Del Mar council to decide fate of Marisol draft environmental impact report

Del Mar voters defeated the Marisol initiative in March that would have allowed a 17-acre resort to be built on this bluff near the city’s border with Solana Beach.

Del Mar voters defeated the Marisol initiative in March that would have allowed a 17-acre resort to be built on this bluff near the city’s border with Solana Beach.
(K.C. Alfred/K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Del Mar City Council members will decide the status of the draft environmental impact report (DEIR) that was prepared for the Marisol initiative at a future meeting.

About 60% of Del Mar voters rejected the Marisol initiative during the March 3 election. If passed, it would have led to a hotel project on a 17-acre plot of land on the city’s northern bluff, with other components such as 22 affordable housing units.

The property is currently zoned for low-density residential use, but it was also identified by the city as a potential target for upzoning to help Del Mar meet its state-mandated housing goals.

Deputy Mayor Terry Gaasterland and Councilman Dave Druker, who both campaigned against the Marisol initiative, want the council to consider rejecting the draft environmental impact report, rendering it void for any future development on that land.

“What Terry and I are trying to do is make sure that this DEIR is not seen as an official document, and is not seen as a jumping off point for any other type of environmental review that is done on this north bluff,” Druker said.

Had the Marisol initiative passed, the draft environmental impact report would have been used as the basis for an official environmental impact report. When the initiative failed, the DEIR became a “zombie,” Councilman Dwight Worden said.

Worden joined Gaasterland and Druker in a 3-2 vote to decide the fate of the DEIR at a future meeting. He said it would help in “closing the file” on Marisol.

Mayor Ellie Haviland said she didn’t think it was necessary to devote any more time and city resources on Marisol “in the middle of a health crisis and a financial crisis in our city,” especially after voters settled the issue on Election Day.

“I don’t understand why we are moving during this time when we are doing everything we can to minimize cost to our city and staff time used on projects that aren’t city priorities, why we are moving through an agenda item that could not be less urgent,” Haviland said.

She and Councilwoman Sherryl Parks voted against further discussion of the Marisol DEIR.

Encinitas-based developers Zephyr and The Robert Green Company petitioned to put the Marisol initiative on the city’s March 3 ballot. Jim McMenamin, a Del Mar resident and executive vice president at Zephyr, said in a letter to the council this week that the draft environmental impact report is still relevant. He said the city should encourage the developers to return to the city with a revised “visitor-serving” plan for the site.

He referred to the new housing element, which requires Del Mar to zone for 163 new units across all income levels. Those plans have to be reviewed and certified by the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development by April 2021, and could include added density on the northern bluff, if approved by the city.

“The Marisol Specific Plan (SP) and draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) were prepared by the applicant and the City’s third-party environmental consultant, Helix Environmental for the City Staff’s review,” McMenamin wrote. “The Draft EIR was released for public review as required by CEQA. These documents and the EIR process should remain on file for future use.”