Del Mar residents speak against NCTD fencing proposal

The Del Mar Civic Center.
(Karen Billing)

Del Mar residents voiced their opposition during an Oct. 18 City Council meeting to a North County Transit District proposal to add fencing along the bluffs, even after the rollout of a new, more minimalist design.

“The work that is being done is instead all about cutting off all access to this bluff for all of us who have revered it for the last 100-plus years,” said Drew Cady, one of 10 speakers during public comment.

NCTD, which gave a presentation to the council, has been working with the city of Del Mar and the California Coastal Commission on the fence. The goal is to reduce trespassing and improve safety along the train tracks. But the plan so far has been rebuked by neighbors who don’t want their views, beach access or bluffs disturbed.

An NCTD update released on Oct. 15 said that the original plan “has been refined to be more community-sensitive.” Changes include reducing the length from 12,960 linear feet to 6,876 linear feet, and cutting the height from 6 feet to 4 feet or less for nearly half the project.

But residents who spoke during the meeting weren’t convinced.

Del Mar resident Camilla Rang called the proposal an abuse of power by NCTD.

“I want to remind you what happens when you push people too far,” she said. “They revolt, and that’s what’s going to happen. We’re not going to let you do this.”

Other speakers said that NCTD should focus more on the longer-term plan to move the tracks off the bluffs due to erosion.

Tracey Foster, NCTD’s chief development officer, said the agency’s goal “has been to have a constructive and collaborative process as we move forward with this project” to improve safety. NCTD’s website mentions four deaths on the railway along the bluff in Del Mar from January 2016 to October 2020.

“We did hear everything you said and we will continue our collaboration with the city and the California Coastal Commission,” Foster said.

NCTD received grant funding in 2018 for the project, which also includes parts of Oceanside and Encinitas. The fence was supposed to be in place by the end of 2020, before NCTD delayed the process in response to pushback from Del Mar residents.

“I don’t feel you’ve made a compelling case yet that it’s necessary,” Del Mar Deputy Mayor Dwight Worden said to NCTD officials who were at the meeting. “I don’t feel that you’ve made a compelling case that the modified proposal is as good as it can get, but I do recognize that we have to address the safety concerns.”

Del Mar City Councilman Dave Druker added that the ability to cross the bluff and access the beach is “sacrosanct” in Del Mar.

Interim City Manager Ashley Jones said that Del Mar, NCTD and the Coastal Commission working group will continue to negotiate.

“We’ll keep working hard to see if we can come back with something that people can feel better about,” she said.