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Meet the Candidates 2022: Del Mar City Council

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(La Jolla Light file photo)

On Nov. 8, Terry Gaasterland, Steve Quirk and Dwight Worden are running for two at-large Del Mar City Council seats. In alphabetical order, see their bio information and responses to four questions below.

Name: Terry Gaasterland

Terry Gaasterland
Terry Gaasterland
(Copyright of Terry Gaasterland)

Occupation: Councilmember / Professor

Education: B.S./B.A Computer Science/Slavic Studies; M.S. Computer Science (Systems); Ph.D. Computer Science (AI)

Community Service: Mayor (2021); City Council (4 yrs); Sea Level Rise Comm. Chair (4 yrs); Finance Committee (3 yrs, 1 as Chair); Design Review Board (2 yrs); University Professor (30 yrs, 20 at UCSD)

1. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the city and how would you address them?

— NCTD’s proposed fencing on the Del Mar Bluff threatens to block access to the beach for two miles from Coast Blvd to the south end of Del Mar. Safe crossings must be built at 7th or 11th St.

— SANDAG’s plan for 1.5 miles of sea walls below the Bluff will eliminate 49,000 sq ft of our sandy beach from public use in an attempt to protect the train tracks. We must relocate the railroad tracks as soon as possible.

— To create the housing density needed to meet State-mandated housing requirements without sacrificing our natural open spaces is a complex problem to solve. We must accomplish new housing on State-owned land at the Fairgrounds to meet our requirements.

— We must plan for flooding risk from sea level rise and increased storm intensity due to climate change without managed retreat for private property.

— We also need to focus on our local issues – fixing streets, utility undergrounding, protecting scenic views and making it easier for businesses to thrive in Del Mar.

2. What challenges will the council and residents face in the years ahead in considering options for moving the train tracks inland?

Bluff erosion has accelerated the need to relocate the tracks off the Del Mar Bluff as soon as possible. SANDAG has studied and ranked five relocation options and then selected two without public input. Their top two would tunnel under Del Mar homes and streets. One option fails to remove the tracks from Penasquitos Lagoon and would leave the tracks vulnerable to sea level rise. The other has unknown geotechnical vulnerabilities. SANDAG wants to limit environmental study to these two options. The third-ranked option would cross along the Fairgrounds to I-5 and continue south through a tunnel under Del Mar Heights Road. Although removed by SANDAG, this option needs to be included in their geotechnical and environmental studies.

The Council must demand that SANDAG consider vulnerability to sea level rise as part of the environmental study of relocation options. The Council must further ensure that SANDAG’s decisions are in the best interest of Del Mar residents and homeowners.

3. What is your position on housing policy, such as implementation of the housing element and navigating new state housing bills that have potential to add density in Del Mar?

We must continue to fight to restore local control of our land use development. Del Mar must protect open spaces along the Lagoon and wetlands, Crest Canyon to our east, the sensitive coastal Del Mar Bluff with its bluff-top trails, and our two-mile sandy walkable beach. Adding density that threatens these natural resources, which are available to everyone who visits or lives nearby, makes absolutely no sense.

In 2018, Del Mar was assigned State-mandated affordable housing units. Rather than impacting our eco-sensitive open spaces, the most sensible place for affordable workforce housing is on land located at the Fairgrounds – somewhere on the 330 State-owned acres, 25% of the land in Del Mar. Feasibility studies have been completed. Two acres with 54 units each – 108 units total – are financially feasible and would be near grocery stores, schools, medical clinics, parks, and the beach. We must be relentless in making this happen.

4. How would you grade the city’s response to the climate crisis, and how much work still needs to be done to address rising sea level and other risks?

Del Mar’s response to the climate crisis has been proactive and strategic. Beginning in 2014, I chaired Del Mar’s Sea Level Rise Advisory Committee for four years and we crafted the Adaptation Plan the City adopted in 2018. That Plan anticipates a future with increased storm intensity, river flooding, sand loss on our beaches, and the increased frequency of Bluff failure events that threaten the railroad tracks.

We must pursue the measures in our Adaptation Plan and preserve the existing North Beach sea walls that protect over 600 homes in the North Beach community from seaward flooding. A “living levee” along the San Dieguito River, a vigorous sand replenishment plan, and relocation of the tracks are must-do’s.

Our Climate Action Plan defines specific actions that we can take to reduce green-house gas production locally and regionally. We must continue to implement the CAP measures and seek to update both plans as scientific findings point to new, doable measures.

Name: Stephen Quirk

Stephen Quirk
Stephen Quirk
(Copyright of Stephen Quirk)

Occupation: Technology Entrepreneur

Education: University of Virginia, BA History & Economics

Community Service: Climate Reality Leader, Climate Interactive Ambassador

1. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the city and how would you address them?

There are 3 major issues impacting our town:

a. The first is defending Del Mar against overdevelopment and protecting our open spaces and small town character. Achieving success with our affordable housing plans at the fairgrounds is the best way to relieve the state based ( i.e. Sacramento) pressure to overdevelop everywhere else.

b. The second is improving our streets and burying our dangerous and unsightly power lines. We need to make sure this is a priority for our city staff and not get distracted with needless controversies.

c. The third is ensuring responsible financial management of the City budget. As an entrepreneur, I have a lot of experience in finance, operations and budgets.

