Opinion/Letters to the Editor January 2020

Jan. 23 issue:
Measure G is positive for Del Mar and Solana Beach

I think the arguments in opposition to the Marisol specific plan (Measure G) have become too emotional and not well considered. The same individuals who opposed the Del Mar Civic Center and Streetscape are now up in arms regarding Measure G.

The benefits of Marisol to Del Mar and Solana Beach are huge. Marisol will provide a revenue earning power close to $6 million per year. This new revenue will enable the City of Del Mar to pay for future infrastructure projects like Shores Park, street repairs, undergrounding of utilities, and planning for new services into the future. A separate sand replenishment endowment fund by Marisol, the first of its kind, is committed in the Marisol Initiative Specific Plan. Marisol is providing 22 affordable housing units, fully 100% of the City’s needs in the 8-year cycle ending in 2021. “Yes” on Measure G assures the commitment to dedicate fully accessible, new public trails throughout 16.5 acres, including incredible ocean bluff view areas, never available before as the site has been closed off to the public.

Approval of Measure G does not reduce Design Review or City control over the project. Measure G approves a specific plan for the property that allows a resort to be built on the property. It does not circumvent Del Mar’s Design Review process. All normal approvals will continue to be required.

Naturally there is opposition to Marisol in the Solana Beach neighborhoods adjacent to the property. Changes to neighborhoods are a concern. But these neighbors have not been ignored. Our City Council has been working for over two years to listen to each person and make sure issues related to building heights and traffic are addressed. And with the approval of Measure G (specific plan), Solana Beach neighbors will have many opportunities to register their concerns in the Design Review process for the project. So, it is a myth that we are not listening to our neighbors. We are, and we will be.

The bottom line is that we (Del Mar) have a wonderful opportunity to shape the future of our community. What will our future be? Will it incorporate an attractive asset at the north end of town, that will allow residents and visitors to enjoy the ocean environment, and return financial and community benefits back to Del Mar. Or will we relegate this property to large mansions, owned by non-residents who are only in Del Mar for financial gain.

Please don’t listen to the emotional hysterics of those opposed to Measure G.

Terry Sinnott

Del Mar

Marisol Project should be supported

The small cadre of extremely vocal opponents of the Marisol Project (the subject of Measure G) in Del Mar are doing it again. For two years, every time the proponents of the project have risen to the occasion and satisfied the demands of opponents, they’ve moved the goal posts.

It started when the developers reduced the size of the project significantly and removed a story (or two) from all the buildings. Then the focus was on the bluff stability, which the developer was able to show they were addressing responsibly and effectively. Then the claim was that by going to a vote, the project would bypass state and city laws. But when the city attorney debunked that claim, the focus was on how there wouldn’t be a chance to review all the environmental documents.

Now we have the environmental and fiscal impact analyses for Marisol, posted on the city’s website for Del Mar voters to spend the next couple of months evaluating. But because these analyses are so favorable and quash the doomsday scenarios of the opponents, suddenly these all-important documents are considered “fuzzy” by opponents like Councilwoman Terry Gaasterland. So should we never trust the city’s environmental reviews, or is it only when they agree with the councilmembers’ prejudices?

Thankfully, many of us in Del Mar are smart enough to think for ourselves. Otherwise we’d be strung along into an endless negative position by people who perhaps aren’t honest enough to simply say “I just don’t want anything new.”


Bob Fleet

Del Mar business owner

Measure G is rushing a complex project

Let us all remember that Measure G is simply a proposal that is sponsored and heavily funded by Marisol developer Zephyr. Their stated purpose of Measure G is that, if passed, the Del Mar Community Plan will be amended to adopt into law Zephyr’s Marisol Specific Plan exactly as written. Further, that plan “shall not be amended or replaced without the vote of the people for 10 years.”

The Marisol Specific Plan has many good-neighbor aspects: amenities. aesthetics, access and financial, which many people approve. It also has multiple poor-neighbor aspects, such as increased traffic, parking problems, environmental issues, etc. By circumventing Del Mar’s established development process, Measure G will not ensure all voices will be heard.

One example, buried in the 1,755 pages of the Marisol Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) are several paragraphs relating to the “Del Mar Man” archaeological site that is located within the boundaries of the Marisol Specific Plan. As reported in the journal Science (Vol 184, Issue 4138, 17 May 1974), “Del Mar Man” could be as old as 48,000 years BP. Such an early date would establish “Del Mar Man” as the earliest inhabitant in all of California and North America (Science, Vol 213, 28 August 1981) - right here, within the City Limits of Del Mar.

