Opinion/Letters to the Editor February, March 2021
Feb. 18 issue:
Importance of music in our community and during Covid
I am writing to persuade you and remind you of the importance of music in our community and especially during Covid! Music can be extremely beneficial to one’s health! Playing an instrument is highly important because it reduces stress, produces patience and perseverance, develops music appreciation, and playing music cultivates creativity.
Studies show that people who listened to relaxing music have significantly lower levels of cortisol which is the stress hormone. Playing an instrument requires persistence and perseverance because practicing an instrument helps one understand where one needs to improve. Over time this constant correction allows one to keep playing an instrument even though it is difficult at first. Playing an instrument improves hand- eye coordination and helps keep your brain malleable from continuous learning. Finally, playing an instrument develops music appreciation because one is exposed to different types of music styles and various musical composers.
I have been playing the baritone saxophone for two years. I have played the piano since I was six-years-old. Torrey Pines’ music program is a great resource for local attending high schoolers to further their music development. I have had a wonderful experience at TP’s music program and appreciate the support I’ve had from Torrey Pines and from Ms. Gelb.
Please support your continued learning by listening to music, trying to learn or continue playing an instrument, and by supporting your local music programs and events.
Boy Scouts 765
Feb. 25 issue:
Council actions have a cost
Last week’s Del Mar Times carried a report that the new Council majority (NCM) fired Del Mar’s recently hired City Manager, “CJ” Johnson.
CJ is well-liked in the community, and a highly respected city manager. She was hired last February by the “Old Council Majority” (OCM) under Mayor Ellie Haviland. She just finished her first year on the job when the news of her firing broke. Now, the question is why? There were no indications of any problems in CJ’s administration. By all accounts, she was preparing to remain in Del Mar at least five more years.
The Municipal Code allows the City Council to terminate employment of a city manager for any reason, or no reason. It takes just a majority of three votes. Yet responsible city councils know how difficult it is to replace city managers. If problems develop, efforts are made to resolve them before resorting to employment termination.
Months of effort by the OCM and several thousand dollars went into recruiting and hiring CJ. That investment is now forfeit. And tens of thousands more dollars will be paid to CJ under her employment agreement.
In her statement on the City’s website, Mayor Gaasterland states, “CJ skillfully led the organization with competence and the highest integrity.” Why then this sudden dismissal?
Similar questions were raised last month when Mayor Gaasterland announced the City had hired special legal counsel, at a cost up to $20,000, to explore ways to get around its obligations under the affordable housing plan approved by the State in 2013, when the City’s 5th Cycle Housing Element was approved. The OCM and staff spent years conferring with developers of the Watermark Project for inclusion of a substantial portion of the City’s required affordable units and design issues.
But when the necessary zoning and community plan amendments were presented for approval by the Council last October, Councilmembers Gaasterland and Druker demurred, provoking a non-compliance letter from the State. Mayor Gaasterland then claimed she and Councilmember Martinez would find “other ways” to meet the City’s obligation. But the hiring of a special counsel suggests that isn’t going to happen.
Meanwhile, because the City is in non-compliance, the Watermark developer has exercised its right under State law to proceed to develop the project “by right,” entitling the developer to build to higher densities and bypass discretionary review by the City.
Such precipitous and reckless actions by the NCM have a cost and, since coming to power three months ago, appear to be the new “norm” for the NCM. Eventually, the City and its residents will have to pick up the pieces - and the bills.
Council should look out for interests of all voters
Del Mar’s new Council majority is clearly struggling to handle the difference between campaigning and governing.
Glib campaign slogans get votes but are not effective when it comes to the detailed and complicated work of complying with local and state requirements.
Rail tracks, affordable housing, short-term rentals, and many more issues require experience and expertise which our city staff can give but it does not satisfy NIMBY and anti-government forces, some of whom helped elect these Council members. So, instead of owning their limitations and educating their constituents, they throw red meat to them with actions that further complicate matters and put the city’s well being in jeopardy.
They force out the City Manager, bypass the Assistant, ask the City Clerk to do two jobs, put intense pressure on overworked and underpaid city staff, squeeze time deadlines, defy state requirements, and top it off with another special election campaign (just what we need,more fear mongering and sloganeering).
