Del Mar voters reject Marisol initiative

The developers behind the Measure G, along with their local supporters, had hoped the Marisol project would benefit the community for generations to come.

The Marisol initiative, which would have led to a luxury hotel project on Del Mar’s northern bluff, was rejected by nearly 60% the city’s voters on Election Day, based on unofficial results.

As of Thursday afternoon, 912 votes had been tallied against the initiative (58.8%), compared to 639 in favor (41.2%), according to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters Office. The county has a month to certify the results as final.

The Encinitas-based developers who petitioned for the initiative, Zephyr and the Robert Green Company, outspent the initiative’s opponents $688,369 to $25,582, financial statements show. But they faced strong headwinds from residents in Del Mar and Solana Beach who thought the project was too big and would have caused too many adverse impacts to traffic, bluff stability and ocean views, despite mitigation measures detailed in a city environmental impact report.

Del Mar Deputy Mayor Terry Gaasterland, one of the leaders of the campaign against the Marisol initiative, said the results “made it crystal clear” how the community felt.

“I am glad to see the people of Del Mar expressing their thoughts with their votes in a clear and unambiguous count,” she said.

The initiative, Measure G, would have changed the zoning on approximately 17 acres of land to allow for the construction of 65 hotel rooms, 31 villas (27 of which could be subdivided into three units each) and 22 affordable housing units, with a 46-foot maximum height. The property will now retain its low-density residential zoning.

The developers and Marisol supporters in Del Mar, including business owners and former council members, tried to sell the community on the public benefits the project would bring, such as walking trails, restaurants, $4.5 million per year in transient occupancy tax, and a much-needed boost to the city’s affordable housing stock.

But many Measure G opponents objected to the initiative process, which did not include discussion of the proposed project by city officials. At the advice of the city manager and city attorney, Del Mar’s Design Review Board, Planning Commission and City Council refrained from any deliberation on the proposed project throughout the campaign. They would have been involved in design review and other discretionary approvals if the initiative had passed, at which point the project would have officially entered the city’s purview. Marisol also would have been subject to the California Environmental Quality Act and California Coastal Commission review.

About two years ago, the developers introduced the first version of the project, which included more than 200 hotel rooms, before scaling it down based on community feedback. They said they petitioned for an initiative in response to residents who wanted to vote on it.

Last month, Robert Green, who started his commercial development company more than 20 years ago, said he was confident Measure G would pass. He and other Marisol supporters went door to door throughout Del Mar over the past few months to promote the initiative and respond to common questions and concerns.

During the campaign, the developers both expressed frustration with misinformation about the initiative spread by Marisol opponents, including claims that they might try to build something other than the promised luxury hotel project. In a previous interview, Green said sites like Nextdoor provided a “misinformation highway” for Measure G rumors.

Zephyr CEO Brad Termini said in a statement on Thursday, March 5, that the developers “deeply appreciate the support and positive engagement we received from so many Del Mar residents and businesses throughout this process.”

“We’re disappointed that voters didn’t embrace this opportunity to open this incredible bluff-top site to the community and provide a host of community benefits for Del Mar, including fulfilling the city’s affordable housing requirement,” he said. “While we were unable to overcome the misinformation campaign lodged by a small group of very vocal opponents, we accept the results and are assessing all of the options to move forward.”


5:26 p.m. March 5, 2020: Updated with latest vote counts

3:15 p.m. March 5, 2020: Updated with a statement from Zephyr CEO Brad Termini.