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Opinion

Opinion/Letters to the Editor February 2020

Feb. 6 issue:

How Del Mar man was named

John Grant’s letter to the editor about Del Mar Man (Del Mar Times, 1/30/2020) brought back memories of my encounter with a student or associate of Dr. Malcolm Rogers. Dr. Rogers, a “pioneering archeologist” in San Diego and Baja, died in 1960. Dr. Rogers was long associated with San Diego’s Museum of Man.

I was City Manager in Del Mar during the middle 1970s. The City’s “Scripps Preserve”, adjacent to, but not part of, the proposed site for the Marisol Project (Measure G, March 3 ballot), is a narrow strip of land and bluff face, comprising 4.3 acres, stretching around the tip of the high ground overlooking “Dog Beach”. In 1971 the City purchased this property with funds donated by James Scripps, of the Scripps Foundation.

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The visitor that day told me he wanted to undertake archeaological research on the City-owned bluff property. In its archive collection, the Museum of Man had a human skull found by Dr. Rogers in the late 1920s on the south-facing slope of the bluff. Early carbon-dating tests suggested the skull could be 20,000 years old. If true, that would make it one of the earliest human artifacts known at the time in North America. The visitor sought to determine if other human artifacts remained.

My visitor went on to add that the museum intended to put the artifact on display as San Diego Man. He asked for the City’s permission to undertake a further search. I was happy to oblige, in the interest of science. However, not being above “boosterism” myself, I suggested it would be appropriate, in exchange for the free license, to rename the artifact Del Mar Man, in part due to the cultural attachment of local ancient humans to the sea. The visitor quickly agreed.

After a couple months of investigation, the visitor returned to my office and reported that no further evidence of human artifacts had been found. His field investigation, along with notes from Dr. Rogers, confirmed the skull had been exposed on the face of the bluff, as natural erosion occurred. Dr. Rogers likely had found a midden layer (fancy word for ancient trash dump) into which the skull had been deposited millennia ago.

Del Mar Man was exhibited in the Museum of Man for about 15 years, after which it was removed to the archives. It remains there, in accordance with an agreement with the Kumeyaay band of Diegueño Native-Americans, who claimed ancestral rights over the artifact. Subsequent studies revealed the early carbon dating had misjudged the age of Del Mar Man by a factor of four. The more recent estimated age is a mere 5,000 years.

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Wayne Dernetz,

Del Mar

Please define ‘enough’

Re letter: Marisol Economic Report raises serious doubts, by Tom McGreal, 1/30/2020

Under this misleading title, Tom McGreal raises doubts about the reliability of the City of Del Mar’s estimates for future revenues from the proposed Marisol project. These estimates were not made by the developer as implied by Tom’s title, but by the City’s contractors, Keyser Marston Associates, Inc. (KMA) and Maurice Robinson & Associates (MRA).

KMA and MRA estimated an annual $5.96 million income to the City, and I assume they used “industry standard” methods to arrive at this number. But following Tom’s reasoning, let’s say they over-estimated by 100% (highly unlikely?). $2.98 million dollars per year to the City is not enough to justify a “Yes” vote?

If not, please send me my share of $745 ($2,980,000 divided by 4,000 residents).

Larry D. Brooks

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Del Mar

Marisol initiative concerns

Of all of the reasons that I am concerned about the Marisol Resort project, there are two that are most prominent for me.

This environmentally and culturally precious and very unstable cliff is one of the last pieces of open space at the beach in this region. How can we even think of devastating it by blasting it away to make this huge development with 408 underground parking places, several rain water holding tanks, and numerous swimming pools? We just can’t allow this zoning change from residential to commercial to occur. The DEIR is full of inconsistencies…we just can’t let this happen! We just must find other more appropriate ways to provide for affordable housing.

Another major concern of mine is that this exquisite piece of land is directly at the end of the San Dieguito River Valley Park, and above the San Dieguito Watershed as it flows into the ocean. If you’ve ever stood on the peak of Volcan Mt. (5,300 ft. elevation) 55 miles to the east, the origin of the Watershed, you’ve witnessed how it spans a breathtaking view all the way to our beach. Many of our residents who were visionaries 30 years ago have worked passionately since then to acquire parcels of land which enabled this park to become a reality.