Del Mar cannot afford more political gaming. The potential consequences from the state are financial, legal, and loss of local control on important land use decisions.
The city has very competent staff members and lawyers. The new council majority must learn to respect this expertise to help guide good decision making. We need them to look out for the long- term interests of all the voters, not just the loud ones.
March 4 issue:
Del Mar’s high-density housing dilemma
The State of California demands that Del Mar identify properties that can be up-zoned to at least 20 housing units per acre, with 20% affordable (1 in 5 units).
New state laws further mandate that if a city relies on potential affordable units on those properties to fulfill its lower income regional housing assignment (RHNA), those properties must be further rezoned to add “by right”. With that, a builder can bypass discretionary review, including Del Mar’s Design Review and environmental review.
Del Mar’s 2013 City Council chose to designate the entire 16 acres of the North Commercial zone for higher density residential use. In addition, the state penalized the city for not previously upzoning two vacant parcels in the prior 2008-2012 planning period. That is how the Watermark property received 20-25 units per acre (20 units minimum, 25 units maximum) and “by right” development in 2013. Del Mar failed to complete the required change by 2014, and no one noticed or seemed to care.
Last October, the 2020 City Council approved the upzone of North Commercial with a 3-2 vote. Right away, neighbors rallied to circulate a referendum to stop the zone change and bring the upzone to a citizens’ vote. 21 neighbors from all over Del Mar collected more than 600 signatures. The signatures came from every Del Mar neighborhood. They included citizens living on every street. The petition circulators made sure of that.
Because the referendum stopped the zone change, the state demanded that Del Mar identify a replacement property. The replacement must be at least 5.5 acres and yield 22 potential affordable units at 20% of 20 units per acre.
Two options exist: Option 1- 5.5 acres along the northernmost part of North Bluff along Border Avenue. Option 2- 6 acres along the south border of Del Mar Woods. Both involve fragile bluff. An attempt to split the density across both would have designated about 8 acres for upzoning because of uneven parcel sizes.
Not choosing was not an option. Therefore, the 2021 Council unanimously chose the 5.5 acre Border Avenue Option as the designated replacement, contingent upon the outcome of the referendum vote.
The referendum proponents have indicated they are prepared to withdraw the referendum if the City can include Objective Design Standards in an overlay. Encinitas has done this. Encinitas’s well-crafted, thoughtful standards provide a template that can be applied to the North Commercial properties.
If the referendum is not withdrawn, it will go to a vote. The people of Del Mar will decide whether to uphold the high density on 10 acres of North Commercial west of Jimmy Durante Blvd, or replace it with high density on 5.5 acres of the Border Avenue Option at the north end of North Bluff.
If the referendum cannot be withdrawn, the people of Del Mar will decide which location is better.
Terry Gaasterland, Del Mar Mayor
Dave Druker, Council Member and Former Mayor
Del Mar needed a change
In response to last week’s letter “Council should look out for interests of all voters:
Del Mar is in the mess it is because Old City Council failed the residents.
The old city council did not care about the residents.
The old city council failed to develop an emergency evacuation plan for Del Mar.
The old city council failed to recognize Crest Canyon as a high wildfire risk area.
The old city council failed to recognize the wildfire evacuation and emergency vehicle response time to residents living east of Jimmy Durante, due to traffic gridlock.
Failed to address potential gridlock at roundabout during peak traffic, Fairground traffic and potential wildfire evacuation.
The old city council failed to add affordable housing at the new City Hall (brought up by residents at workshops).
Failed to create any affordable housing in Del Mar.
Failed to create design standards for high-density residential zoning that would give the city some control during by-right bonus density affordable housing building.
Failed to dispute the number of full-time employees in Del Mar, thus increased the number of affordable housing units assigned to this small town.
The old city council failed to disperse affordable housing throughout Del Mar. Instead wanted to put it all in North Commercial, at the single lane roundabout.
Old city council had same Fairground liaison for last 6 years with no movement of putting affordable housing at the city-owned fairground until new city council demanded the discussion begin.
Old city council did not listen to the residents’ concerns.
Del Mar needed a change.
