city staff in many meetings with other North Coast cities and CCE experts from around the state to make sure that we recognize all the risks and rewards of participating in a regional CCE.
It is time to move forward, and I applaud the votes of Mayor Druker, Deputy Mayor Haviland, and Councilmembers Parks and Worden in taking this important step. Del Mar residents have been well-represented in this important and timely advance toward carbon-free energy for our community.
Climate Action Plan Facilitator,
Former Mayor and Councilmember
Oct. 24 issue:
My answers to questions in letter
Last week’s Del Mar Times/Solana Beach Sun published a letter from Solana Beach resident Steve Saunders, demanding I respond to his questions about: 1) my SANDAG vote on affordable housing allocations; 2) my position on Marisol’s development proposal for our North Bluff; and 3) assertions that I violated State conflict of interest regulations by voting on the housing allocations. I am happy to respond to each.
First, under SANDAG’s weighted vote rules, there was never any real opportunity to reduce the affordable housing allocations for smaller cities. When invoked, the weighted vote formula gives San Diego 42% and it only takes a few other cities’ votes to have a majority. Of the three options voted on, only the formula supported by San Diego and recommended by staff had the votes needed to pass a weighted vote no matter how the small cities voted.
Most people now understand the State’s housing crisis is both real – and growing. Every city is under statutory duty to do what can be done to meet its affordable housing allocation.
Second, the Del Mar City Council called for an Elections Code “9212” report on the proposal in Marisol’s qualified initiative. The report will examine project impacts, including: fiscal; general plan consistency; housing element and affordable housing allocation; traffic; and other impacts. I am keeping an open mind on the project until I receive both the 9212 report, the draft environmental impact report and until we complete the public hearing process. Taking a position on any project before the public hearing is grounds for disqualification from participating in that decision.
The City Council now has two options: place the initiative on a ballot for the voters to decide or adopt the proposal.
Third, Mr. Saunders’ assertion that I violated conflict of interest regulations in voting on SANDAG’s housing allocations is wrong. I have fully reported my economic interests under State regulations, as a Councilmember in the City of Del Mar, and as a SANDAG representative. The required disclosures differ in each jurisdiction. These reports are available from the County Clerk for SANDAG and the City Clerk for Del Mar. I relied upon legal assistance in determining I had no disqualifying conflicts of interest.
I look for the day when we end the political attacks and warfare on one another and start working together toward finding solutions to our housing crisis — so that seniors and families can remain in their homes and workers can reduce their crushing commutes.
City of Del Mar
Haviland is a fine
In an Oct. 17 letter to the Del Mar Times, Solana Beach resident Steve Saunders criticizes Del Mar Deputy Mayor Ellie Haviland for her vote on affordable housing at a Sept. 6 meeting of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). He argues that Ms. Haviland and her family own rental properties in other areas of San Diego and suggests that this represents a non-disclosed conflict of interest that affected her vote.
To the contrary, Ms. Haviland’s vote, representing the Del Mar City Council, was based on her understanding of the SANDAG methodology for determining the allocation of housing units throughout the county, and what would be acceptable to the California Department of Housing and Community Development. It reflected the view of a majority of the Del Mar City Council. As Mayor David Drucker stated at a Sept. 30 Del Mar City Council meeting discussing the issue, “We just don’t have a lot of degrees of freedom in terms of being able to get numbers changed.”
I realize that on important issues affecting our community, there will be differing opinions. I certainly support the expression of these opinions, whether it is at a council meeting, in a newspaper, or online. It’s quite a stretch, however, to link Ms. Haviland’s vote with some housing units in other parts of San Diego. More problematic is the tone of Mr. Saunders’ letter and the insinuation that Ms. Haviland cast an unethical vote. She has lived virtually her entire adult life in Del Mar and, as is obvious to anyone who knows her or who has observed her, is a person of integrity who is dedicated to the City of Del Mar and to the community. As a City Council member, she is a virtual volunteer who devotes significant time each month to council meetings, committee meetings, regional meetings, and preparation for these meetings. Agree with her or disagree with her, she is a fine public servant. It is beyond belief that she would ever cast a vote on behalf of the City of Del Mar to benefit herself personally.
We live in a time of incivility. Particularly on a national level, unsubstantiated and personal political charges are frequently made to gain political advantage. I would like to think that in Del Mar we can engage with each other in a respectful way. By all means, let’s have a vigorous discussion of issues. But let’s avoid personal attacks and refrain from the kind of invective and innuendo contained in Mr. Saunders’ letter.
School field needs
to be kept intact
When the community voted “yes” to approve Bond MM, it was voting to rebuild Del Mar Heights Elementary School. No one in the community dreamed that the school district would take the bond money that was given to them and eliminate a majority of the school field; open recreational space that is scarce in this community and that can never be replaced. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever.
The district rendering is misleading as it shows the proposed green space is only 5% less than that of the existing school. Their numbers include anything that is “green,” not open field. The school district’s definition of “Existing Green Space” does not include the square footage of the current baseball and kickball fields. In fact, the proposed plan actually eliminates the baseball field, which has been used by this community for generations. Their “Proposed Green Space” numbers do, however, include the square footage of a planned amphitheater, perimeter grass, and a large green lot (large enough to currently house the entire kindergarten and kindergarten playground) that will be unusable by future students because it lies outside the fenced campus.
If the school district tries, again, to close Del Mar Hills Elementary School, the student capacity at the Heights will increase significantly. That would leave the community with one, small field at a Del Mar Heights “mega school.” That is all that will be left for future generations.
These kids are 5-12 years old and they need room to run and engage in free play in order to be able to sit in a classroom and learn. That is not possible in an “amphitheater” or some random green areas around the perimeter. The community needs a new school that will help teachers to provide an exceptional educational environment for our children. Upgrading buildings with collaborative spaces and more light is vital; but the field is just as essential to the children’s academic, social and physical growth. And it is just as essential to our community.
The Del Mar Union School District Board of Trustees and Superintendent Holly McClurg need to revisit the proposed school plans and find a way to provide both a wonderful new school facility and to keep the field intact. The projected cost for this rebuild is a staggering $42,000,000 with an additional almost $10,000,000 in soft costs. It’s not going to be rebuilt again for generations, so we need to do this right.
Please sign our petition. Go to change.org and search “Del Mar Heights Field” or go to http://chng.it/W7nhpDNp
Council members should work together as a team
Del Mar council member Terry Gaasterland has done it again! She’s gone out on her own to undermine a position adopted by the Del Mar City Council, and attempt to subvert Del Mar’s efforts to achieve its climate action goals. On Tuesday, Oct. 15 she went to the County Board of Supervisors, pulled an “in opposition” speaker slip, and spoke against the Joint Powers Agreement for the very Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program that the cities of Del Mar, Solana Beach, and Carlsbad had just endorsed. The Del Mar council vote was 4-1 in favor of forming and joining the JPA, so Gaasterland’s appearance at the board couldn’t possibly stop the JPA – it could only keep Del Mar and the JPA from gaining the economies of scale that would come from having San Diego County join as a member of the JPA.
In her testimony to the county board, Gaasterland did not find it necessary to report that she was the sole “no” vote on the Del Mar council, did not bother to recite what the reasons were behind the majority decision, or even to note that her position had been fully discussed and rejected at the Del Mar council.
Del Mar and its JPA partners (Carlsbad and Solana Beach) had been actively courting the county to join the CCA. By urging the board not to join the JPA, Gaasterland undermined weeks of work by city staff and urged board action directly contrary to Del Mar’s interests. The county board split 3-2 against joining, so it looks like Terry can say “mission accomplished” and Del Mar can lose the advantage of having a larger JPA and the economies of scale that it would bring.
Diverse views are valuable when the city council is considering an issue and making decisions. However, once those decisions are made by a majority vote, all council members should work as a team for the best outcome for Del Mar, and not go out and undermine the implementation of those decisions. While Gaasterland can have her own opinions, Del Mar residents expect our council to work together as a productive team.