The San Dieguito River Valley has now become a rich source of open space for our entire region creating trails for hiking, riding and biking, and we are greatly appreciative of our visionaries’ efforts. It was their intention, as stated in the San Dieguito River Park Concept Plan adopted in 1994 and updated in 2002, to adopt the following concepts: to encourage local jurisdictions to protect the sweeping open space views within this landscape; that future development should be compatible with the open space character of the lagoon area in terms of both visual compatibility and intensity of use; that view opportunities of the lagoon and the ocean from trails and existing circulation routes should be preserved and where appropriate, enhanced; and finally, all uses adjacent to the San Dieguito Lagoon should be sensitive to reducing adverse impacts associated with noise, lighting, stray pets and intensive human activity.

It is with this unique and vastly important history of cultural and environmental sensitivity that we need to insure that this area is protected for future generations.

Carol Kerridge

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Del Mar

Innovative solution to freight problems

The threat to rail posed by a collapse of Del Mar’s unstable bluffs continues to grow. News articles report the causes of the bluffs’ erosion to be rain and homeowner water runoff as well as high tides caused by climate change. The bluffs’ instability seems unlikely to lessen and the potential for serious damage will increase over time.

The bluffs’ rail corridor now carries 8 million passengers and an estimated $1 billion worth of freight annually. It has been reported that 6 freight trains consisting of 40 cars, each car weighing an average of 65 tons (2,600 tons per train), travel the corridor on a daily basis. During calendar year 2018, approximately 4.8 million tons of freight were moved along the corridor. Were the bluffs to fail, this means approximately 192,000 large semi-trucks would need to be added on Interstate 5 in order to provide the same capacity.

The question is turning to how we (as a region and state) will address the problem and implement a solution? At present the leading solution appears to be tunneling under the City of Del Mar. At an estimated cost of $4 billion (a sum which does not include the cost overruns common to subsurface construction or the individual property and business losses that may result) a question is whether a tunnel will provide the best and most cost-effective solution? Or, are there additional solutions that should also be evaluated for their potential to address the problems?

The good news is there is an example that may fit. An innovative solution to freight problems is a new technology named the Freight Shuttle System (“FSS”) which has been researched, designed and developed over two decades by Texas A&M University’s Transportation Institute (www.freightshuttle.com). The FSS is an electric freight transporter operating on an elevated guideway over existing highway rights of way and is capable of going inland up to 500 miles from seaports and border ports of entry.

The FSS holds promise to improve air quality (by reducing harmful emissions); decrease highway congestion; reduce damage to infrastructure; and to improve safety (by reducing truck traffic in congested urban areas). Further, the cost of constructing and operating an FSS application would be paid for by private funds at no taxpayer cost. It appears to hold promise as an innovative alternative enabling freight trains to be taken off the bluffs, but do we have the commitment and determination to evaluate the new technology and its benefits as a possible solution?

Mike Boyle

Del Mar

Wishful thinking

In his letter to the editor (Jan. 23) Terry Sinnott asserts that “Approval of Measure G does not reduce Design Review or City control over the project. ...All normal approvals will be required.”

It is highly doubtful that Mr. Sinnott’s assertion is correct. While it is true that Marisol’s specific plan seems to concede the possibility of design review and approval , the plan does not spell out the scope of any such review where a developer has substituted its zoning plan for that of the city’s. Reference to a combination of sources including the state’s Election Code, Del Mar’s municipal code and the unanimous 2014 decision of the Ca. Supreme Court in the Tuolumne Jobs & Small Business Alliance case suggest that where an initiative procedure has replaced a municipalities zoning code, city authorities are bound by the core metrics of the specific plan including any new height and density standards.

In such instance, the scope of review will primarily need to be limited to determining whether the final building plan is consistent with the “zoning ordinance … of the underlying zone.” Since the ultimate building plan is likely to conform to the specific plan, DRB review could not in all likelihood reduce or alter the core building metrics set out in the replacement zoning overlay.

Whether one approves or disapproves of the initiative it would be wishful thinking to believe that Marisol’s standards could be altered in any substantial way by the city if Measure G were to be approved by the voters.

