Crest Canyon evacuation plan comes before Del Mar council

Del Mar City Hall
(Jon Clark)

Del Mar council members heard details of a Crest Canyon evacuation plan on March 7 that had been in the works due to a referendum over a zoning change.

The grassroots group Del Mar Hillside Community Association collected enough signatures in 2020 to force a vote on whether to uphold a zoning change on the city’s North Commercial parcels off Jimmy Durante Boulevard.

The updated zoning would allow 20 residential units per acre and help the city meet its state-mandated housing goals. Council members were worried that if Del Mar voters overturned the new North Commercial zoning, the city would face penalties from the state.

But opponents of the new zoning were worried about traffic, wildfire hazards and other adverse effects.

The city negotiated with the proponents of the referendum, eventually getting them to withdraw it in exchange for more study and analysis of the issues they raised.

The Crest Canyon evacuation plan includes a description of the evacuation area, evacuation routes, estimates of the number of people and pets that would need to be evacuated (including those who need special assistance), shelter locations, and other details.

“There are some very deep concerns about aggravating traffic than I can see from the studies,” said Arnie Wiesel, who helped lead the referendum on behalf of the Del Mar Hillside Community Association. “I think for this to be complete, we need to take a very close look at the effects of this roundabout that is too often closed due to traffic gridlock.”

Fire Chief Mike Stein said “we used current conditions, what we have now.”

“This is a fluid plan that we will adapt and change when needed, but it takes into account the current conditions that we have,” Stein added.

Council members also had concerns. City Councilwoman Terry Gaasterland mentioned how busy it gets through the summer months because of events such as the county fair at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

“I’m really concerned that this is optimistic, rather than looking at the worst-case scenario,” Gaasterland said.

Stein, who leads the fire departments that serve Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas, said the department can tailor its approach based on factors such as the speed of a fire, temperature or if there are a lot of people in the area because of a particular event taking place.

“Although the population will change when we have events at the fairgrounds,” he said, “the plan is still the plan, we’re going to be utilizing the same roadways, we’re going to be controlling intersections, not allowing people in and getting people out as quickly as we can.”

Del Mar’s fire department worked with the city of San Diego because the Crest Canyon evacuation plans include streets in both cities.

“It’s not perfect,” Del Mar Mayor Dwight Worden said. “The situation back in there is not perfect, but it’s a really good roadmap for us to have.”