One View: Say ‘No’ to railroad fence
Railroad fencing. The North County Transit District plans to install a six-foot high chain link fence from Del Mar Woods south of 4th Street to Seagrove Park. The fence would run 1.5 miles along both sides of the track. Similar fencing is proposed for Solana Beach, Encinitas, Carlsbad and Oceanside. Normally divided, Del Mar is unified in opposition to this ill-considered project.
The proposed fence, an esthetic disaster, will not reduce deaths on the tracks. Most train deaths occur near the crossing at Coast Blvd. – and most of the rest are suicides.
The Coast Blvd. crossing, BTW, is the only place in Del Mar where you can legally cross the tracks.
The City of Del Mar produced a spectacular fly-over video showing exactly where the fence would go – including through the yards of bluff-front properties.
I suggest NCTD drop the fence plan and build three pedestrian over-crossings above the tracks. This would end the trespassing problem and improve safety without ugly-fying our priceless ocean bluffs.
Meanwhile, a significant increase in trespassing enforcement on the rail corridor began Monday, Feb. 1. with fines of up to $500 and up to six months in jail.
Home free. In November Congressman Mike Levin won easy re-election to a second term. It is conventional wisdom among political types that the first re-election campaign is the toughest. The new member must learn the ropes quickly and must immediately begin to raise money for the re-election campaign. In previous columns over many years, I predicted long careers following the first re-elections of Bob Filner, Scott Peters and Susan Davis. Now Mike Levin appears to be home free.
BTW: All four San Diego-area Democrats voted to impeach Donald Trump: Scott Peters, Mike Levin, Sara Jacobs and Juan Vargas. Republican Darrell Issa voted No.
Celebrating Shirley Weber. In December Dr. Shirley Weber was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to be California secretary of state, the first Black woman to hold the office. She replaces Alex Padilla who was appointed to the US Senate seat left vacant when Kamala Harris became vice president. Promotions all around!
Now retired from the SDSU faculty, Dr. Weber was a founder in 1972 of Africana studies, one of the first such programs in the land.
Dr. Weber served in the California Assembly from 2012 to 2020. She authored a pioneering law regulating the use of force by police. Shirley is one of my heroes.
— Gordon Clanton teaches sociology at San Diego State University. He welcomes comments at email@example.com.
March 11 issue:
Article on artist Joel Harris well deserved
Thank you Luke Harold for your article on Solana Beach artist Joel Harris. I was always amazed when I observed him working with special needs children in the Solana Beach Library years ago (10?). Patience like I’ve never seen. The children deeply engaged creating some form of art. Thank you Joel!
The supposed safe feeling of protected bike lanes is misleading — even deadly
City planners and some cycling advocates insist that protected bike lanes are the best and safest way to encourage many San Diegans to ditch their cars and join the cycling revolution.
Bordered by raised asphalt strips and plastic pylons, these protected lanes create a supposed safety bubble to protect cyclists of all ages and abilities.
In theory, those cyclists can enjoy the sunshine and scenery, while cars whiz by them in the adjacent lane.
But those rosy assurances crumble, when we confront the real dangers of protected bike lanes, and the emotional and economic cost of the injuries and deaths that plague them.
According to statistics gathered by North County cycling advocates, there were 24 accidents in just eight months on a one-mile flat protected bike lane stretch installed last year along the Cardiff 101.
Fifteen of those crashes were caused by cyclists who collided with the raised asphalt barriers designed to keep vehicles away from the bike lanes. Many of those crashes were serious (multiple fractures: bones and pelvis, concussion, neck injury) including a 10-year-old rider who flopped into the traffic lane after colliding with an asphalt barrier. (Luckily, that young cyclist survived.)
The raised asphalt barriers and pylons also give cyclists a false sense of security. Bike riders assume cars and trucks can’t jump the barriers, but in reality vehicles easily can. The barriers also pen in the cyclists, reducing the “escape routes” they need to avoid vehicles that drift into their bike lane or cut them off with a quick right turn.
That’s what happened on Leucadia Blvd., when a truck driver made a right turn in front of a rider, who was killed when he collided with the truck. The pylons designed to protect the cyclist had the opposite effect — they prevented the truck driver from slowly moving towards the curb as he prepared to make that right turn onto Moonstone Court.