Ralph Reisner

Del Mar

Professor of Law Emeritus, University of Illinois

Marisol wants the keys to our city

Measure G is clearly all about a drastic zoning change. It will subject the North Bluff in Del Mar to high density commercial from the current low density residential now allowing only 10-20 percent lot coverage. The Marisol Plan destroys the Del Mar Community Plan, our constitution if you will, to allow the developer to build a huge project tantamount to four Walmart stores and the excavation of a fragile bluff to accommodate 400 cars.

The developers paint this zoning change as one that will allow bluff access for all. Sorry, but we already enjoy that and anyone building there will have to provide coastal access as per the CA Coastal Act. The developers are not providing anything unique.

The plan calls for the removal of 42 protected mature and majestic Torrey Pines and Monterey Cypress trees. I’m not OK with that.

The Bluff Preserve, a place for quiet meditation and reflection, would be marred by the noise, light and bulky mass of the proposed structures looming at 46 ft. tall over the Preserve.

The extremely conservative setbacks in the draft EIR ignore other major studies of bluff erosion in that specific area. Those pertinent studies reveal erosion rates 0.8 to 1.2 feet/year, about 5 times higher than in the EIR. Over 75 years it is possible to see 78-235 feet of erosion on the bluff. That is well over the 33 feet mentioned in the plan.

Del Mar’s Coastal Bluff Overlay Zone does not allow swimming pools or spas and no seawalls or other protective structures.

Traffic will be a nightmare.

Runoff from the property will likely adversely affect the San Dieguito Lagoon and the wildlife there.

This plan will result in many unmitigable and unacceptable changes to our Community Plan and the bluff. Del Mar’s Design Review Board loses it teeth and only becomes advisory. I’ve read both the Initiative and draft EIR and what I found is shocking! Marisol gets to have virtually free rein to do as they please on the beautiful bluff. I’m not OK with that.

This is a flagrant land grab attempt by the developers for profit. To accept this plan sets a dangerous precedent for the future of Del Mar. Voters who want Del Mar to retain its quaint village character should vote “no” on Measure G. Del Mar does not need this plan and Solana Beach does not want it.

Udo Wahn, M.D.

Del Mar resident, 37 years

Snowed in Del Mar

Measure G is a zone change, not a “Specific Plan”! Approving this measure will take away the very safeguards that assure Del Mar’s long- time protection against over-development. The developer is trying to “end run” this plan on one of the last parcels of bluff property and has spent over half a million dollars to misrepresent this proposal and fool Del Mar voters into approval of a zoning measure which will take away any potential review and safeguard of this property. The developer has gone so far as to create a false scenario of “mansionization” with no access for the community, to make us feel like the “resort plan” is our only option. This is a complete fallacy, as is their depiction of this project as environmentally sound. It is anything but! Sierra Club states in its assessment of this plan: “this project as proposed has not fully addressed all of the associated environmental impacts.” and “better design/mitigation is essential before this project is approved.” This Measure will eliminate Del Mar’s bluff slope and Canyon Overlay Zone 14-foot height restriction, which was created “to control the development of properties in the Overlay Zones so as to preserve scenic bluffs and canyons.”

This initiative would circumvent the community plan we have approved and lived by for many decades. Measure G guarantees “that when there is a conflict between the provisions of this Specific Plan and the Del Mar Municipal Code, the provisions of the Specific Plan shall prevail.” This is madness! Approving a re-zone of this property will allow them (or any future developer of this site) to build to a height of 46’ and develop over 400,000 sq. ft. of land, on a property presently zoned for single family dwellings, not to exceed 80,000 sq. ft. and maximum height of 26’. We know this is a delicate and unstable bluff that will not sustain the kind of excavation and load that this developer intends. Worst of all: The liability of this development plan falls on the shoulders of our community, if we vote to approve this re-zoning. That means if there is a failure of the bluff, there is every certainty that the developer would not be responsible, for it was approved by a vote of the public.

Don’t be fooled by the smear attempts of this developer. It will cause unavoidable traffic mire on the Coast Highway, Via de la Valle, Jimmy Durante Blvd. and adjacent roadways. Their solution to this overload of traffic? More stop signs and street lights. The community will bear all of the burden of this over-development. And we will have little or no voice in making changes to whatever it is this developer decides to do once he has eliminated our community plan’s guidelines and safeguards. Vote “No” on Measure G.

Drew Cady

Del Mar

Marisol environmental disaster?

