Del Mar voters to decide on stormwater-related costs

Del Mar City Hall
(Jon Clark)

Del Mar voters will be asked next year whether to approve a new structure for fees charged to residents for stormwater management.

Under state law, this type of property-related fee must be approved by voters. At their Nov. 18 meeting, Del Mar City Council members agreed to an $86,000 contract with SCI Consulting Group, which will guide the process by completing a methodology study.

The contract will cost another $22,000 if the city decides to conduct community polling. City staff members told the council that they’re considering other ways to obtain feedback from residents.

“It’s not an optional thing where we’re going to ask people if they want to do this and if they vote no, we just won’t do it,” Del Mar City Councilman Dwight Worden said. “We’ve got to do it whether they vote yes or not. So let’s do what we can to get support.”

If the measure falls, Worden said it would cost more than $800,000 per year from the city’s general fund, “which would blow a huge hole in our budget.”

“It’s really important for the city to figure out how to do this fairly,” he added.

According to a city staff report, the current clean water rate structure, which includes funds used for stormwater management, is funded in part through a bi-monthly fixed charge. Revenues currently raise $685,000 per year to cover the state’s regional stormwater pollution prevention program and infrastructure.

“Industry changes and developments in the cost allocation methodology for stormwater rates in particular warranted further analysis of the clean water rates,” the report stated.

SCI Consulting Group was selected by the city over two other consultants partly because SCI has worked with other cities, including Cupertino, Berkeley, San Mateo and San Carlos, to get similar changes to fee structures approved by local voters.

City staff members told the council that community engagement will be an important part of the process, and that one of the first steps will be to develop a communication plan. A draft fee report is tentatively scheduled to be completed and given to the city’s Finance Committee and City Council by the spring, followed by community outreach.

The city is not allowed to advocate for the ballot measure’s passage. The city projects balloting to take place in late spring or summer next year. The city also has a local election in March, in addition to the 2020 presidential election.

“To get this passed, we’re going to have to do a whole lotta work,” Del Mar Mayor Dave Druker said.