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Del Mar City Council approves bluff policy language

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Del Mar Civic Center
(File Photo | Brittany Woolsey)

The Del Mar City Council is taking precautionary measures to protect and maintain a bluff preserve that would neighbor a proposed, controversial five-star resort.

On Monday, Feb. 11, the council voted 4-1 — with council member Ellie Haviland casting the lone “no” vote — to approve language in a revised draft Goals, Policies and Regulatory Standards document for the city’s North Bluff Preserve, also known as the James G. Scripps Bluff. The council agreed to have the bluff continue with its own identity, separate from nearby proposed development.

The governing body also agreed to add in language banning vaping, smoking, alcohol, glass and charcoal on the bluff. It also revised language to allow the city council to make future decisions regarding entry points to the bluff and nearby beach.

Haviland said she saw “no sense of urgency” in adopting the policies at Monday’s meeting.

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“I just think it makes sense for us to finalize and validate these once we know what’s going in next door,” she said. “This is great. A lot of work’s gone into this. It may not require any changes once we know what’s going in but I don’t understand why we have to do this now.”

Her colleagues argued the policy was carefully crafted and reviewed by many, including the city’s Parks and Recreation Committee, which approved of the document.

Council member Dwight Worden said while there was no urgency, he believed there was an importance to adopt the policy at the meeting.

“These are like guideposts telling us what the limits are that the city is going to do with this preserve,” he said.

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He later added that he believed it was important for the council to inform the community of their intentions with the bluff.

Mayor Dave Druker added the document gives instructions to the proposed resort — or whatever development goes in next door to the bluffs — of what the city wants.

“I think we’re doing a disservice if we don’t tell the resort this is what we want and this is how we’re going to do it,” he said.

As currently proposed, the Del Mar Resort would rezone 16.5 acres of land at Camino Del Mar and Border Avenue in Del Mar and place 251 hotel rooms, retail shops, restaurants, event space, 76 residential units and 15 affordable rental units on the property. Currently, the bluff slope and canyon overlay zone allows for two-story estates between 14 and 26-feet tall, depending on findings by the city’s Design Review Board, according to Matt Bator, Del Mar City planner. About one-third of the property is vacant and undeveloped. If approved as currently drafted, the land would be rezoned to accommodate buildings 46 feet in height.

For months, residents of Del Mar and neighboring Solana Beach have expressed concerns that the proposed luxury resort on the bluff tops would impact coastal views, create more traffic and threaten the bluff tops.

Currently, the bluff preserve is only controlled within city regulations, recorded agreement documents and city municipal codes. The overall goal of the preserve is to be “permanently maintained as a natural park, providing for native coastal habitat, protection of coastal bluffs and a passive recreational opportunity for the public to enjoy scenic coastal views to and from the top of the bluff-top park,” according to the council policy.

Further, that policy would limit physical improvements to the site to only those needed for habitat restoration, improvement of pedestrian access and to prevent and control surface stormwater drainage from on-site sources.

The policy sets standards for fencing, signage, points of access, hours of operation, roads, amenities, lighting structures, dogs, access and security camera equipment.

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