Traditional buffered bike lanes with wide painted vehicle exclusion zones are a much safer design alternative. They facilitate safer right turns for vehicles, and are routinely swept and paved.
Plus, buffered bike lanes are much less expensive to build. That’s crucial, because local governments are now hobbled with huge, pandemic-induced budget deficits.
Hazardous protected bike lanes will be unnecessary, as more vehicles are equipped with standard safety software for human and bicycle crash avoidance.
Advocates for protected bike lanes downplay their dangers. “Barriers may bruise elbows, but they save lives,” they say. “Build more.”
That’s a catchy phrase, but as too many cyclists have learned the hard way that it’s bad advice, with serious — sometimes deadly — consequences.
Phillip Young, longtime North County road bicycle rider
March 18 issue:
Del Mar development standards necessary
Why would any Del Mar City Council member fight against having development standards for the North Commercial (NC) Zone which would insure protections and guidelines for high-density development?
So many citizens throughout Del Mar are asking this same question, and why our city did not do this, years ago? Especially, since standards and guidelines are imperative and common for every city.
Now, Del Mar must implement standards. Specifically, for all of Del Mar North Commercial (NC) zone and all other potential future lots, like Border on the north end of the North Bluffs property, etc., that could be zoned 20 units per acre.
In other words, all lots that are or may be zoned 20 units per acre need to have standards implemented immediately!
Unfortunately, the 2G Watermark development might be exempt from such standards, because they have submitted their preliminary “by-right” development plans. However, because there is a chance such standards might apply to Watermark, our City Council needs to vote these same standards onto the 2G Watermark properties immediately.
Standards are the only way Del Mar can have guidelines and protection from out of our control “by-right” development.
Regarding the new CCA
When Solana Beach established its own CCA, the selling arguments were lower costs and green energy. Solana Beach’s CCA went to cost parity with SDG&E last year. And an SDG&E customer could opt for “renewable” energy at any time, so the CCA had no advantage there.
So now Solana Beach joins two other government entities to create a new CCA, and some will tout the same advantages, while ignoring history.
I wonder if Solana Beach will improve its outreach to city ratepayers, and notify all in the jurisdiction of the new CCA involvement on city letterhead. The city did not do that on its first CCA venture. One current Solana Beach council person, when campaigning in our neighborhood, said the communication process used was flawed when establishing the first CCA. The city council who entered the first CCA failed to make the change visible to all in the city, as the “outreach” was limited to city council meetings and the city’s website. Many have busy lives, and for the council to think the citizens must come to them as opposed to the city reaching out to the rate and tax payer is a sign of disregard for those they supposedly represent.
I suppose I will have to “opt out” anew. This is getting tedious, as there is no advantage at all to enlarging government oversight of activity best left to market-driven enterprises.
Train tracks: An idea to consider
Without doubt a solution must be found to avoid the likely disaster of a train falling off the cliffs. An idea which could be considered is to close the train tracks above the cliffs, re-open the Del Mar train station, and provide a bus service to either the next station or to the final destination in San Diego, and a return bus service to board a north-bound train at Del Mar.
Santa Fe Irrigation District water news
Water can be a boring topic and we all expect a safe, clean, reliable supply without any drama. The board and staff of the Santa Fe Irrigation District (SFID) are working hard to provide just that as well as cost- effective water. Our district is one of the largest per capita water users in the state, recognition that we really don’t want or need. Future state mandates will undoubtedly force reduced consumption which in turn forces higher prices. When you consume less water, SFID receives less revenue and hence the pressure to increase rates. Sounds like bad news, but it’s not. SFID has among the lowest rates in San Diego County. The following table illustrates water rates for several adjacent water districts. I added Monterey Peninsula Water rates as an example of how bad rates can get.
Reserve Fund Policy
Thirty percent of our water comes from less expensive local water from Lake Hodges and 70 percent is more costly imported water. Late in 2020, a “Local Water” reserve fund was created to capture rainfall in excess of that budgeted, in 2020 that was 2,400 acre feet (AF) from Lake Hodges. Our rainfall last year delivered 455 AF above that budgeted and that excess is captured in a new Local Water reserve fund to offset future imported water purchases, which primarily benefits tier 3 and higher water users. The local water fund is now at $385,000.