Art Olson and Henry Abarbanel,
Going rogue sabotages Del Mar’s plan
I am very concerned that Terry Gaasterland acted against Del Mar’s plan to join a joint powers agreement for Community Choice Energy (CCE). Her testimony before the County Board of Supervisors undermines Del Mar’s interests in helping this program work effectively. I understand she was the sole dissenting vote on the Del Mar council but going rogue to get her way essentially sabotages Del Mar’s plan, as well as undermining Solana Beach and other members of our joint agency. She needs to understand what it means to be a team player.
Oct. 31 issue:
Del Mar Heights School rebuild—Save the field
As an active participant in the Del Mar Heights School Rebuild process, I feel it can be better executed to reach a more optimal solution, especially for the kids!
First, the notification process has been lacking. Normally on a project of this massive scale, one would at a minimum, expect signs to be posted. So, unless one had kids enrolled in the school or was actively searching, they had no idea meetings were taking place. Furthermore, quite honestly, most never anticipated the district would eliminate 60% of the wide open recreational green field space!
Second, the input to Save the Field has been frankly, ignored and discarded. I’ve personally attended every meeting (between running 3 kids to activities) and field space and sidewalk views were passionately brought up by several people. In addition, letters were written to the district and architect. So, what happened? The field actually got smaller and the buildings grew larger! So, the project went from 53,000 sq. ft. currently, to 60,000 sq. ft., then to 65,000 sq.ft., and now 69,000 sq. ft!. Plus excess parking and routing space. All for the same amount of kids!
It is also important to note that the school is not being built in a growing suburb where there is open land. It is being built in a 55-year-old established community that lacks wide open fields and is on the sensitive habitat of the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve. As a comparison, the 65-year Cardiff Elementary School (similar neighborhood) is being built for a maximum 440 students, roughly the same as Del Mar Height’s 450-500 students. Yet, their building space (all single story) is 45,000 sq. ft. which is 35% less than proposed for Del Mar Heights and with 60% less parking.
The core traffic issue is that every single car must pass the corner of Mercado and Cordero. Paving the field and routing the cars to what is currently home plate, doesn’t solve traffic congestion and adds commute time. I know at least two homeowners at the Mercado and Cordero pinch point corner (which is the heart of the school traffic) who would prioritize the field space. The real traffic solution is to have a community discussion about creative transportation!
We all want a beautiful, innovative new school that provides a wonderful learning environment, but it can be accomplished in a more balanced way that gives kids the freedom to run! Let’s do what’s right and save the field for our children and future generations!
Del Mar Heights
A clear choice for blufftop site
Please note, I am a long-term resident of Del Mar (1989), as well as a sustainability consultant for the Marisol project.
Big changes are coming to the 17-acre ocean front parcel at the north end of Del Mar. The question is, what will those changes be — and how might they affect bluff access and stability?
Right now, the property can be divided into 16 luxury homesites for the very fortunate few. The competing vision, which will go before Del Mar voters in 2020, is to open this expansive blufftop site to public use and enjoyment — and create a living symbol of sustainability worthy of Del Mar in the process.
Having served on a few city committees in recent years (SAB, DRB, STAC), I had several questions when I met with Encinitas-based Zephyr Partners, who are proposing the retreat-style resort they’ve named Marisol. I was relieved to find that they were already well down the road toward environmental responsibility.
On the building side, there are numerous commendable steps being planned, including the arduous achievement of LEED Gold status. But my first concern was the protection of the precious bluff on which this plan will rest.
The bluffs at issue are much heartier than those fronting the southern end of Del Mar, by virtue of a tall band of dense Del Mar Formation that functions like a natural seawall— so no armoring would be required. Also, unlike to the south, these bluffs do not suffer the ongoing erosive force of inland, downhill groundwater penetration (the site terminates at Camino del Mar), nor daily train traffic on their edge.
When I visited the actual bluff-top site during the viewing Zephyr hosted in August, I was immediately struck by the sheer size and potential of the land. I learned that the buildings would start well back from the bluff front; the nearest one-story villa would be 60-70 feet back, the hotel structures no closer than 88 feet, and the garages are to be located more than 200 feet landward. Asking about construction impacts, their geology consultant told me that the low-density soil on top of the bluff would greatly limit any negative impacts of the vibrations caused by the digging of foundations and garages.
Further active measures will help protect the site. Re-grading and an extensive groundwater collection system will divert over 85 percent of the rainwater that currently erodes the bluff edge to the southeast into the San Dieguito Lagoon — a coordinated drainage system that would be unlikely if the site were divided into many separate parcels for homes. In addition, the plan to use drought-tolerant landscaping, “smart” irrigation metering, reclaimed water and semi-permeable hardscapes will also help reduce erosion over the long term.
I want to see Zephyr not only achieve their stated environmental goals, but stretch to make Marisol a landmark project in sustainable design and operation. Done right, this historically isolated site could become a place we can enjoy and truly be proud of for generations to come.
If it stinks they won’t come
San Diegans will overwhelmingly reject more taxes for already failed public transit. Check the ridership next time you pass a bus (not a safety hazard, you can easily keep one hand on the wheel, maybe two!). Public transit use in LA is down 21% , San Diego down 6% despite SANDAG theft of highway funds to “improve” public transit. It’s unreliable, unsafe, smelly and slow — what’s not to love? Taxin’ Todd Gloria and the other elected bureaucrats better think twice before hitching their political futures to this trainwreck.
Craig A. Nelson
Del Mar Heights School—please explain
I attended the school board meeting last week. A group of us wanted to speak about not reducing the Del Mar Heights field size and maintaining our beautiful view of the ocean and park. I was disappointed, but not surprised to find our topic to be the last one on a very long agenda. I, like many others at the meeting, couldn’t make it the three hours to get to the topic we were all clambering to address, and perhaps that was their plan all along. Make the meeting so long that they wouldn’t have to listen to neighbors concerned about a large construction project in their neighborhood.
Why do they need to build such a large campus? Much larger than they need for the current student population? Are they expanding the parking and school to make space for the Del Mar Hills teachers? Will they try yet again to close Del Mar Hills School and move them over to the Heights? How is that going to impact the neighborhood?
Del Mar Heights school has always been one of the most amazing places to gather for kids and neighbors. After all it is both a school and our only neighborhood field park.
During the school year and over the summer they have wonderful events for Del Mar Heights families. They have big screen movies, camping, ice cream socials, and bounce houses, fundraisers, and all kinds out outdoor events. Will these events end?
We all hear about childhood obesity increasing. Shouldn’t we be increasing our play area? Encourage exercise? Have PE every day? How does reducing outdoor play area emphasize the importance of exercise?
I just don’t get it? Someone please explain ...
The horn, the horn is why I’m forlorn
I sleep, I wake to sounds of the horn
During wee hours it is my companion
I am sure it echoes straight through Crest Canyon
Dear neighbors, I ask, do you share my same torture?
I think we all hope it’s no permanent fixture
The horn does not care if mid-day or midnight
Del Mar’s train horn gives us all a good fright
So today I woke once more to the horn
I decided it was time to act on this thorn
While I may write in humorous prose, I am very serious about how Del Mar has allowed the crossing guard horn to disrupt the peace for this long. Why do we need these outrageous decibels to be blown across our quiet city at 10 p.m.? 11 p.m.? 1 a.m.? 3 a.m.? 5 a.m.? Is this because we are worried of the throngs of people crossing at those times? I am jolted awake nightly by this invasive horn. On more occasions than I can count, I have heard the horn blaring for 60-120 seconds without a train passing…at 2 a.m. I live two blocks from the train, how does this affect our neighbors who live just above?
Del Mar has prided itself in providing quiet and sparsely-lit neighborhoods for residents. Drive through our town at 10 p.m. on any night (except opening day) and it is hard to find a car on the road or a sound on our streets. The horn which blares at our train crossing at all hours of the night, regardless of a train coming or not, must be addressed. Our neighbors in Cardiff were able to implement a quiet zone at their busy train crossing (Chesterfield), how did they do this? They installed enhanced safety measures. I think Del Mar needs to do the same, please give us a break from this jarring, disruptive and unnecessary horn we have to live with.