Having such an archaeological site of national importance (New York Times, 01 September 1981, Sec C, Pg 2) located in Del Mar places a responsibility on all of us to do the right thing. As noted in the Zephyr’s DEIR, Appendix E, on page iv plus other pages, this archaeological site is of huge scientific and cultural importance. In fact the DEIR goes on to state that it was noted earlier that “….an Archaeological Resource Management Report (ARMR) technical report would need to be prepared and submitted to the City of Del Mar, for review by City staff approved before map or permit approval(Cheever 1995).”

This example plus others indicate that additional mitigation plans must to be included in any acceptable Marisol Site Specific Plan. However, no such State-mandated mitigation plans could be found within the 110 pages of the Marisol Specific Plan.

In summary, Zephyr’s vision for Marisol has many aspects many of our neighbors find appealing, but Measure G rushes a complex process. The only obvious purpose for this initiative is to satisfy Zephyr. Voting “No” on Measure G does not mean that Zephyr “will take their ball and go home,” but a “No” vote will insure that adverse project impacts will be properly reviewed and all neighbors’ voices will be heard.

Your neighbors,

Allan and Susan Wegner

Why I support Measure G

As a 40+ year resident of Del Mar, I support Measure G. I was wondering what a Del Mar voter might think about when it comes to Marisol.

I jotted down some thoughts. It’s hard for me to imagine why someone would be so opposed to a proposal like Marisol – it’s environmental-minded and this will never be just an open public park. As great as that sounds, there’s really only two paths here – mansions or Marisol. And the Marisol plan provides the most benefits to the citizens of Del Mar.

Here are my notes:

Pros - from a normal citizen point of view:

Bathrooms- no more porta potties at Dog Beach!

Walking trails/accessibility - there’s a time and place for preservation. This land will never be an empty park. It’s either this plan with public walking trails and views, or a practically uninviting and inaccessible collection of private mansions.

Tourism tax dollars that will provide long-term benefits for the City of Del Mar — also not possible if we go the private mansions route.

Affordable housing for 22 families! Why are rich Del Martians against helping those less fortunate? I just do not get their elitism!

Consistent architectural and landscape design (on-site and along the road as you drive by) — no guarantees what individual mansions will look like from the road or for your views. Designed to naturally fit/flow with the coastline — aesthetically and environmentally. Something individual architects may not be as mindful of when designing a private home.

What are people saying are the “cons”?

Are they really “cons”, or does this plan already solve them (more so than the alternative/mansions route)?

Traffic – one-time construction vs. years of construction coming and going on mansions. And road/ traffic improvements won’t be part of mansions’ approval.

Views – Marisol plan designed and redesigned with that in mind. Something private builders will not be so careful of.

Bluff safety— soil engineers, tests, location on bluff vs next door to the north...60-foot set-back!

Not a “one & done” vote in March. Then there is Design Review – City Council approval, Coastal Development Permit, Coastal Commission of Local Coastal Program Amendment.

Carl Winston

Del Mar

Kudos to Gaasterland and Druker for trying to protect Del Mar

We would like to thank Councilmembers Terry Gaasterland and David Druker for listening to Del Mar residents at the Jan. 13 City Council meeting. They – alone – tried mightily to protect us against the California Coastal Commission’s strong-arm attempts to harm our community.

We appreciate Councilmembers Gaasterland’s and Druker’s mindful representation. They are setting the standard for “listening to learn” leaders.

We look forward to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Councilmembers Gaasterland and Druker and with all our neighbors in the coming months to protect and preserve our beach and coastal community from the threats that loom as we work to get our local coastal program amendment approved as is – or withdrawn completely.

Jerry Jacobs, President

Del Mar Beach Preservation Coalition

Contrast of the existing Del Mar Heights School field and blacktop with the proposed new school field and blacktop. (from website)
Contrast of the existing Del Mar Heights School field and blacktop with the proposed new school field and blacktop. (from website)

Build the right school for Del Mar’s children

Is Del Mar Union School District’s (DMUSD) current rebuild design for Del Mar Heights Elementary School the only one that can keep our children safe? The only design that enables a great education? The only one that provides parking for the teachers? Of course not. The supporters of the proposed design insist that those of us trying to save the school field don’t care about the safety and education of our children. They also assert that we only care about the views (though 99% of us have zero impact from the views). As a mom to two current Del Mar Heights students, that reasoning is both offensive and not true. What we care about is building the right school for Del Mar’s children.

