Del Mar residents file suit over land use

The Carmel Valley Precise Plan was designed for the development of 15 acres off the intersection of Camino Del Mar and Carmel Valley Road.
(Luke Harold)

Del Mar residents Ken and Linda Olson filed a lawsuit against the city to overturn a directive by the planning director ordering the removal of trees on their property in the 400 block of Torrey Point Road.

City officials said 34 trees located on a portion of the Olsons’ property were violating the Carmel Valley Precise Plan, adopted by the city in 1980 for the development of 15 acres of land off the intersection of Carmel Valley Road and Camino Del Mar. But the Olsons have been pointing to a 1982 decision by Del Mar’s Design Review Board to approve a landscape plan submitted by the family who owned the property before the Olsons, which included the trees in question.

The city’s position has been that the 1982 Design Review Board approval was in error.

“Two additional plans from the years of 2000 and 2017 each depict trees that significantly contradict, in number and species, the originally approved plan,” said Kathleen Garcia, planning and community development director, in a letter to the Olsons last June.

The city developed a Restorative Action Plan that gives the Olsons instruction on which trees to remove and which ones that need to be reduced in height. They have removed a few of the trees the city wanted them to remove over the past year.

Garcia’s letter notes that the city attorney issued an opinion that the Carmel Valley Precise Plan supersedes Design Review Board decisions. She also noted that there are no meeting minutes or other information available from the board’s 1982 approval.

But the Olsons’ lawsuit cites a portion of the plan’s text that says: “Nothing set forth in the Precise Plan does, nor is intended to, limit or reduce the discretionary authority of the Design Review Board, Planning Commission or City Council” in terms of design review or other decisions within the plan area. Based on that provision, they allege the 1982 Design Review Board approval should be upheld.

“The Olsons have a clear, present, and beneficial right to the correct application of the City’s municipal code,” their attorneys wrote in the lawsuit, which was filed Dec. 31 in San Diego County Superior Court.

Thirty-seven years after the Design Review Board decision city leaders are calling erroneous, the city’s decision to order the Olsons to remove the noncompliant trees was precipitated by two recent complaints from residents.

The Olsons appealed the order to the city to no avail. In a 3-1 decision last October, the City Council upheld the decision to require the Olsons to abide by the Restorative Action Plan. Councilwoman Terry Gaasterland voted no, and Councilman Dave Druker recused himself from the vote due to a business relationship with Ken Olson.

Ken Olson said he is declining comment at the advice of his attorneys.