Residents bring Marisol concerns to Del Mar Planning Commission

Del Mar City Hall
(Jon Clark)

Most of the Del Mar residents who spoke at a Jan. 14 Planning Commission meeting urged their neighbors to vote against the Marisol initiative, which would create zoning for a mixed-use luxury hotel project in the northwest tip of the city.

“A ‘yes’ vote changes everything and sets a very dangerous precedent for future lots that may pop up in Del Mar,” Del Mar resident Udo Wahn said. “Del Mar does not need this project and Solana Beach does not want it.”

The Marisol initiative, which will appear as Measure G on the March 3 ballot, would allow 65 hotel rooms, 31 villas (27 of which could be subdivided into three units each) and 22 affordable housing units, among other components. It would allow a maximum height of 46 feet.

The initiative, put forward by Zephyr Partners and the Robert Green Company, is not subject to the California Environmental Quality Act. But if approved, the ensuing project would be subject to CEQA and review by the city.

According to a city staff report, the initiative process began in response to public requests for a chance to vote on the future of the approximately 17-acre site. But many residents have since spoken against the initiative process, which limits city officials’ ability to discuss the potential project unless the zoning change is approved by voters.

Del Mar City Councilwoman Terry Gaasterland said the city could be “easy prey” for similar ballot measures in the future, since only a few hundred signatures from local voters are required. She also mentioned erosion and other concerns about the stability of the bluff.

The city’s draft environmental impact report says the project will be subject to the city of Del Mar’s Local Coastal Program, which addresses bluff issues including landslides, erosion and shoreline protection. Zephyr has also committed to bluff preservation as part of the initiative.

Gaasterland and City Councilman Dave Druker, along with many other current and former city leaders and longtime residents, are part of Friends of the Del Mar North Bluff, a campaign committee opposing the Marisol initiative.

“Del Mar doesn’t need to sell its soul,” said Pam Slater-Price, a Del Mar resident and former county supervisor. “It doesn’t need to sell it out for a few extra dollars.”

Zephyr and the Robert Green Company have been promoting the public benefits the hotel project would bring, including $4.5 million in transient occupancy tax and public access to the property that would extend beyond a currently fenced-off portion at its southern boundary.

David Watson, a land use attorney representing Zephyr, said Del Mar’s Design Review Board, Planning Commission and City Council would all weigh in before any construction begins, if Measure G is approved.

“The Marisol initiative is drafted to ensure full compliance with the city’s design review process and does not prohibit or impede in any way the Design Review Board from modifying the project design,” said Watson, who is also a board member for the 22nd District Agricultural Association, which presides over the fairgrounds.

Don Mosier, former Del Mar councilman and current Agricultural Association board member, said the initiative is “well worth considering, but we need some more details worked out.” He mentioned the traffic impacts in the initiative’s draft environmental impact report, which are labeled “significant and unavoidable” during the San Diego County Fair and other fairgrounds events such as horse racing.

“If we want to fix the traffic impacts,” Mosier said, “then we have to have the fair board take even more action to reduce the traffic flow, particularly at the five-point intersection, and we’ve pledged to do that.”

Comments on the draft environmental impact report, which is available on the city’s website, have to be made in writing and submitted to the city by Feb. 3 at 5:30 p.m.