To serve and protect — Torrey Pines community
When public officials are elected their foremost task is to serve and protect their citizens. This should mean overseeing police, fire, lifeguards, traffic enforcement and any agency that ensures public safety within San Diego. On April 9, 2019, San Diego Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry wrote the Mayor and stated that the Torrey Pines community “is most concerned with the safety needs of children who attend both Del Mar Heights Elementary and Del Mar Hills Elementary, and the lack of safety measures for pedestrians along Del Mar Heights Road.” Local Planning Groups must go through their elected councilmember to request such evaluation as traffic engineering survey for a “designated school crossing to improve pedestrian safety, especially for the students who must cross Del Mar Heights Road.”
On October 25, 2019, a staff person working for our Councilmember emailed the following to a concerned citizen: ‘While Traffic Engineering Operations within the City of San Diego conducted the study and found the corner (Del Mar Heights Rd/Mercado Dr.) met the criteria for a traffic light, the final vote on whether the project will go forward will be decided by the Torrey Pines Community Planning Board’. The actual traffic signal evaluation stated that the “intersection met the peak hour warrant for the installation of a traffic signal”. This is the only 1 of 9 study evaluation criteria that passed muster.
Our Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry has abdicated control to a local board to judge adequacy of a Traffic Engineering study and whether a single element of what needs to be a Master Plan for Del Mar Heights design criteria would support “Safe Walk to Schools,” pedestrian crossing safety, bicycle lanes, calming devices that slow traffic while allowing for safe left turns onto Del Mar Heights Road.” Quoted from City of San Diego Facilities Financing Program project T-18.
As a group of volunteers is this really who should be judging a technical City document while awaiting another study on “calming measures” for DMHR? Why the rush to judgment? Let us delay voting until we receive the “Calming Study” due in December to ensure a transparent process that provides intelligent answers and solutions to a broad range of safety issues.
Chair, Torrey Pines Community Planning Board
Nov. 7 issue:
Heights Rebuild Plan a dream come true
Heights’ Rebuild Plan gets it right! As a longtime principal of Del Mar Heights School, I learned the site’s potential wasn’t being realized, and over two decades had many discussions about our “dream” school. When the community meetings were posted in the paper, I eagerly calendared them participating in all design sessions. The architects thoughtfully listened to our ideas, and I was elated by the latest proposal which captured those shared ideas.
Over the years, we needed to limit on-site parking to “Staff Only” with only 43 available parking spaces serving 60 staff members. This problem impacted parent and visitor access to the school and posed limitations to the larger community after school hours. Most importantly, it was a safety issue as Boquita Drive typically was filled with parked cars resulting in restricted access for emergency vehicles. The proposed parking around the back of the school not only will alleviate congestion, it will improve safety.
Another problem on the campus was a lack of trees, and the only significant shade tree was damaged and removed last year following a storm. The green space plan incorporates trees throughout the campus which will provide beauty, shade, and sun protection.
One of our longtime goals was for the school to become an active community resource even during school hours. The proposed green space in the northwest corridor which can be accessed during the school day fulfills that goal. I would like to advocate creating a memorial in this beautiful area to Nicholas Leslie, a former student, who tragically was killed in Nice, France during a terrorist attack. Imagine viewing whales and dolphins from a telescope dedicated to Nick.
While carefully studying the proposed green space plan, I noted many positive additions. Picture students reading and talking in the grass “commons” area during their recesses and lunch times. That also will be a welcome venue for classes to access throughout the day. The pathway along the western border of the field provides a lovely trail with unparalleled viewpoints. Having green spaces near classrooms encourages children to incorporate nature into their learning, and the creative play structures promote imaginative play. Finally, the proposed field is an appropriate size for the school. The Del Mar Heights’ physical education teacher has affirmed this field will meet all physical education and recess needs, and he knows this better than anyone!
Creating a school worthy of the unique Del Mar Heights’ site has been a longtime dream. Now it’s close to becoming a reality with a world-class educational facility and green spaces that will expand and enhance community usage opportunities. Ultimately, this extraordinary site will be a legacy for all of Del Mar … a dream come true!
Plan fails to respect school community’s open space
Sunshine breaks. Snack shack runs. The highlights of the day. The teachers and staff at Del Mar Heights have long been onto something smart.
When our family first moved to town five years ago, we were delightfully surprised by the Heights’ progressive approach to education. On any given day, our children came home with stories of early morning perimeter runs or Thursday mileage club. In the grand tradition of Nobel prize winner Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, you walk to think. You soak in the outdoors and the sunshine.
Now, one of our most valuable education and community resources is under threat. Del Mar Union School District has selected a design for Del Mar Heights that decreased usable open space by over 50% while increasing parking and circulation by over 50%. This tradeoff does not reflect our community’s values. We know the value of outdoor space historically, intuitively, and now scientifically. Here, in the United States, we have the grand traditions of Frederick Law Olmsted (“the occasional contemplation of natural scenes of an impressive character… is favorable to the health and vigor of men and especially to the health and vigor of their intellect.”) and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Today, hospitals are witnessing patients heal faster with access to nature. Experts from Scandinavia to Japan are prescribing “forest bathing” to restore mental wellbeing. Swedish physician Matilda van den Bosch discovered that students’ heart rates returned to normal more quickly after stressful math tasks after just 15 minutes with nature. From England to the Netherlands to Canada, researchers are confirming the direct link between exposure to nature and overall well-being.
Yet, we still have what Richard Louv terms “nature deficit disorder.”
In Del Mar, west of the 5, our school parks are critical to our overall wellbeing. Not only do they serve students in their attention and retention but they also provide important community space. We have a dearth of communal open space here. Unlike schools east of the 5, we do not have schools attached to expansive public parks. These fields and blacktops are everything. They are the places where friendships are forged, relationships are formed, and neighbors meet. The basketball courts (courts, plural) are well-used. Children laugh and learn how to have fun (without a screen) playing gaga ball, handball, and foursquare. This is good, healthy fun that grows a generation.
DMUSD has run a rushed process. The result is a plan that fails to respect our community’s valuable open space. The proposed school is oversized and overbudgeted and contains less open space than other community schools. The architects have previously presented a conceptual plan with significantly more open space. The selected plan is not our only option.
Saving the playing fields is vital
Del Mar Union School District leaders have ignored legitimate citizen concerns about eliminating our playing fields at Del Mar Heights school. The school district board granted community access to those fields in 1970 - today DMUSD leadership campaigns that patches of grass and a drastically smaller field, to which only students will be guaranteed access, are fair substitutes for the entire community. There are simple changes to the current design that would preserve much of our playing fields. Making those changes, and guaranteeing public access outside school hours, would unite our community in support of this project.
Saving the playing fields is vital because the Del Mar Heights community is woefully short on recreational play space - 15.3 acres short according to the Torrey Pines Community Plan. While we have glorious open space for hiking and enjoying nature, in the areas of Del Mar that are under the jurisdiction of San Diego, we have zero recreational play space or parks. This is due to past leaders of San Diego not requiring developers to give us parks. Instead, we were told to adopt the Heights and the Hills as our community parks. What has worked for the last 50 years is now under threat, as the district seeks to pave those fields for an overly large parking lot and ballooned footprint school for the same number of students. Once the large fields are gone we can never get them back, and the story doesn’t end there.
While Holly McClurg declared Del Mar Hills Academy would not close, the writing is on the wall. When the new school is built at Pacific Highlands Ranch, the district will have 500 empty seats according to their own forecasts. If a future school board needs to dispose of the Hills, will the City of San Diego step up and purchase it for recreational play space, or will the Del Mar community lose those fields to development?
The Heights school rebuild - with no change in student population - is costing our community something beyond monetary value. Heights school children will be left with a field that the district asserts is “adequate” for P.E., and the public will go from having three and a half acres of wide open playing fields to only guaranteed access to a mere four-tenths of an acre of space with a toddler playground outside school gates.
Standing alone, the parks in the City of Del Mar proper cannot adequately serve the greater Del Mar Community. Mayor Faulkner and Council member Barbara Bry must work with DMUSD to preserve our playing fields at the Heights and the Hills and make public access to those fields guaranteed, by reaching a binding joint-use agreement before it is too late.
Whose interests do our civic leaders really have at heart?
