Newly appointed Del Mar Mayor Dave Druker believes 2019 will be a year of long-awaited decisions and city projects.
One of his biggest personal goals, he said, is having the city embrace technology and the resources it can provide.
"Del Mar is full of people that are at the leading edge of technology," said Druker, who first served on the council from 1996 to 2008 before returning to the dais in 2016. "The city has done a good job. I just think we need to take it up a couple notches and become much more technologically aware of what other cities are doing, not only for communications but for internal workings and how the people inside the city work, how we conduct meetings and all sorts of things we can do. We need to be reflective of the fact that Del Mar is sitting in the middle of this technology hub, San Diego."
But challenges also await the city in 2019.
The council expects to hear more about the proposed Del Mar Resort and the developer's revised plans. 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.
Zephyr, the project’s developer, said it expects to return to the city early in the year with plan revisions to address residents’ concerns, including blocked views, increased traffic and parking.
Ideally, Druker wants to see the voters decide the fate of the five-star resort, but sending the project to the ballot would be up to the entire city council.
"We need to respect what the developers will want to put forward and see," the mayor said. "We're going to have a whole lot of public input on that, and it's very important that that happens. That's the way Del Mar works."
Druker said Del Mar should also hear more about the proposed Watermark Del Mar, a 38-unit project on a 2.3-acre vacant lot south of the fairgrounds.
The city also expects to receive a decision about its lawsuit against the California Coastal Commission regarding short-term rentals in the city. The council decided in 2017 to propose an ordinance that would allow residential property owners to rent their homes to visitors for a minimum of seven days at a time for up to 28 days a year. However, the coastal commission declined to sign off on the ordinance, proposing instead a minimum of three days a week for up to 100 days.
"If we win that lawsuit, then we will have total rights as to what we can make in terms of short-term rental regulations," Druker said. "If we lose that, then we're going to have to figure out how to work with the coastal commission and figure out what's best for us and how to get that through the coastal commission."
Del Mar also expects to hear back from the coastal commission on the city's opposition to managed retreat as part of its Local Coastal Plan (LCP).
Managed retreat became a hot-button issue this spring as the city wrapped up work on its sea level rise adaptation plan, which was in the works for three years. The concept calls for removing man-made structures such as homes and sea walls in the face of a rising ocean.
Instead, the city's plan calls for a number of measures — such as beach sand replenishment, dredging the mouth of the San Dieguito River and building river levees — to protect the shoreline from flood damage.
Druker said he is hopeful the state agency will accept its LCP amendments without managed retreat.
"The hope is that it'll sail through and everybody will be happy," Druker said. "If not, then we're going to have to figure out where we go back in terms of the drawing board."
Additionally, he'd like to see the council adopt a policy rejecting managed retreat in perpetuity.
The mayor also expects the city to begin work on undergrounding utilities.
"I think we'll have a plan in place so we can go back to the citizens with a timeline of when we plan to have all the utilities underground," he said. "That will be a little bit of controversy in terms of what we do with those people that have already undergrounded. That will be a huge change."
The council is also expected to look at renewing City Manager Scott Huth's contract in August.
While Druker said he's excited to serve as the mayor, he won’t approach the job any differently than he did as a city council member.
"Being mayor means you're just leading the council meetings, basically," he said. “… It's not like it's going to be any different than it has been for the last 30 years that I've been in town."