Every month the SFID board receives appeals for leak credits that were denied as being outside of policy. SFID policy states that leak credits are only available if the customer has signed up for the Automated Metering Portal which can provide text and email notifications for excessive water use. Leaks can happen to anyone at any time. To preserve your rights to receive a leak credit, please take the time to go to the SFID website, www.sfidwater.org, with a recent bill in hand. Select “I Want To” and “*NEW View My Water Use”. Call (858) 756-2424 for assistance.
As of late January, I am pleased to say that the SFID board selected Sandra Johnson to represent division 3. We now have a full board and are hard at work on an updated strategic plan. We are looking into cost effectiveness, diversifying our sources of water, improving our customer focus, long-term plans for infrastructure including fortifying the Lake Hodges dam, cybersecurity and disaster preparedness among other topics. We seek community input and the board would love to hear from you! Please contact board members with your feedback here: www.sfidwater.org/151/Board-of-Directors
Santa Fe Irrigation District, Division 1 Director, representing
Solana Beach and Rancho Santa Fe.
March 25 issue:
A closer look at SFID water news rates
In his letter published March 18, it was disappointing Mr. Creede offered four rate comparisons ostensively representing Santa Fe Irrigation District (SFID) has lower rates than “several adjacent water districts”. Particularly troubling was the disclaimer, “Tier cutoffs and fixed fees vary by district,” neglected to include billing frequency – monthly and bimonthly. Choosing to include Cal-American-Monterey, a privately held water purveyor with only two water sources, desalination and groundwater, and often declared the most expensive water in the USA, does little to inform customers how SFID rates stack up against others regionally. All Cost of Service Studies compared SFID rates to County Water Authority members’ rates. Directors have spoken of wanting to keep SFID in the bottom quartile.
To assess Creede’s rate comparisons, purporting to demonstrate SFID’s rates are lowest of the five agencies, let’s analyze the three adjacent agencies against SFID’s median customer usage. Prices are “all-in” - fixed meter and water. Olivenhain and City of San Diego rates adjusted to bimonthly. Median HCF data, 50% of bills higher and 50% of bills lower, was the sole rate comparison model used by the 2019 rate consultant.
• ¾” meter @ 25 HCF bimonthly: SFID lowest; then Olivenhain +$5.75; then San Dieguito additional $18.53 and City of San Diego additional $15.30.
• 1” meter @ 85 HCF bimonthly: Olivenhain lowest; then SFID +$21.61; then San Dieguito additional $130.67 and City of San Diego additional $282.51.
• 1.5” meter @ 160 HCF bimonthly: Olivenhain lowest; then SFID +$22.66; then San Dieguito additional $242.40 and City of San Diego additional $610.04.
• 2” meter @ 130 HCF bimonthly: Olivenhain lowest; then SFID +$83.22; then San Dieguito additional $97.75 and City of San Diego additional $435.17.
“When you consume less water, SFID receives less revenue and hence the pressure to increase rates”. Rate pressure is overhead pressure. Creede wrote “We are looking into cost effectiveness”. No cost containment? Concerning are Strategic Planning documents reflecting staff’s desire to add more employees. Puzzling that Creede shared “The local water fund is now at $385,000,” as Creede made the motion to reduce that fund to offset the Water Authority’s 4.8% increase.
A look at Irrigation/Agriculture rates of the districts is informative:
• Lowest is Olivenhain: Ag. @ $5.42/HCF; Ag. with dwelling 1-23 HCF at domestic rates and remainder at $5.42/HCF. Irrigation: Tier 1 @ $5.20/HCF; Tier 2 @$5.57/HCF, depending on winter/summer allotments.
• San Dieguito Ag. is $5.42/HCF; Landscaping is $6.25/HCF.
• SFID Ag./Irrigation: $6.11/HCF.
• City of San Diego Irrigation: $7.05/HCF.
SFID’s Ag./Irrigation rate has increased 51% since 2016: $4.04 to $6.11/HCF.
Accurate, cogent rate comparison data provides the clarity SFID customers deserve.
Former SFID Director, Div. 3, Fairbanks Ranch and eastern Rancho Santa Fe
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