Dear Mr. White and Mr. Schultz – I recently read your open letter in the Del Mar Times (Oct. 31, 2019) titled “We Need to Complete the Vision of PHR”. The most obvious question I have is if this piece of property was the “one vital element” needed for the Village Center Loop Rd., why was it not secured before the building permits were approved and building completed?
Now the owner of this “vital” parcel has you over a barrel. “Urging and pleading” is not an effective way to negotiate. I can speculate that the SD City Council was more interested in the money that this development would generate than actually thinking through how it would impact the neighborhood if this loop was not completed. I am not writing this letter to cast blame on any one party. I am writing this letter to try to understand the thinking of our civic leaders. Whose interests do they really have at heart?
Concerned Carmel Valley resident
An open letter to the Torrey Pines Community Planning Board
Torrey Pines Community Planning Board Chair Dennis Ridz’ letter (“To Serve and Protect” in the Del Mar Times, 10-31-2019) is highly inappropriate. In his capacity as TPCPB Chair, he suggests delaying the widely publicized vote scheduled for Nov. 14 on the installation of a traffic signal on Del Mar Heights Road at Mercado Drive. He should not be forming an opinion before the community has had its chance to speak at the Nov. 14 board meeting. Moreover, his suggestion is the equivalent of voting no on the light. Those in favor of the light would be right to object strenuously.
The board voted unanimously a year ago to request a traffic signal on Del Mar Heights Road as its first priority in the City’s Capital Improvement Program. But Councilmember Bry has requested a new vote. Why?
Because the formal record of that vote a year ago did not specify a location for the light and a certain faction of the community has long objected to a light on Mercado. Now, City Engineering has concluded that only the Mercado intersection meets the minimum criteria for a traffic signal. The opposition has geared up; perhaps they pointed out to Councilmember Bry that the board never endorsed a light specifically at Mercado and that furthermore they were unaware that the subject was to be discussed last year and were thus deprived of the opportunity to weigh in. A storm of controversy has been stirred up online, and the vote will be a tough one for board members. Is this why does Chairman Ridz now suggests the vote should be delayed?
Councilmember Bry made it quite clear at her community meeting Sept. 19, which Chair Ridz did not attend, that if the vote is not in favor of the Mercado light, the matter will not be discussed again; nor is she willing to discuss any other more comprehensive safety measures that we probably would all like to see. This could well include the “calming study” Chairman Ridz refers to in his letter to the Times last week.
The unanimous vote for the capital improvement priority does not satisfy Councilmember Bry’s need to find community consensus. Board members owe it to the community to listen to their constituents’ opinions, and then vote either for or against a traffic signal on Del Mar Heights Road at Mercado Drive.
Torrey Pines Community
Del Mar Heights traffic light - budget & project missing 11/5/2019
In January 1995, the City of San Diego (City) started the Public Facilities Financing Plan. The City Planning Department Long Range & Facilities Planning set forth the major public facilities needs in the areas of transportation, libraries, park and recreation. The Torrey Pines Community Plan, adopted on Jan. 10, 1995, is a guide for future development. The City Council has adopted impact fees to help mitigate the cost of public facilities (impact fees were adopted in October, 1987).
In June 2005, the 1995 Financing Plan was updated and Torrey Pines is called an urbanized area. Project T-18 Del Mar Heights Road & Mercado Drive – Traffic Signal, first appears and is listed as a priority. A pedestrian bridge over DMHR connecting the two sections of Mira Montana Drive is mentioned as part of a future Community Plan Update. T-18 is budgeted for $150,000 with no funds identified and listed as a need to support safe traffic flow and pedestrian crossing.
The Public Facilities Plan was last update in June, 2017, and former transportation projects are now referred to as Mobility (M) Projects. M-18 is listed as Del Mar Heights Road Safety and Enhancement Project, budget at $350,000. With the assistance of a City Planning & Community Investment Project manager, the former one-liner T-18 became M-18 and featured design criteria that would support “Safe Walk to Schools,” pedestrian crossing safety, calming devices that slow traffic and allow safe left turns onto Del Mar Heights Road at Mercado Drive. This rewrite took place over three board meetings and M-18 was the board’s #1 priority.
The City issued an Impact Fees Appropriation and Encumbrance Analysis from inception through June 30, 2017. Under the heading Traffic Signals – Citywide, our account was docked/reduced by ($350,000) CIP AIL00004. The City thought that we had decided we no longer wanted the light and that TPCPB decided to study the matter further as a Master Plan. The City Impact Fees Fiscal Year Summary for Fund #400133 – Established 10/19/87 for Torrey Pines as of June 30, 2019 has no reference to M-18. The Del Mar Heights Road Safety project has been eliminated as an active project but remains as part of Impact Fee Study. Furthermore, discussion with City Planning made it clear that we cannot fund a project out of Impact Fees unless the project is part of the Torrey Pines Facility Plan. Funding would need to be identified and a new CIP project would need to be created. City staff would need direction from the Mayor.
Chair, Torrey Pines Community Planning Board
Nov. 14 issue:
An important lesson has been missed
My younger son has a cut out drawing of a blobfish with the world in its belly up on his wall that he made in school. He is quick to tell me that “no, dad, it is not a manatee,” that there may be only 400 blobfish in the world and that somebody should take care of the earth so that we do not run out of blobfish.
It seemed like a lesson well taught. What is not to like about sustainability and taking little steps to keep the earth healthy, by, say, preserving as much as possible of the outdoors so that kids can play on grass that is doing its best to soak up the CO2 that their parents release?
Apparently, the district and the school board missed that lesson. As much as they talk about happy kids spending recess getting grass stained knees out in the fresh air, it ranks a distant second to parking lots for adults.
Teaching is more than just giving lip service to good ideas and then telling children to maybe do something about it when they get older. If we move forward with the field reduction plan, we teach our children that what really matters is not grassy playgrounds for kids but parking lots for adults.
Sure, it will be a valuable life lesson: think twice before you believe what your teachers tell you. The kids will see the deal for what it is – “the school board had a chance to make a buck by consolidating some schools, and all it cost you was your and your community’s little field.” Even they will figure out that there is money involved, and that it is not going toward any of the things that the school claims to stand for. Rather, they will see that, when it comes down to it, the school board is putting its interests in front of theirs.
Sure, there is probably money involved. I don’t blame the school district for trying to make a quick buck, but the kids and the community are watching, and the whole “trade field for cement” deal looks more than a little unseemly.
Schools are about teaching. This plan teaches kids that a playing field isn’t that important compared to, say, cars or sprawling buildings. They will learn that nobody is taking care of one of the only fields left in Del Mar. And they will see with their own eyes that we are running out of playing fields at Del Mar Heights even faster than we are running out of blobfish.
Rebuild design must be adjusted
I am heartbroken by the proposed Heights school rebuild design, and if you care about smart design that protects much-needed open recreation spaces for children, you should be as well. A rebuild is certainly needed, but the current design must be adjusted. The design calls for paving over more than half of the field space and eliminates the majority of the basketball/blacktop area to prioritize excessive parking and a ballooned building footprint. There are simple design tweaks that should be made to preserve the field space and bring the community together in support of this project.
The reasons for adjusting the design are many. First, we know having this wide open field space has been part of the “magic” of the Heights for 60 years. It allows the kids to run free and uninhibited, clearing their minds to return to their classrooms. Second, kids will no longer get to play Little League baseball at the Heights because it has been established by the district that the field will be even too small for a Little League baseball field (the Heights currently has two baseball fields and Del Mar Little League has played there for 50 years). The design eliminates the possibility for 92014 kids to ever play Little League at Del Mar Heights again. Never have the independence of biking to their own game? Why would we, as a community, accept this when there are viable alternatives? Preserving the field and blacktop space is exceptionally important for the Heights because unlike every Carmel Valley school in our district, the Heights does not have public playing fields/parks directly adjacent to the school.
Lastly, the building square footage has grown well beyond the square footage initially stated was necessary. This is a significant problem because the additional square footage 1) is taking away from space that should be used for field and blacktop, 2) makes it more likely that the Hills school will be closed in the future, resulting in one Heights mega school for 92014 kids, and 3) is wasting limited measure MM funds that should be directed toward the Hills school so that it can be properly renovated, and thus result in Del Mar having two equally viable schools.
