Del Mar asks for report on proposed bluff-top resort headed for ballot

Del Mar City Hall
(Jon Clark)

Del Mar has asked for an independent report to provide more information about a ballot measure that, if passed, would allow the construction of a luxury resort on the coastal bluff above Dog Beach at the Solana Beach border.

Encinitas-based real estate developer Zephyr Partners filed notice with Del Mar on Aug. 5 that Zephyr plans to collect enough signatures, a minimum of 328 of the city’s registered voters, to place the Marisol specific plan on the March 2020 ballot.

The so-called “9212 report” is an option available under the state elections code when a developer announces its intent to pass a citizens initiative. The Del Mar City Council voted unanimously Monday night, Sept. 9, to proceed with the report, which is to be finished by the end of the year.

“Not just to inform ourselves, but to make it available to our communities so that they can be informed when they vote,” said Councilman Dwight Worden.

Bluff stability, traffic and parking, view impacts, financial benefits and historic uses of the 17.45-acre site all should be covered in the city’s report to a greater depth than presented in the plans and environmental documents filed by the developer, Worden said.

The Marisol plan calls for a 65-room hotel, 31 villas, 27 affordable housing units and 10 low-cost visitors accommodations, for a total of up to 146 guest rooms. It allows structures up to three stories tall or 46 feet above the natural grade of the land and includes 408 off-street parking spaces.

Voter approval of the ballot measure would allow Zephyr to bypass the City Council on “legislative” matters such as approval of the specific plan, a community plan amendment and a local coastal plan amendment needed for the project. The council would retain approval over “discretionary” permits such as design review, land conservation and tree removal.

The city’s supplementary report also should provide more information about the cutting, filling and grading on the property, and the truckloads of dirt to be removed to create the underground parking on the site, said Councilwoman Terry Gaasterland.

A precise tally of the acreage of the site, which has varied in previous land surveys over the years, also should be specified in the report, she said.

“It’s imperative that we do this quickly and thoroughly,” Gaasterland said.

Several Del Mar residents spoke in favor of the plan, saying the resort would bring many benefits to the city and allow public access to property that has long been private. No one opposed the plan.

Solana Beach residents view the project less favorably, and many have spoken out against it over the past year. They see the project as taking away their ocean view and increasing their traffic, while contributing all its tax revenue and other benefits to their neighbors in Del Mar.

Zephyr announced in July it had reduced the size of the Del Mar project in response to some of the concerns. The former plan called for up to 251 hotel rooms, 76 privately owned villas, and thousands of square feet of retail space and restaurants.

The Marisol site is a combination of seven parcels owned by three local families. It is above a four-acre nature preserve at the south end of the bluff that Del Mar purchased with money donated by newspaper publisher James Scripps, who died in 1986.

Zephyr’s previous projects have been primarily luxury residential. They include Summerhouse, with 35 ocean-view condominiums starting at $1.4 million each on Ocean Street in Carlsbad; Level 15, which is 63 town-homes starting in the low $400,000s in Escondido; and Las Ventanas, 13 four-bedroom homes starting in the mid-$800,000s in Fallbrook.

Zephyr recently filed plans to build up to 700 homes, a 300-room hotel, retail stores, offices and more around an artificial wave lagoon on the former site of a drive-in theater and swap meet along state Route 76 in Oceanside.

— Phil Diehl is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune