Del Mar reduces $1.1M from budget, stops commercial evictions

Del Mar City Hall
(Jon Clark)

The Del Mar City Council approved approximately $1.1 million in budget reductions and passed an urgency ordinance to halt commercial evictions during an April 6 meeting held remotely and broadcast on the city’s website.

Council members also approved a few other measures in response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, which has closed many businesses and slowed the economy to a near standstill. The effects could have significant implications for the budget in Del Mar, which relies on transient occupancy tax from hotel visitors and sales tax from its many businesses.

“I realize it’s a little tricky and we’re going into some legal uncharted territory here, but I think it’s important we support our business community,” Del Mar City Councilman Dave Druker said of the moratorium on commercial evictions.

Cities across the state have been taking action to protect vulnerable residents and business owners from eviction. Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order at the end of March for a two-month delay on residential evictions for renters who can’t pay their rent as a result of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Councilman Dwight Worden said the business community has been asking the city for a moratorium on evictions.

“Our community is in crisis,” he said. “Our business community is in crisis. Our community’s health and safety is directly related to the safety and the success and continued operation of our business community.”

The 2019-20 fiscal year budget cuts include $670,000 in Measure Q expenditures, $264,530 in operational expenditures, $101,860 in special projects and $92,498 in capital improvement projects.

The City Council also voted to allow temporary commercial signs up to 32 square feet in all commercial zones, including the Del Mar Plaza and L’Auberage Del Mar. Many of the city’s restaurants are still offering takeout and delivery.

The council also voted to create payment plans for commercial and residential utility customers who can demonstrate financial hardship due to the pandemic. The city will also defer the collection of transient occupancy tax.

Before this week’s meeting, the city had already closed City Hall and other city facilities to the public, canceled events at public facilities through the end of May, and closed beaches and other public amenities, among other steps to slow the spread.

The long-term impacts to the city’s economy will be determined by how long the pandemic persists, as well as how long public health measures such as non-essential business closure and social distancing remain in effect.

There are eight COVID-19 cases in Del Mar as of April 7, according to county data. There are 1,454 cases throughout the county, including 31 deaths, 109 in intensive care and 289 hospitalizations. In North County coastal cities from Del Mar to Oceanside, there are 117 cases.

More than half of San Diego County residents who have tested positive are ages 20 to 49, but health officials warn that the elderly and those with underlying conditions face the highest risk of serious injury and death.

Del Mar City Council members will consider more budgetary measures at their April 20 meeting.