As property owners review their property tax bills, they are noticing the significant additional taxes being paid to upgrade the DMUSD schools. This rebuild is happening with property tax dollars, and the outcome will have a profound effect on the quality of our community. Please come to the DMUSD school board meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 20 at 5:45 p.m. We need your support! Visit www.playoutsidedelmar.org to learn more.
Katherine Holliday Sohn
Resort vote an important step for Del Mar
About “Del Mar puts proposed bluff-top resort on March ballot” (November 7th issue), I agree with the City Council’s vote, and I’m glad this is going to a vote in March 2020. It’s an important step for Del Mar.
As the city staff noted at last week’s hearing on the project, even if the initiative passes with 99% of the vote, we’re going to still have the entire public process, including an EIR and Design Review, which gives a lot of opportunity for the public to weigh in.
As a business owner in Del Mar, we need the revitalization in town that this plan offers. The community gets all the benefits described in the plan, including a great public-dedicated walking path on an indescribably beautiful site. And the City will greatly benefit financially.
I recently went to the Marisol information center on Camino Del Mar. I got to learn all about the proposal, without the social media ranting and opinionating. The more questions I asked, the more convinced I became that they have put a lot of careful thought and preparation into this, including how this proposal integrates into the city’s plans for the future of the coast.
I walked away a supporter. I would recommend going into the center and at least getting your questions answered.
It’s a good idea to get educated on the proposal now.
Owner, Del Mar Pizza
Obvious headline missed
As a longtime area resident, reader, and former journalist, I am unpleasantly surprised by your not very thoughtful or thorough coverage of the Del Mar Council’s recent hearing on the Marisol project.
This is the largest undeveloped piece of real estate in Del Mar. You got that part right. The City planning staff and attorneys generated an extensive report on the property and its potential uses. The City Council voted to accept the report. You mentioned that - but only in the next to last sentence. But you ignored the plainly stated implications.
Your reporter missed an obvious headline:
“City Planners: Massive Housing Development Possible on Del Mar Bluff.”
Here’s the lead:
If the proposed Marisol resort project does not go forward, the property could be developed as a site for over 300 homes. That is the conclusion of Del Mar city planners and attorneys in a report accepted by the City Council.” (See p. 17, Del Mar City 9212 report)
What would this do for the residents like me who would still want to access the site to enjoy its beauty? It seems to me that a massive housing development would:
use up more real estate
restrict public access because home sites are private
lead to more traffic - especially during rush hours, whereas hotel traffic would be widely diffused based on the scattered arrival times of guests.
I greatly enjoy going to the Lodge at Torrey Pines. I can’t imagine what that site would be like as a condo community or luxury homesite.
Your reporter framed the issue as “Marisol vs the desire for no change.” That’s not very perceptive. Clearly and obviously, the property will be developed. The only choice is: what kind of development.
The fact that a number of residents say they “still don’t have enough information” about this two-year-old proposal ought to provoke some serious thought in your newsroom regarding the nature and quality of your coverage.
P.S. Hold City officials to account: when council members say they “don’t know enough about this,” a sharp reporter would ask: “Why not? Isn’t that your job?”
One View: Tales of Del Mar
By Gordon Clanton
Flashback. I landed in Del Mar in 1974 after four winters in the frigid East teaching at Rutgers University. During graduate study at Berkeley in the 1960s, I had promised myself that I would live most of my adult life in California.
I moved back to the Bay Area in 1974 but soon drifted south to visit two friends from the East who were teaching at SDSU and living in Del Mar. I found a job in the Sociology Department.
Meanwhile the management of the apartment complex where I lived threw a party at which the featured speakers turned out to be developers and leaders of an effort to recall Mayor John Weare – because he had voted against one of their projects.
Although I did not know John at the time, I took sides immediately, thus beginning my long association with the Del Mar “greens.”
Del Mar at 60. Celebrations continue of the 60th anniversary of Del Mar cityhood. Thanks to organizer Julie Maxey-Allison, MC Bob Gans, and the Del Mar Foundation for a recent commemoration that included a gathering at the plaque in Seagrove Park, honoring the creators of the 1976 Del Mar Community Plan.
Participants honored the major contribution of Dave Keeling (1928-2005), the UCSD scientist who presented the first evidence that carbon dioxide produced by automobiles and factories was negatively affecting Earth’s climate. Dave’s widow Louise was there with three of their children – Emily, Eric and Ralph.
Following a reception at the Powerhouse Community Center, Dr. Ralph, himself a distinguished climate scientist at UCSD, spoke about our climate future. And Ruth Wallen added the perspective of a visual artist.
DMCC SportsWatch. Del Mar Community Connections has launched a new program to encourage people to get together at a local restaurant or bar for selected televised sports events. DMCC is seeking participants and group hosts for all sports. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Guns N’ Rose Ann. The governor recently signed legislation outlawing gun shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Thanks to Rose Ann and Ira Sharp for their steadfast leadership.
Remembering Sarah. Gathered at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, the community and the family celebrated the life of long-time Del Mar resident Sarah Dubin-Vaughn who died recently at age 88. Sarah was active in the incorporation of Del Mar and a founding member of Del Mar Community Connections. Sarah was warm, witty, and wise, a valued partner in dialogue.
— Gordon Clanton teaches Sociology at San Diego State University. He welcomes comments at email@example.com
Nov. 21 issue:
Why I voted for a traffic light
In regards to my vote as a member of the Torrey Pines Planning Board.
I have lived in Del Mar Heights for over 15 years. I have walked, driven its streets and taught two teens how to drive here. Traffic on Del Mar Heights has gotten steadily worse. When people start moving into One Paseo and other changes traffic issues will increase on Del Mar Heights Road.
There is a trend of wanting more walkability in neighborhoods. There was an ad hoc committee that met for over a year to discuss ideas of traffic calming and pedestrian safety. People who live along Del Mar Heights Road, some of whom actually live on Mercado, have told the board of near misses when pedestrians try to cross Del Mar Heights. Part of the southwest side of the community does not have any light to help stop the traffic so that they can cross or access Del Mar Heights Rd. easily.
I could find no research stating that traffic lights and crosswalks have more pedestrian fatalities than people outside of crosswalks. A study like that may exist, but it is not one usually quoted. Pedestrians do get hit inside crosswalks, but at much lower rates than those outside of crosswalks, especially those with traffic lights.
After the public speaks at these meetings, it is customary for the board to discuss and explain why they want to vote a certain way to each other. We do not need to fill out a speaker slip in order to so and it is not “inappropriate” for us to discuss the topic. Due to the Brown Act, we do not discuss items outside of the meetings with each other, so we basically have to talk about the issues at the meetings.
The board will be working with traffic and engineering towards the safest pedestrian crossing and to address some of the concerns presented to the board by the citizens of Mercado.
As a retired ICU RN, who has taken care of trauma victims including those with traumatic brain injury, I would have felt negligent if I had not done what I could to lessen the possibility of such a thing happening in my own community. I am grateful that Councilperson Bry has stated that she will get funding for a traffic light based on the board’s vote and without waiting for a fatality or severe accident to occur.
These are my words and thoughts as a representative of the board and a resident of the Del Mar Heights area, they are not the words of the board.
Liz Shopes RN
Transparency is not a bad thing
Before the Nov. 4 Del Mar City Council meeting I met Brad Termini, CEO of Zephyr Development, and voiced my concerns of a commercial development on the bluff, one being how horrid it will look be to gaze up to the bluff from 101 or from Dog Beach and see these 3 or 4 building towers rising 46 feet up in the air.
I said I thought the voters in Del Mar needed to see what kind of visual impact this development will have on their City and would Zephyr please put up story poles.
Well, I was not the only one who thought story poles would be a good idea.
Then I sit through the City Council meeting and hear over and over again from council members and the public the desire for story poles so Del Mar citizens will have a visual of what 3 or 4, 46-foot-high towers will “look like” atop the bluff if the zoning amendment passes versus the height allowance for single family homes which is approximately 14 feet, (1/3 the height “approximately” of 46 feet).