Finalizing the design plans during the summer, behind closed doors, has created a deeply flawed and divisive process. In September the community was presented with, in effect, a done deal, and every suggestion to preserve more field space since, has been methodically shut down. Over and over we have been presented with selective details obviously orchestrated to support the proposed design and to refute the possibility of change.

This design prioritizes parking; prioritizes traffic queue; prioritizes single stories; prioritizes small, outdoor learning spaces; and prioritizes centralizing the campus. Some of the educational concepts sound wonderful, but they come at a huge cost - more than half of the school field and more than half of the blacktop. The outdoor play area falls dismally short of California Department of Education minimum requirements. This design gives lowest priority to what many children love most about going to school and what many experts believe to be a critical component of an elementary school education. It comes at the expense of a field that has promoted the health and well being of Del Mar’s children for generations.

Greta Thunberg is Time’s Person of the Year. Climate change is arguably the biggest issue our children will face. They are growing up in a time when environmental impact should be front and center in every decision we make. This design doesn’t even guarantee solar. A few trees will be planted to offset, basically, paving a whole new road around the campus. This design encourages parents to get in their cars and drive to school, when the world is focusing on ways to walk, bike and use mass transit like school buses. Our children will judge us for our lack of foresight, and they should.

Building Del Mar Heights School fast has become a higher priority than building the school right. This school is being built to meet the needs of our children for the next 50 years. We need to do better, even if that means a new design.

Nicole Pentheroudakis

Del Mar

Del Mar deserves better!

Last weekend in Del Mar, California, most locals and visitors were enjoying a day at the beach, reading a book, or simply relaxing and taking in the spectacular vistas and wonderful life. Sadly, as this was going on there were several transgressions occurring at the same time: there were thefts of personal property, trespassing, along with harassment and threats assailing Del Mar residents and businesses.

Equally disconcerting, there was no law enforcement presence to deal with or thwart these threats and malevolence. I recall that in recent local elections, promises were made to the citizenry by City Council candidates that our safety and code enforcement would be a premium concern...clearly this promise has not been fulfilled.

Local residents are reduced to taking photographs of perpetrators of criminal actions and bullying behavior and sharing these on social media sites to inform their neighbors of these threats; all the while, one city council member openly applauded the uncivil mayhem…..where is the promised protection?

Where is the civility?

Many share my view that this must be addressed - enough! It is both a matter of civility and security that all who reside and enjoy our quaint and beautiful village can feel safe and protected in Del Mar. We demand that our leadership recognize their obligation to ensure that our homes are secure and that we can walk the streets without the prospect of being bullied or harassed.

We must be better and we need action now!

T. Pat Stubbs

Del Mar

Lifeguards should go fossil free

I grew up in Solana Beach and now come back to bring my son to visit his grandparents. Like most parents, I have taught my young child to have a healthy awareness and distance from cars. Recently, while visiting the beach, I noticed a big truck cruising down the beach. It was a quiet day with few beachgoers. I couldn’t figure out why a lifeguard needed to tear down the beach when there was clearly no action. As the truck passed, the fresh air of the ocean was spoiled, and my son froze in place. I realized how unnecessary it is — with electric ATVs, electric cargo bicycles, etc. — to still have our wealthy communities supporting gas-powered vehicles. The dissonance in our beachfront community as a healthy place, while allowing fossil fuel-powered vehicles to roam should be reconciled. Many of our lifeguards choose the job because of the opportunity to serve their community and spend time in nature. It’s time our lifeguard agencies upgrade by simplifying and finding more congruence in their modes of transportation and their jobs.

Yogi Hendlin

Environmental Philosopher and Public Health Scientist

Jan. 30 issue:

Why do we need more access to Del Mar’s North Bluff than we already have?

What is it about the human race that makes us feel like we’ve got to have access to every nook and cranny of this planet? Mother Earth is telling us enough is enough. Why are humans still not listening? When do we stop putting personal pleasure and financial gain ahead of preservation of some of the last untouched areas we have left?

Extending an existing trail, for additional access along the bluff’s edge, is not a good reason to vote for a massive zoning change on one of the last undeveloped bluffs in this area, next to one of the last remaining lagoons in California. The public already has guaranteed access to trails on the bluff regardless of how it is, or is not, developed in the future. We’ve got miles of walking trails surrounding us, some ADA accessible. We already have over 20 restaurants in Del Mar, many with stunning ocean views.