Our San Dieguito Lagoon is an important habitat for many endangered birds, such as the California Gnatcatcher, the California Least Tern, The Light-Footed Clapper Rail, Ridgeway’s Rail, and Belding’s Savannah Sparrow, as well as threatened species, such as the Snowy Plover.

The Lagoon is home to endangered plants, such as “salt marsh bird’s beak” a federally- and CA-listed endangered subspecies of plant. The Lagoon is also home to many salt marsh grasses, which create habitat for birds and fish, and very importantly serve to redirect carbons from the atmosphere into their root systems, in the muddy sediment of the Lagoon. This is called “blue carbon sequestration.” This carbon capture by marsh grasses is being studied in local lagoons by Matt Costa, Ph.D. of Scripps Institute of Oceanography (SIO). Dr. Costa’s studies have found that these marsh grasses capture much larger amounts of carbon than previously believed.

Further the Lagoon serves as an important habitat for many fish including the California halibut and California killifish. The Lagoon serves as a fish hatchery and nursery for fish, and once old enough, these fish find their way to the open ocean.

The North Bluff is also a fragile environment and home to the nesting California Gnatcatcher and other wildlife. The bluff averages 75 to 80 feet tall, is estimated to be 40 to 60 million years old, and is the site of the discovery of “Del Mar Man”.

In August, 2019 Scripps Institute of Oceanography Geologist Adam Young, Ph.D. visited Scripps Bluff Preserve and examined the beach below. He observed the site “is actively eroding from several processes and contains many hazardous features prone to failure.”

Erosion resulting from daily wave-cliff interaction is causing undercutting and overhangs at the shoreline base of the cliffs. Evidence of wind erosion was also observed. Several sea caves have formed along the base, some as deep as 10 feet under the bluff. Young also observed and photographed numerous cliff-face cracks, some well-developed, representing potential imminent bluff failure. Some cracks were due to faults or joints, and others due to fracturing processes. Young also observed evidence of very recent lower cliff failures in areas where wave action had undercut the cliff base. Young further observed erosion of the upper cliff from surface water runoff.

Marisol wants to construct buildings 46-feet high, totaling 410,970 square feet, and to deeply excavate the North Bluff for a multi-story underground garage, which may well further destabilize the bluff. Marisol will flush thousands of gallons of treated water into the Lagoon, which will likely degrade the lagoon and ocean, and harm the natural habitat.

Only the voters can stop it! Vote “No” on G.

Claire McGreal

Del Mar

One View:

Marisol vote and the future of Del Mar

By Gordon Clanton

Mail ballots for the March 3 primary have arrived. As always, I advise holding your ballot until Election Day so you can take into account new revelations and emerging scandals. Del Mar voters face the biggest land-use vote since the 1980s, when voters approved revised plans for the Del Mar Plaza and L’Auberge.

Measure G would rezone part of an ocean bluff top near the west end of Via de la Valle to permit construction of the Marisol resort hotel, condo towers, and restaurants. The defeat of Measure G probably would result in construction of 16 gated mansions on the property.

As with the Plaza and L’Auberge, the Marisol proposal has divided the town. The debate is intense, with some unfortunate name-calling. Let’s be civil. Let’s take this vote and move on. This is the Del Mar way.

On a proposal of this sort, we can expect at least four clusters of motives: 1. Those who would oppose any and all commercial development at this site. 2. Those who oppose this project because it is too big or too intrusive. 3. Those who support the project because they like it. 4. Those who support all projects.

I am not opposed to the idea of a small resort hotel on the site. The Marisol proposal is very green. It would open parts of the bluff top to the public. It would add some of the affordable housing Del Mar needs to meet state mandates – although most of the affordable units would go to hotel employees living on site.

But the proposed hotel would be too big, too intrusive. Its tallest elements would be four stories tall. It would tower over Del Mar’s north beach community. It would block residential views from Del Mar and Solana Beach. I urge a No vote on Measure G.

If, as I expect, Measure G is defeated, 16 gated mansions probably will be built on the land. They would block no views. They would not add appreciably to traffic on nearby streets. From the beach, from Camino del Mar, there would be no apparent change.

Or not. Perhaps the developers will decide that a much smaller hotel is their most profitable option.

For more information, go to the City of Del Mar website and type MARISOL in the search box. For a revealing overview of the bluff top, go to Google maps/satellite.