So Zephyr, Del Mar citizens (many who are my friends and neighbors) would like to see your response in writing why you choose not to put up the story poles prior to the March 2020 vote.
We are listening.
Bry gets green light to move on traffic signal
On Nov. 14, 2019, as part of the Torrey Pines Community Planning Board’s (TPCPB) action agenda, a large audience presented their viewpoints on the possible installation of a traffic signal located at Mercado/Del Mar Heights Rd. After the audience finished their input on the pros and cons of a traffic signal at Mercado, the TPCPB voted on a motion duly presented, as follows:
To Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry November 14, 2019
Re: Capital Improvement Program (CIP) and CIP Budget Revisions
“The Torrey Pines Community Planning Board endorses your criteria, as established in your April 9, 2019 Memorandum to Mayor Faulconer, for pedestrian safety measures along Del Mar Heights Road at Mercado Drive that provides for a designated pedestrian crossing to improve pedestrian safety, especially for students who must cross Del Mar Heights Road. The Torrey Pines community is most concerned with the safety needs of children who attend both Del Mar Heights Elementary and Del Mar Hills Elementary, and the lack of safety measures for pedestrians along Del Mar Heights Road.
“We encourage you, as Council President Pro Tem, to move forward with establishing a CIP funding account/source for a traffic signal at Mercado Drive and Del Mar Heights Road. Your City Council sponsorship and funding will allow the Traffic Engineering Department to initiate a preliminary engineering design and review possible Safety protocols for a traffic signal at Mercado Drive & Del Mar Heights Road. Traffic Engineering staff estimates cost to be around $400,000.
“The City Traffic Engineer has said the chosen location for a traffic signal at Mercado/Del Mar Heights Road will have a marked crosswalk and pedestrian control features if the traffic signal is installed.”
The TPCPB approved the motion. Due to word limits for letters, a separate letter will be written documenting other issues raised at the meeting that need clarification concerning why it has taken so many years to get to this point.
Thanking you all for attending and passing on your input on this vital public issue.
Nov. 28 issue:
Del Mar Heights rebuild should move forward
Since Prop MM discussions began nearly two years ago, we have been in support of rebuilding Del Mar Heights and modernizing schools throughout the district. We have been parents at the Heights for 8 years and our youngest is still a student there. Though we haven’t actively participated in the design and planning process, we decided to trust the decisions made by those who did invest the time and energy, and believe that the plan that they’ve designed is in the best interest of our students and our community. We have stayed up to date; observing the process, reading correspondence from the district, our school and local newspaper coverage, eager to see an exciting new school emerge.
We are so grateful for the professional experts hired, the school board that we all democratically elected to provide leadership, and our neighbors who have given countless hours attending meetings to ensure issues and ideas get properly addressed along the way. We are also grateful for the time and thoughtfulness provided by the teachers and administrators from Del Mar Heights who have dedicated their personal time to being actively involved in securing the very best outcome for our students.
In writing this letter, we wanted to voice an opinion in favor of moving forward with the current plan, and getting excited about it as a community. The process has been fair, public and transparent and we are all indebted to those who took the time throughout to ensure a great result. We realize there are still some opposing voices out there, but now is the time to unify and get it done. The benefits of the new school far outweigh any last minute complaints, and it’s time to build the campus that our exceptional teachers, administrators, students and community members deserve!
Lani and Joe Curtis
Mercado traffic light is a very bad idea
As a resident of the Del Mar Heights community for over 28 years, I estimate I’ve traveled through the intersection of Del Mar Heights Road and Mercado Drive well over 20,000 times. Not once have I ever seen an accident at that intersection or even a close call. The majority of the relatively few accidents that have occurred on this stretch of Del Mar Heights Road have been at the signalized intersection of Mango Drive.
At the Torrey Pines Community Planning Board meeting on Nov. 14, more people spoke up against the installation of a traffic signal than in favor of it, yet the board voted to approve the signal using a previously prepared motion that clearly was created without considering the public outcry against it. A signal is dangerous because it will give children a false sense of safety, and westbound cars unfamiliar with the area won’t see it with the setting sun directly in their eyes as they crest the top of the hill just before arriving at this intersection. Traffic will back up onto the feeder streets like Mercado and Cordero that today moves freely with seldom a backup. For cars traveling westbound and wanting to turn left onto Mercado, even if the main light is green they will still be forced to wait for a green left turn arrow (my work-around will be to continue through the intersection and turn left on the next street, Recuerdo.)
The main desire of the TPCPB was to attempt to “calm” traffic on Del Mar Heights Road, but the law states that you cannot add extra traffic signals as a way to calm traffic. The traffic study cited to justify the signal showed only a single criteria was met out of 9 potential criteria, scarcely a mandate for a signal. The traffic study also completely ignored the impact a new signal would have on the feeder streets once installed, only that for brief periods of the school day there are enough cars to warrant a signal. The reason nothing has been done previously and no signal was ever approved is because every time this issue has come up, the majority of residents have opposed it.
The TPCPB was not responsive to the community and did everyone a disservice by ramrodding this motion through with no debate and ignoring the facts that were presented by the opponents of the signal, myself included. Their decision was already made prior to the meeting, and the invitation for community input was simply a charade to make it look like they were listening with an open mind. They were not.
Lower limits, not more lights
Everyone wants to make Del Mar Heights Road safer but will a $400,000 traffic light help? I am not convinced that it will and, therefore, was one of the 230 Del Mar Heights residents that signed the petition against installing a traffic signal at Mercado Drive.
Reducing a speed limit is the best, fastest and easiest way to radically improve safety for drivers and anyone in front of them. The posted speed limit of 40 mph is not enforced and as a result Del Mar Heights Road has become a racetrack between Camino Del Mar and Interstate 5. Vehicle speeds are simply too fast for a road that bisects a dense residential community.
Lower speed limits are employed in other areas of District 1 in San Diego. For example, where Torrey Pines Road is four lanes through La Jolla the posted speed limit is 35 mph. Our community should be treated the same and the reduced speed limit should be enforced.
Large Caltrans-approved speed limit signs are advertised online for $55. Let’s save a few hundred thousand dollars, avoid greater greenhouse gas emissions and ensure that Del Mar Height Road will indeed be safer.
Del Mar Heights
Del Mar Heights Pedestrian Bridge amendment
First a few observations from the Torrey Pines Community Planning Board (TPCPB) meeting of Nov.14. Even though the City Traffic Engineering was asked by Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry’s staff to attend, no one from Traffic Engineering appeared to help the board clarify and refute misinformation.
The TPCPB was told by Bry’s Director of Community Outreach that a positive vote on the traffic signal would “officially” add the project to the City’s list of Capital Improvement Projects (CIP). Why stop there? The Torrey Pines Public Facilities Financing Plan of June 2005, on page 12, of the Torrey Pines Planning Board Priority List talks about the Pedestrian Bridge. “This project should be considered when the Community Plan is updated: A Pedestrian Bridge over Del Mar Heights Road connecting the two sections of Mira Montana Drive. The Pedestrian Bridge should have wrapping to prevent objects being thrown off the bridge. Access to the bridge should be by steps from Del Mar Heights Road or, if necessary to satisfy ADA rules, with a gradual sloping walkway. A pedestrian bridge would make the area safer and more pedestrian friendly. (This project would require an Amendment to the Community Plan)” This Pedestrian Bridge over DMHR was on the board’s short list of CIP projects but we were told that the estimated cost of $4 million was not acceptable to Bry’s office while a traffic signal at $400,000 was possible for budget reasons.
A Plan Amendment would allow for a Pedestrian Bridge Facilities budget and use of Developers Impact Fees (DIF) plus other funding sources. The added benefit(s) may allow school children to walk safely to the Del Mar Heights School over the busy roadway and take traffic away from Mercado. Fewer students pushing the “On Demand” button planned for Mercado, means less traffic impact(s) on through traffic on DMHR. Fewer student drop-offs might allow for a redesign of the parking and circular road issues at the Heights. Could less of the playing fields be sacrificed for a reduction of traffic storage around a new complex?