What would John Muir think of the conversations we are having in Del Mar about this project? A yes vote changes a purposeful low residential restriction of 107,000 SF, 14 feet high to become 410,000 SF, 46 feet high, and 400+ underground parking spaces. Sure it can be done, but that doesn’t mean we should allow for a zoning change of that magnitude on a fragile bluff next to the rising ocean. Why do we humans feel like we have a right to develop that bluff so we can walk every inch of it, swim in pools on it, park under it, dine on it, sleep in a building on it and profit from it? What’s wrong with just leaving most of the bluff alone by respecting our community plan?

Possible tax revenue is not a good reason to build a 46-foot-tall 410,000-square-foot hotel on a fragile bluff. Del Mar is not in dire financial straights. Using the bluff to generate tax revenue is the sort of thinking that has contributed to the climate crisis we are in now. If it’s not us that says no, then who? What will future generations think of us if we rezone the bluff for a large resort for tax revenue we don’t need?

And the affordable housing units. Sure it would be nice to have a head start to this challenge in our city. Luckily, we are a community of creative, intelligent people. We can find another solution to build 22 units. Let’s not sell out our bluff for 11,000 square feet of affordable housing by voting for a 410,000-SF, 46-feet high, zoning change.

A tiny sliver of citizens have been given an awesome responsibility with Measure G. Please save the bluff. Vote No.

Jill Gartman

Del Mar

Trust the Del Mar review process to work —vote ‘Yes’ on Measure G

On March 3, the vote for Yes on Measure G – Marisol is a very important choice for Del Mar voters. Either vote “Yes” and trust the Del Mar review process to work, or vote “No” and lose this truly great opportunity for Del Mar. Marisol offers public access to 16.5 acres - walking trails, restaurants, incomparable ocean views, revenue growth for new City projects, infrastructure improvements, beach nourishment funds – all benefits for Del Mar.

Since early 2017, both City Council members as well as Del Mar community members stated that a Community Plan Amendment like the Measure G – Marisol Specific Plan should be decided by the voters of Del Mar. The Marisol planners agreed and the citizens’ petition signatures were gathered for a voter initiative. The City Council approved scheduling the vote on March 3. A Draft Environmental Impact Report has been prepared and is available for public review.

Now we hear that many community members who wanted a public vote are objecting to Measure G going to the voters. You can’t have it both ways! What is more democratic than letting the voters decide?

Adding the vote to the other “normal” City review process, including Design Review, provides maximum citizen and City involvement. The voter approval just starts the rigorous discretionary review process we have in Del Mar, determining building heights, bulk, scale and mass to be approved.

By agreeing to the Measure G vote on March 3, the Yes on Measure G - Marisol planners have shown their commitment to the legitimacy of the Del Mar review process. For this reason, and for the benefit of our City, we should support and vote “Yes” on Measure G.

Karen Powell,

Del Mar

Save Del Mar Man

Del Mar is a special place in many ways. Growing up in Del Mar was the best a kid could get. It is also historically important from an archaeological perspective as it was the home and final resting place of Del Mar Man.

Found in the same bluff the developers want to develop as Marisol, Del Mar Man was found by archaeologist Malcolm Rogers. Del Mar man populated the Del Mar area and speculation has it, used the bluff as a sacred final burial place. Initial estimates had him at 20,000 years old. I asked around Del Mar City Hall if they were concerned about supporting a development on what could be termed a sacred burial site. Most had no idea Del Mar Man was a “thing.” Responses from City Hall to my inquiries about Del Mar Man and the developers goal to build on the site were perfunctory and positioned with “we are doing everything we need to per legal.”

Interesting responses. Nothing about attempting to preserve and even promote this site. Just bland blah blah that they were moving forward according to what the law requires them to do. Do those laws include changing zoning to build a hotel on a Native American burial grounds? Don’t think so. I assume the developers and most likely the city don’t want history, especially Native American history, to get in the way of development and tax revenue. I get it. I just think this needs to be disclosed, discussed and be part of the ultimate decision. Del Mar Man is real. He is also the real Del Mar local.

John Grant

Del Mar and Solana Beach

Marisol Economic Report raises serious doubts

While the City’s “gag order” prevents the Finance Committee from reviewing the Updated Marisol Economic Report, the developer is vigorously campaigning on the city revenue projections shown in the report.

