Del Mar evaluates costs of new housing plans

Del Mar City Hall
(Jon Clark)

The city of Del Mar is preparing for the costs of implementing its new housing element, a recently approved plan that shows the state how it will accommodate 175 new housing units over the next eight years.

The current estimate over the next two fiscal years is approximately $736,500 in costs to implement the zoning changes that are required, but could rise based on contingency plans that might take effect. The building is left to private developers.

At least 113 of Del Mar’s assigned units, which were assigned to the city as part of the state’s sixth cycle Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA), have to qualify as affordable housing. The city submitted the housing element to the state Department of Housing and Community Development for certification ahead of the April 15 deadline, and is still awaiting certification.

One key variable is whether the city will be able to add 51 affordable housing units on Del Mar Fairgrounds property. If the city and fairgrounds can’t agree to terms on adding those units within the next three years, the city will have to instead upzone the bluffs, according to the terms of the new housing element. That option remains unpopular among many Del Mar residents.

“It’ll be really essential that we get the fairgrounds board to agree in principle that we identify the specific land possibilities and that we get the permission and the agreement from the necessary parties that housing can go there,” Del Mar Mayor Terry Gaasterland said during the council’s May 3 meeting. “We need to do this quickly.”

If the plan for housing on the fairgrounds falls through, the city will face an additional $310,000 cost to implement the replacement option on the bluffs.

Another variable is the outcome of a referendum to overturn an upzone on the city’s North Commercial parcels, located off Jimmy Durante Boulevard. The city is trying to get the referendum withdrawn by negotiating with the residents who initiated it. In exchange for those residents withdrawing it, the city would take steps to address the concerns they have about adding density to that area, which include fire safety, traffic, environmental impacts and short-term rental usage.

That upzone, which would allow 20 residential units per acre on the North Commercial parcels, was part of the city’s fifth RHNA cycle housing element. If the petition is not withdrawn, Del Mar residents will vote in November 2022 on whether it should be upheld. If the upzone is rejected, the city will face an additional $145,000 in costs to implement an alternative rezone along Border Avenue.

Del Mar Deputy Mayor Dwight said it’s important for the city to be “transparent and open” as it moves forward with the zoning changes that need to be fulfilled.

“This is going to be controversial in our own community and to the extent that we’re going to keep them on board with implementing our sixth cycle, the more they know the better,” he said.