Since this Pedestrian Bridge is mentioned in our Facility Plan, how much effort would it take to simply amend our Community Plan? We are not calling for a rewrite of the entire TPCP just a paragraph allowing the Planning Department Facilities Financing to move forward on this issue.
Chair, Torrey Pines Community Planning Board
Dec. 5 issue:
Heights’ school – it’s bad numbers
Did you notice what we noticed in the Nov. 28 Del Mar Times? DMUSD admitted their field size numbers on the new Heights’ school have been wrong throughout the public process. Read on:
On Sept. 23, the district’s hired architect unveiled the field size as 79,221 square feet and the green space as 142,919 square feet at the community update meeting, which was met with public pushback.
On Oct. 23, the district reiterated 79,221 and 142,919 at their board meeting.
In late October, the district increased the field number to 83,783 square feet on their website – to try to show the field was equal to Ashley Falls (it’s not).
On Oct. 30, in front-page news at the Times, the district again showed the field as 79,221 and green space as 142,919.
On Nov.14, Play Outside Del Mar publicly challenged the district’s math – reporting a playing field size of 57,500 – a 60% reduction from the current fields.
On Nov. 20, at their next board meeting, the district removed all square footage numbers from the field size, reporting only a “9% increase.” Word spread quickly in the community that the field size had grown to 91,323 square feet! Even we thought progress had been made.
On Nov. 28, in front page news at the Times, the district architect said “field space increased by nine percent,” which the board president described as a “pretty impressive response to the community’s request” for change. In the article, the district said the field is now 76,020 – less than ever previously reported by the district, and certainly no increase – and the green space dropped a whopping 32,596 square feet to 110,393.
A careful examination will show that the district had to include some combination of a garden, bio-swales (water drainage channels), tree trunks, or perhaps even a granite pebble path encircling the field to stretch to their Nov. 28 number that is still smaller than what they’ve been telling the public since Sept. 23.
The Times posted the district’s computer rendering of the site on the front page – which we found disappointing because it is a serious exaggeration of the field, even the people are miniature. It only takes 5 minutes to overlay that image on a Google Earth satellite view of the school site and realize the fields shown extend into the Torrey Pines Reserve, well off school boundaries. There are other issues, but you get the point.
It saddens us to see the district engage in this type of campaign.
Build the School. Save the Fields.
Play Outside Del Mar
A light at Mercado is needed
As a long-time resident on Mercado Drive, I believe that the vote to approve a traffic light at the intersection of Mercado Drive and Del Mar Heights Road was the correct one.
To make a left turn onto Del Mar Heights Road is dangerous and anxiety-provoking. I have seen several accidents there over the years. Over time the traffic has become heavier. The road is wide and cars speed trying to get to Highway 5 or El Camino Real.
The process that was carried about by the Torrey Pines Planning Committee was fair. Community members had ample opportunities to express their views. The Planning Committee had input from the city’s traffic engineers and the community. Committee members clearly stated before the last meeting that their minds were not made up and they were open to new input. I believe the committee voted for the light because it was in the best interests of the community.
Memoir: Gun Culture
By Gordon Clanton
I grew up with guns. We lived on the north edge of Baton Rouge and the south edge of the piney-woods country. To the south and west of town lay trackless miles of bayous and cypress swamp.
Instead of Boy Scouts, who camped out on the muddy ground in woods teeming with mosquitoes, poisonous snakes, and alligators, I joined the Junior Deputy Sheriffs League, a pioneering youth program.
When I was 16, our rifle team won a national championship. The sheriff was so proud that he took all six of us with him to the National Sheriffs conference in Milwaukee – up by sleeper train (the Panama Limited) and back in the sheriff’s own plane.
For my 16th birthday, Dad gave me a 16-gauge Remington pump shotgun. I hunted squirrels and rabbits eight or nine times before realizing it was too easy, not sporting. With a rifleman’s eye, I could hardly miss a squirrel with a scattergun.
More than once I hunted with Andrew, a poor country friend from our basketball team, knowing that if we did not kill something, there would be no meat for dinner, just mashed potatoes, gravy, and biscuits.
I went deer hunting once with two great guys who worked for my Dad. Our party killed a deer but I did not. I did get a portion of the deer meat.
In addition to my .22 caliber target rifle and the shotgun, I also owned a .22 target pistol. And, at Dad’s insistence, Mother had a palm-sized .25 caliber automatic pistol in the drawer of her nightstand. I sold all my guns following the assassination of Bobby Kennedy in 1968.
• • •
About 10 years ago, I went with two friends to the Del Mar Gun Show at the Fairgrounds, curious to understand the gun culture better.
Apart from the vintage collectible firearms and a few other attractions, two images from that day have stuck with me.
First, I was stunned by the sheer quantity of ammunition bought there. People were using large carts such as you see at railroad stations to take thousands and thousands of rounds to their cars and pick-ups.
Second, I was moved by the sight of so many small children, impressionable children growing up in the gun culture, taking it for granted that everyone should be armed all the time and that “the government wants to take our guns.”
— Gordon Clanton teaches sociology at San Diego State University. He welcomes comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dec. 12 issue:
Del Mar Heights rebuild: Take the time to do this right
Open letter to the Del Mar Union School District Governing Board of Trustees:
I’m disturbed after reading the detailed letter written by John Gartman (”Heights’ school - it’s bad numbers,” Del Mar Times, Dec. 5). It infers either sloppy workmanship or planned deception (or both). Neither of which is an appropriate way to conduct business on a taxpayer funded $55 MM project.
This is specifically why I and others have repeatedly requested story poles to see exactly how the project physically lays out. I know from walking the field with a tape measure and using the baseball backstop and batting cage as “story poles,” the presented view simulations from the Mira Montana sidewalk are also materially inaccurate (like the field and green space calculations).
The bottom line is the process needs to be slowed down. We’re going so fast we can’t even get our numbers and renderings straight. Not to mention the community is not behind the current design. I regularly jog the streets of Del Mar Heights and no one is happy. Honestly, the only people that seem satisfied are employees of the district (logical to please one’s boss) and some current parents, especially in the lower grades, who would prefer to get their kids in a new school as quick as possible. I might also add that many current parents have told me specifically that they’re concerned about retaliation by teachers, principal, etc. if they speak up against the current design. Which is concerning, but I get it.
I completely agree with trustee Scott Wooden when he said at the last board meeting that he thought the Pacific Highlands Ranch new school should have been done before the Del Mar Heights rebuild. This is a complicated $55 MM taxpayer funded infill project that will outlive all of us and it needs to be done right with more consensus. Heck, you can’t even build an individually owned $500K house as fast we’re trying to force this school rebuild.
We all want a new school built, but there is a much better solution. I urge all of you (and I think we have a fiduciary responsibility) to take the time to do this right and help find an improved plan that the community can be excited about.
Del Mar Heights
How do you decide?
The Del Mar City Council on Monday, Dec. 2, placed the Zephyr -Marisol Specific Plan Initiative on the March 3 Presidential Primary ballot, in 92 days. So how can you confidently choose the future for this “Jewel”, this now rare Bluff location as Zephyr so correctly described it, given the paucity of information on what will actually end up being built there?
The site plan for the hotel is not available on any website to download, only viewable at their office TV, no hard copies. So how do you decide?
There are no plans to install story polls on the property before March 3, so how do you decide?
Marisol is a 156-room hotel, not 65 rooms — the planned individual bedroom rental program of the 27 villas and 10 low-cost visitor room rentals creates a 156-room hotel. So how do you decide?
Approval does not guarantee the Marisol advertised plan will be built, but it does guarantee an open development envelope of 46-foot tall, of 410,000 sq. ft. of buildings up to three stories. So how do you decide?
Protecting the North Bluff Preserve: On Feb. 11, 2019, City Council adopted for the Preserve policies/standards to promote the retention of a physical barrier (fencing) between the public and (Marisol) private properties, with one gated entry point between the two, located at the northwestern point of the Preserve for daytime access only. The Marisol site diagram and published illustrations do not show this, the private hotel site and the North Beach Preserve are shown as a one space. A Zephyr VP previously told me that they have no plans to install a fence. So how do you decide?
