Marisol campaigns making final appeals to voters

If approved by Del Mar voters March 3, the Marisol initiative would lead to a project that includes 65 hotel rooms, 31 villas and 22 affordable housing units.

With less than two weeks before the March 3 election, supporters on both sides of Del Mar’s Marisol initiative, which would lead to a luxury hotel project, have been using some shoeleather campaigning in their final attempts to reach voters.

Robert Green, founder of one of the development companies that started the initiative, has spent weekends over the last two months knocking on doors in Del Mar. Last Saturday, Feb. 15, he and a campaign staffer walked the streets east of Camino Del Mar, visiting homes of voters who are undecided or leaning toward voting “yes” on Marisol, which will appear on the ballot as Measure G.

To Green and Marisol’s supporters, one of its key benefits would be public access to the 17-acre property at the city’s northern bluff, with expanded walking trails, restaurants and other public amenities. If the initiative fails, the property would retain its residential zoning.

“Either 16 to 18 families are going to get to enjoy that property forever, or the whole world gets to enjoy that property forever,” Green said.

The Robert Green Company and Zephyr, both Encinitas-based developers, successfully petitioned last year to put Marisol on the March ballot.

If approved, the initiative changes the zoning on the property to allow for a 46-foot project that includes 65 hotel rooms, 31 villas (including 27 that can be subdivided into three units) and 22 affordable housing units.

In response to resident feedback, the developers scaled down the project from the original proposal two years ago, which included more than 200 hotel rooms, and decided to go to the ballot. Del Mar’s Design Review Board, Planning Commission and City Council will not be able to weigh in on Marisol unless the initiative passes.

Green added that he and Zephyr CEO Brad Termini have been door-knocking as part of an effort to combat the “misinformation” that they think has been driving the No on G campaign, and perpetuated by anti-Marisol posts flooding social media sites like Nextdoor.

A persisting concern that came up during one of his conversations last weekend with an undecided voter is if Measure G passes, what if the developers then sell the land to a new owner who builds something other than the promised hotel, housing, restaurants and public spaces.

“I’ve been in this business a long time,” Green said. “I have never spent years entitling a project and then sell it.”

He also said traffic impacts and bluff erosion have been misrepresented by the No on G campaign. In those respects, Measure G has been a referendum on whether residents trust the city’s environmental impact report on Marisol. During a Jan. 23 League of Women Voters forum, Del Mar resident and Marisol supporter Bud Emerson said, “some of us trust the current system, some of us don’t.”

Ryan Herrell, a senior vice president at Zephyr, said in a phone interview that bluff stability “is of the utmost importance” to Marisol proponents, and mentioned Coastal Commission approval the project would require as one of the safeguards. He has also been going door to door speaking with voters.

Del Mar Deputy Mayor Terry Gaasterland, one of the leaders of the No on G campaign, has said she thinks relevant studies were excluded from the report’s section on bluff erosion. As far as public access, she’s said the council could negotiate public uses for the property if the initiative fails and a residential development ensues.

The report also mentioned traffic impacts that might be unavoidable at certain locations and times during the San Diego County Fair, but presented possible changes for nearby intersections designed to improve current conditions.

At a Jan. 14 Planning Commission meeting, a procession of public speakers against the initiative said Marisol would be “overdevelopment,” and would undermine Del Mar’s “coastal village” and “low-profile” character. A few speakers said Solana Beach residents should have had more input, since the project would be on the border between the two cities.

In response to the Del Mar residents who oppose the initiative because they think the development would be too large, or because they aren’t swayed by more public access or an estimated $4.5 million in transient occupancy tax benefits to the city, Green said, “That’s why this is America. They’re entitled to their opinion. We’d like to change their mind.”

A pro-Marisol campaign committee funded by Green and Termini has spent approximately $530,000 on consultants, public relations and other campaigning costs as of Jan. 18, according to the most recent financial disclosures. A No on G committee has raised more than $30,000 from over 100 Del Mar and Solana Beach residents, and has spent approximately $8,500 on campaign materials.

Del Mar City Councilman Dave Druker announced his opposition to the initiative last year, followed by Gaasterland. On Feb. 9, she led a group of 12 volunteers who broke into six pairs and visited about 150 homes each, leaving No on G literature.

“The big thing we’re trying to do is get information to the voters so they have both sides in front of them,” Gaasterland said.