— Gordon Clanton teaches sociology at San Diego State University. He welcomes comments at gclanton@sdsu.edu.

Feb. 13 issue:

Measure G should be supported for Del Mar’s future benefit

As a long-time resident and voter in Del Mar, Zephyr executive team member and proponent of the Marisol Specific Plan initiative, I encourage my neighbors to vote “Yes” on Measure G on March 3.

With a “Yes” vote on Measure G, a commitment to Del Mar is confirmed for extraordinary public benefits. The alternative - a gated enclave of large, private mansions - will not be required to provide any such benefits.

Benefits provided by voting “Yes” on Measure G - Marisol include:

• Access – Public accessibility to 16.5 acres, ADA-compliant walking trails, incredible ocean and surrounding views, all built and maintained by property ownership / management.

• Economic and Fiscal – An estimated $5.9+ million in new revenue for Del Mar, per a third-party expert analysis commissioned by the city.

• Sustainability – An exemplary model of environmental stewardship, with significant state-of-the-art sustainability measures.

• Bluff Preservation and Conservation – A significant bluff protection setback, dedicated for public enjoyment, and advanced drainage design will serve to prevent erosive forces.

• Beach Nourishment Funding – An annual contribution or endowment to pay for a Beach Nourishment Plan administered by the city.

• Affordable Housing – The Specific Plan shall require the development of 22 affordable housing units. These units will assist the City in fulfilling its housing goals and requirements.

After the successful result of “Yes” on Measure G, the “normal Del Mar way” of all other discretionary approvals is still required – Design Review, Coastal Development Permit, Planning Commission and City Council. We are respectful and mindful of this fully discretionary review process.

Del Mar needs new revenue resources for revitalizing its downtown, its shops and businesses. Marisol will help provide that revitalization. New revenue generation will help fund needed street improvements, parks and utility undergrounding.

The assemblage of these properties creates an unparalleled opportunity to realize truly extraordinary benefits for Del Mar, an opportunity never to be seen again. These properties have always been closed off from the public.

We listened to community and to City Council members who said a land use change of this type should go to a vote of the people. We prepared the Marisol Specific Plan, detailing commitments of public benefits and how they will be implemented upon approval of the plan.

With a voter initiative, the voters are exercising their own legislative power that the California constitution expressly reserves to them. A voter initiative is democracy in its purest sense, the ultimate public participation.

Please vote “Yes” on Measure G, now for Del Mar, its citizens and for Del Mar’s future benefit.

Jim McMenamin,

Del Mar

Questions about Marisol

The “Yes on G” people are saying that the developer will “down-size” the development after the vote. What makes these folks think that a developer, who spends over a million dollars on an election, will voluntarily cut square footage or height, after being allowed by the voters (if passed) to build out 410,970 square feet and 46-feet high? I am not willing to risk the size of this development on whether the City Council is able to push the developer to make modifications, if G passes.

In addition, why is the developer willing to put up story poles after the vote but not before? Shouldn’t the community be allowed to view the extent of this massive development before we vote? These questions lead me to vote No on G.

Kate Larson

Del Mar

Proposed Marisol Resort would benefit Del Mar

As the vote on Measure G nears I urge Del Mar residents and business owners to carefully review the abundance of materials and studies readily available on the proposed Marisol Resort. When we first heard about it almost a year ago my wife and I had questions and concerns since our Del Mar residence living room and master bedroom windows look directly at the bluff.

After attending several community meetings hosted by the developers, as well as attending several Del Mar city meetings and thoroughly reviewing all the information and asking tough questions we now fully support the Resort.

Del Mar can use the revenues and taxes the Resort would provide Del Mar to enhance our already great village. Also my wife and I like to walk the beach and we appreciate the Resort committing to ongoing sand replenishment. Finally, we will be able to hike the entire bluff that has been off limits and blocked off by chain link fences. Maybe best of all Dog Beach will be able to get rid of the porta-potties and have permanent and hygienic restrooms built and paid for by the Resort.

Sadly, a lot of misinformation has been spread against the developers, the Marisol Resort and even us citizens that support the Resort.

Don’t be misled. Do some homework and I think you will come to the same conclusion we have and support the Resort. By the way, prior to our first attending the developer community meetings last year we had never met them and have no financial interest in the Resort.

We just see a good deal for Del Mar, our beach and our city’s financial security.