A large resort pool on the top of the 46 ft. third-story main building has unobstructed views south over the Preserve and beaches, approximately 120 ft. from the Preserve’s property line. Private parties, daily use, expected live and record music in the pool area will overwhelm the wind and ocean sounds of the Preserve area. There are 5 pools of various sizes and a large Villa Amenity pool all only 60 ft. for the Preserve property line along the west side walk edge of the Bluff, another source of noise impacting quiet walks along the western edge of the Bluff Preserve. There are actually 21 pools of various sizes.
So how can you decide?
Jan. 9, 2020 issue:
Why I support the Marisol Project
Measure G, the rezoning initiative to allow a hotel complex instead of 18 mansions on the North Bluff property, has numerous benefits to the City of Del Mar. These are the ones that convince me that the hotel is the better project.
The landscape plan will redirect drainage to the east, protecting the bluffs from runoff during rain events that occurs now and would continue with residential development
22 units dedicated to low-income housing will help the city meet its Housing Element goals and preserve zoning authority for the city and not the California Department of Housing and Community Development
The public trail surrounding the project will provide easy access to the bluff views and the Scripps preserve and will meet ADA requirements for the first time
The new stairway and restrooms will improve access and use of the North Beach area and the dedicated funding for sand replenishment will help preserve our beaches
The draft CEQA document prepared for the city lists several traffic mitigation measures that will improve traffic flow except for a few days during the San Diego County Fair. The Fair Board (on which I serve) is working to improve traffic control during the fair
The project will meet high standards for sustainability and energy efficiency in compliance with the city’s Climate Action Plan
The income projected in the Financial Analysis will enable the city to pursue projects that are currently on hold because of budget constraints
former Mayor, Councilmember
and DRB member
Redesign the school, save the green space
The Del Mar Union School District (DMUSD) fails to recognize that the decisions they make about the Del Mar Heights school design – and the repercussions -- will echo through three generations of Del Mar residents. Long after the current administration, staff and Board of Governors have retired, our community will feel the lasting effects of this vanity project. Let’s be clear: the students will benefit from the school for exactly seven years. The community will lose the green space for 50 years, if not forever.
The district claims it is pushing the flawed design forward against the wishes of the community because of the rising cost of construction. They estimate that a one-year delay will cost approximately $2 million. There is a simple solution – redesign the school for 5-to-11 year-olds instead of college students. Create a design that showcases the best of our community, gives our children a safe and attractive campus, and maximizes the return on the investment of the community’s tax dollars.
When we look to Google and Apple campuses as our inspiration, we have lost sight of what elementary school students truly need. When we prioritize parking lots and sprawling buildings over green space, we have lost sight of what our residents need. And when we care more about how a school looks than the broader role it plays in our community, we have lost sight of our values.
Like many of my friends and neighbors, I would not have voted for Proposition MM – and raised my own taxes in the process – had I known that it would come at the cost of an irreplaceable community asset. Shame on taxpayers for writing a $186 million check and trusting that it would be spent wisely. And shame on DMUSD for abusing that trust.
Time to act is now
Every day there is news of climate catastrophes that may be linked to climate change. Every day we hear the same excuses from world leaders and legislators: It’s a hoax; we can’t do anything unless China and India do something; climate has changed before; there’s no scientific consensus.
Unless we act, history will show a lack of moral leadership that caused one of the greatest human failures.
But there is hope and a path forward. Scientists agree that climate change can be stopped by ending the burning of fossil fuels. A fee on carbon does exactly this in addition to generating jobs and encouraging energy innovation. If you want to be part of the solution, join a group like Citizens Climate Lobby, a nonpartisan group that is working on getting Congress to pass carbon reduction legislation.
Primary election homework
By Gordon Clanton
Less than two months till the March 3 primary. Much is at stake. Time to do our homework.
Super Tuesday. After many years of holding the presidential primary in June – by which time presidential nominees usually had been determined – California now joins 11 other states with primaries on Super Tuesday, March 3. By the end of that day, we probably will know who the Democratic nominee will be. And California will have had a voice.
Here are some key local races I’m watching closely.
San Diego mayor. Until recently it appeared that Assemblyman Todd Gloria and Councilwoman Barbara Bry were headed toward a two-Democrats runoff in November. The late entry of Republican Councilman Scott Sherman complicates things for Bry. Even with a strong citywide Democratic registration edge, she is now at risk of not making it to November.
San Diego council. Eight candidates are seeking the First District seat (Carmel Valley and La Jolla) from which Bry is retiring. Front-runners are community activist Joe LaCava, who ran for this seat in 2016, and attorney Will Moore, past-president of the Carmel Valley Democratic Club.
City attorney. All three candidates for this nominally non-partisan office are Democrats. They are incumbent Mara Elliott and private sector attorneys Cory Briggs and Pete Mesich. Briggs is notorious for multiple lawsuits against the city of San Diego. His pitch seems to be: Make me city attorney and I’ll stop suing the city.
Supervisor. Two strong Democratic candidates are facing off for county supervisor: Escondido Councilwoman Olga Diaz and activist Terra Lawson-Remer. One of these challengers probably will make it into the runoff against Trumpista Republican incumbent Kristin Gaspar. Again, it is hard to imagine both Dems running ahead of Gaspar.
Del Mar. Voters in Del Mar will decide the fate of the Marisol resort hotel proposal on the coast at the west end of Via de la Valle. The developers gathered signatures to put their substantially modified proposal on the ballot – a strategy gaining popularity with builders. A council majority put the measure on the March ballot, thinking it best to settle the hotel issue now, so that it won’t be hanging over the November election.
But the hotel vote will hang over the general election, one of the most significant in the 60-year history of Del Mar. Three seats are up on the five-person council, so control of Del Mar’s future will be at stake.
— Gordon Clanton teaches sociology at San Diego State University. He welcomes comments at email@example.com
Jan. 16 issue:
Good neighbors make good partners
The discussion of the Marisol (Measure G) project on the March ballot has had a laser focus on issues specific to Del Mar, and, I think, a shortage of discussion of how this proposal reflects on Del Mar’s being part of the San Diego region. That region, of course, includes our neighbor Solana Beach many of whose residents will be strongly affected by the proposed project.
Among the many ways we share regional civic efforts with Solana Beach include:
(1) Shared fire services: We share management level fire personnel between Del Mar, Solana Beach, and Encinitas. Each city has its local personnel, stations, and equipment.
(2) We have plans to share energy suppliers; Del Mar, Solana Beach, and Carlsbad formed the Clean Energy Alliance, a Joint Powers Authority (JPA). This promises to save each of us significant costs for energy.
(3) We share wastewater services; the San Elijo JPA provides sewer treatment to Solana Beach and parts of Encinitas. Del Mar sends our sewage to San Elijo JPA, but is not a JPA member.
(4) Del Mar and Solana Beach serve on the San Dieguito River Park JPA.
(5) Del Mar and Solana Beach are in CSA 17, an ambulance district.
(6) Del Mar and Solana Beach also have seats on the Community Relations Committee which meets with fair board representatives to discuss issues of mutual concern.
(7) We sit with all regional cities on SANDAG committees that control funding for transportation, housing and other critical regional infrastructure, including funding for removal of trains from our bluff.
One could go on.
Residents of Solana Beach, of course, cannot vote for or against Measure G, but they are clearly interested parties who have a vote on all the other issues noted, every one of which affects our lives as residents of Del Mar.
We should not slap our friends and regional colleagues living in Solana Beach in the face by voting for Measure G. We should respect their interests as neighbors and open a constructive discussion with them, through their city council or through other civic means of polite discourse about development on our common border that addresses our concerns and theirs.
Much is at stake here for Del Mar as a member of our region, and I ask all of us to consider rejecting Measure G, and starting constructive discussion with our neighbor and partner Solana Beach on a replacement that retains a mutual beneficial perspective in mind.
Commentary in the press and a tsunami of mailers to our homes has attended to some fuzzy financial benefit to our city from Measure G. That is not the whole story when we consider how our neighbors may act in response to this Measure. That financial benefit may be achieved in another, mutually respectful Measure after discussion with our regional partners.
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