My review of the Economic Report concludes that the city revenues of $5.96 million per year are highly speculative and are not a reliable estimate of future revenues.

Transient Occupancy Tax is reported as $4.2 million per year based upon 65 hotel rooms with room-rates of $796 per night with a 75% occupancy and 27 attached villa condos (selling on a time-share like scheme where owners get only 4 months of annual usage), are available as 81 villa hotel rooms at $1,326 per night and a 74% effective occupancy rate. The average room rate in Del Mar is $263 per night (DMVA). Any decline in room-rates or occupancy directly reduces TOT. The Specific Plan does not guarantee a number of hotel rooms or villa rooms for use as hotel rooms. TOT revenue is very much uncertain.

Property tax is reported as $861,000 per year. The amount of property tax largely depends upon the sale of 4 detached villa condos at $22 million each and 27 attached villa condos for $10.5 million each. A decline in the selling price of the villas reduces property tax revenues. These condo prices are unprecedented in Del Mar.

Sales tax are reported as $680,000 per year. Sales tax depends upon the projected level of Marisol guest spending. Guest spending (in addition to the room prices) for meals, beverages, retail and miscellaneous are reported for each of the 81 villa rooms at $2,852 per night and for each of the 65 hotel rooms at $1,027 per night. This unbelievably exorbitant level of spending is the basis for the sales taxes projected in the report.

The City of Del Mar is in excellent financial condition and is not dependent upon the future financial benefits of Marisol or any other particular development project.

City revenues have grown reliably over many years; costs are well managed; the City is comfortably funding City Hall; and Del Mar is aggressively building a pension reserve to meet all future pension obligations. Finally, Measure Q is the source of revenues for downtown streetscape, undergrounding and development of Shores park.

The Marisol Specific Plan is “conceptual” with no commitment to any number of hotel rooms or revenues for the City. The developer wants the community to vote based upon the lure of $5.96 million in revenues. Let’s vote on facts that are reasonable and reliable and not the grossly exaggerated revenues in this report. Vote No on G.

Tom McGreal,
Resident and Chair of the Del Mar Finance Committee

Why vote ‘Yes’ on Marisol - Measure G

Those opposing Marisol are the same political group that opposed the L’Auberge with loud, disruptive paid protestors on 15th Street and at Dog Beach, shouting that high-rise building and mass traffic would destroy our small village character.

The reality: 30 years later

The L’Auberge is one of Del Mar’s finest assets. A special place for community events that has provided over $30 million in TOT taxes alone. Enough to more than cover the cost of our iconic new Civic Center and Streetscape.

Over the next 30-plus years

Marisol will be an even greater asset with even more amenities and community benefits! The EIR (Table V1-9) projects Marisol will generate an additional $5.96 million annually to the $18,430,833 General Fund 2020 Budget. (Table V1-2) That’s a 30%+ increase. $5.96 million over 30 years would total over $178 million.

Marisol provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for residents to enjoy the bluff’s spectacular ocean views, 1.2 miles of tranquil trails, fine and casual dining, plus the $178 million over 30 years to stabilize the City’s economy. This is why I am enthusiastically voting yes on Measure G!

Jim Watkins

Del Mar

A question of trust

Since I know and am friends with many of those on both sides of the Measure G Proposition, I am sure that they all have Del Mar’s best interests in mind, independent of which outcome they favor. The coincidence of last week’s League of Women Voters debate on the Measure with the Trump impeachment trial, may have put us in a hyper-alert frame of mind in examining the arguments that were put forward. I know it did for me.

I was especially sensitive about what I see as a bit of distorted history regarding the rationale for the vote on the Specific Plan Proposition that is before us. The argument that it was the people of Del Mar that drove this particular vote struck me as somewhat specious. I believe that those that wanted a vote on the project had in mind a Measure B- type vote, which would give citizens the final say on a city-approved design. Many at the time probably didn’t realize that Measure B had been judged illegal under current State law. I don’t recall any public hue and cry for a ballot Proposition for a specific plan that defines only the zoning parameters for the property’s development prior to a concrete project proposal. As was argued during the debate, such a proposition is unprecedented in Del Mar, and the implications of its approval are uncertain, at best. As Bud Emerson stated that night, it comes down to an issue of trust. However, much of that trust involves the intentions and actions of Zephyr, the developer of the Marisol project, and the authors of the Specific Plan.

Art Olson

Del Mar