Del Mar withdraws from Coastal Commission hearing on ADU ordinance

Del Mar City Hall
(Jon Clark)

The Del Mar City Council voted Oct. 4 to withdraw from a hearing in front of the state Coastal Commission over a city ordinance regarding accessory dwelling unit construction.

The hearing was scheduled to take place Oct. 13, before the city received a series of proposed changes from the Coastal Commission a few days ago. Some of those changes were inconsistent with the city’s General Plan and had other issues that needed to be resolved, city planners said.

The city will instead work on crafting a new ordinance to regulate the construction of accessory dwelling units, which will be resubmitted for Coastal Commission approval.

“At the local level we’re in a really tough spot because the Coastal Commission has issued guidance, but it continues to change,” said Amanda Lee, the city’s principal planner.

She added that the guidance “significantly changed over the course of the year” since the city ordinance on accessory dwelling units was approved by the council about a year and a half ago.

Del Mar Deputy Mayor Dwight Worden said the only other options would have been to move forward with the hearing, in which case the city would have to accept the Coastal Commission’s modifications, or abandon the ordinance altogether, in which city law on accessory dwelling units would default to state law.

“Of the three options that are all bad, withdrawing and refiling is the best,” he said.

The Coastal Commission was willing to approve the Del Mar ordinance on the condition that the city accept the multiple modifications.

“In the City of Del Mar, a significant portion of the City consists of already-developed residential areas with adequate public services that may be appropriate for ADU development,” according to a Coastal Commission staff report. “However, the City also contains a variety of resources that need to be preserved and protected, including sensitive biological resources, steep slopes, bluffs, public views, and public shoreline parking spaces. In addition, there are various hazards in the City which need to be assessed and acknowledged in conjunction with any new development, particularly geotechnical hazards and flooding risk, both of which are expected to become more acute in the future with sea level rise.”

Some of the proposed modifications included additional restrictions in the city’s Floodplain Overlay Zone, clarifications on the maximum number and configuration of accessory dwelling units per lot, and standards for addressing scenic views — including a provision by the Coastal Commission that would have removed Design Review Board authority over second-story additions.

“There are different goals, the goals conflict and the goals are very important goals,” Del Mar Mayor Terry Gaasterland said. “And these come together right here in Del Mar, and that’s preservation of the coastal zone with the bluffs, the floodplain, the lagoon, the beaches, with the urgency and the need to create new housing.”