Thanks for listening,

Robert and Eriko Dalton

Del Mar

Initiative G changes Del Mar Community Plan

The initiative changes the Del Mar Community Plan, it’s clear in the language of the Marisol G initiative.

Initiative’s Chap 1.7 &1.11 explicitly says that where the city’s municipal code (DMMC) differs from the Marisol Specific Plan, the (Marisol) Specific Plan prevails! If a future proposed project were found in violation of Del Mar Design Review Ordinances, it would not matter, as long as the project meets the terms in the Specific Plan.(the Marisol G initiative!)

The initiative changes the Del Mar Community Plan: to maintain the existing small-scale character of the community and permit only one- and two-story, low intensity development with a maximum allowable height of 26 feet, except for any Specific Plans (G-inititive) approved by the City and certified by the Coastal Commission.

No question: The Marisol initiative explicitly says that City Council cannot change any terms in it. Changes would require a new initiative and a new ballot vote.

There can be no misunderstanding that approving G will hand control of bluff development from Del Mar City to the developer, Zephyr.

Hugh Cree

Del Mar

Massive zoning change for high density in Del Mar

Deadline to submit written comments against is Tuesday, Feb. 18 by noon. This is our last chance as a community to say no and refute the city’s PEIR which simply states - “no problem.” However, this is a problem!

As a longtime Del Mar resident, I never would have believed our small village beach town’s community plan and zoning laws would or could be overturned like a wholesale liquidation for high density development.

Our community plan and zoning laws never allowed for such an increase and burden of traffic, as evidenced by Del Mar’s recent installation of the single lane roundabout specifically designed to slow traffic.

Traffic is so bad, during summer fair season, our fire trucks are relocated to the south end of the city. Obviously, emergency response times are already significantly increased and would be further delayed. Note, it can already take up to an hour for residents to reach their homes and children from within Del Mar.

Let’s be blatantly honest about affordable housing:

Developers crave high density. And, our city has failed to provide adequate affordable housing. As recently as the construction of our new government building, our city government did not support affordable housing as part of the construction, which would have helped, encourage and invigorate city foot traffic as a magnet for greater city revitalization, etc.

Essential to the best formula for achieving affordable housing is to realize we have better options. Our community needs to rise to the occasion and not continue to follow our City Planning department’s reckless path into dark, disparity and uncertainty.

As a community/city, we need not further gridlock our only major north portal entry and exit for Del Mar. We can appropriate and designate affordable housing in large numbers on the Fairgrounds, purchasing existing apartment buildings, etc.

Please do not fail to stand up for your rights to have a functioning infrastructure.

We must be heard or we fail in silence.

Send your written comments against and in response to Del Mar’s government proposal and PEIR before the deadline, Tuesday, Feb. 18 at noon to planning@delmar.ca.us and City Council members.

Arnie Wiesel

Del Mar

Paving Paradise to build massive housing units

Change of zoning in North Del Mar Commercial Zone to high density residential zoning will forever change the character, beauty and calm life of all of Del Mar.

Traffic jams will be daily, not seasonal, all along Camino Del Mar and Coast Boulevard. Seasonal traffic jams will be gridlock to the extent of increased emergency response times/services. Residents’ daily movements will be sacrificed to the point of imprisonment.

Beautiful north and lagoon vistas and quiet evenings will now be filled with massive buildings, noise and congestion like other Los Angeles beach communities. Especially since this development is on the major entrance/exit road in and out of Del Mar which is already incumbered by a single lane roundabout.

Previous poor city planning, and no past affordable housing action has caused a serious problem that is now being dumped on and destroying the north end of town. As substantiated by no affordable housing units built in recent City Hall redevelopment.

Developers are hungry to develop/profit off Del Mar’s problem to the point of asking for all possible exceptions from Del Mar building restrictions. Del Mar is so desperate to fulfill and so afraid to fight State mandates for development that our beautiful community is at risk and will forever change from this massive zoning change.

Please express your concerns.

Deadline to submit written comments against is Tuesday, Feb. 18 at noon.

City Council: ehaviland@delmar.ca.us, tgaasterland@delmar.ca.us, ddruker@delmar.ca.us, dworden@delmar.ca.us, sparks@delmar.ca.us

Annette Wiesel,

Del Mar


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