2. What challenges will the council and residents face in the years ahead in considering options for moving the train tracks inland?

We face tremendous challenges in moving the train tracks inland. We need to listen to residents and get their input. Where do we put the tracks or tunnel? I think we must look at the I-5 route. Will it be safe? Will there be eminent domain? How many years will construction take? Will it impact structural integrity of homes above? What are the environmental impacts? Should SANDAG better coordinate with Orange County given the 8 miles of eroding and vulnerable beach-level tracks in San Clemente? I also believe we should look at extending the Blue Line Trolley from UCSD north along the I-5 up to Carlsbad or Oceanside. This could be less costly and more effective at increasing mass transit ridership because it taps directly into the San Diego trolley system, which has a ridership base that is more than 25 times larger than the struggling and problematic Coaster.

3. What is your position on housing policy, such as implementation of the housing element and navigating new state housing bills that have potential to add density in Del Mar?

I believe in local control of housing and zoning. I am a big supporter of the affordable housing plans occurring at the fairgrounds where housing concepts and designs are moving forward. A significant portion of Del Mar’s RHNA jobs numbers (determined by SANDAG) and related housing requirements include many events and related jobs that occur on the fairgrounds. As such, the fairgrounds should be required to make a deal with Del Mar to follow through on our thoughtful plan. Many areas in Del Mar being targeted by outside agencies for high density, including our bluff and lagoon areas, are fragile. If elected, I will do everything I can to advocate on this. In September, there was a report of another stress fault on our bluffs. I am strongly opposed to high density development for Del Mar, particularly in our already built out residential neighborhoods and vulnerable environmental zones.

4. How would you grade the city’s response to the climate crisis, and how much work still needs to be done to address rising sea level and other risks?

I think the city’s response to the climate crisis has been reasonably good. I was against Managed Retreat and happy that it was eliminated as an option from our sea level rise adaptation plan as it was completely unnecessary. I support updating our Climate Action Plan update for 2023 to keep up with the many significant and rapidly occurring advances in science and technology. I am a technology entrepreneur with a keen interest in protecting the environment, and my current company, Sustain6, is part of the technology wave that is going to help us creatively and constructively address climate change with forward looking thinking, not backwards. Too often, the discussion on climate change is framed as a win-lose instead of the win-win that it can and will be.

Name: Dwight Worden

Dwight Worden
(Copyright of Dwight Worden)

Occupation: Current Mayor, City of Del Mar; retired land use, local government, environmental, and city attorney.

Education: BS with Honors, University of Colorado. J.D University of San Diego School of Law, with honors.

Community Service: Numerous City Advisory Committees, Coastal Commission, Del Mar Foundation board, including Summer Twilight Concerts chair, Attorney General’s Environmental Task Force, volunteer attorney for numerous citizens’ initiatives (Beach Preservation Initiative; Measure B - Downtown Initiative) and environmental matter for Del Mar environmental groups, Sierra Club, Audubon Society, and others. Current: member, UCSD Medical School Institutional Review Board (IRB) and Embryonic Stem Cell Oversight Committee; San Diego Bluegrass Society board member.

1. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the city and how would you address them?

—Local control: I have a proven record championing local control and fighting state intrusion on local affairs. As a local government and environmental lawyer and former City Attorney, I know how to advocate effectively to achieve Del Mar’s goals.

—Climate change: The “Code Red for Humanity” makes updating our Climate Action Plan (CAP) a key priority. My work on adoption and implementation of our CAP will be an asset to this update; my Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters endorsements attest to my values.

—Rails: Saving our beach and bluff are essential. Securing a safe, legal rail crossing and an inland tunnel that is good for Del Mar is the solution.

—Housing: Making sure new housing is small scale and compatible with Del Mar, including Fairgrounds housing, is the answer for Del Mar and the region.

2. What challenges will the council and residents face in the years ahead in considering options for moving the train tracks inland?

Key challenges: securing an alignment that is good for Del Mar and protective of our environment, including our lagoons and homes; and locating entry/exit portals that are best for Del Mar. Community engagement on these issues is key. My record shows my commitment to listening carefully, crafting strategies that serve Del Mar’s interests, and my ability to work effectively with SANDAG, the State, and the key federal entities and representatives to protect Del Mar’s interests. I will make sure SANDAG’s environmental review of tunnel options includes all reasonable alignments and options, and all necessary mitigation. Interim safe and legal access to the beach across the tracks, removal of seawalls when the tracks relocate, and getting it all done soon are essential. The knowledge, commitment, skills, and persistence I bring to the table will help insure results that will serve Del Mar’s interests and safeguard our community and our environment.

3. What is your position on housing policy, such as implementation of the housing element and navigating new state housing bills that have potential to add density in Del Mar?

I support Del Mar’s adopted 6th Cycle Housing Element. Certification by the state and implementation will maintain local control and avoid penalties. 54 affordable housing units at the fairgrounds is crucial. Otherwise we are forced by the state to upzone our sensitive north and south bluffs for 20-25 units per acre, to accommodate 250+ units. We need appropriately scaled housing integrated into our community. Historically, university professors and students, teachers, lifeguards, and the like could afford to live in Del Mar, resulting in a vibrant and diverse community. We don’t need massive development on our bluffs. We need fairgrounds housing, projects like the 941 Del Mar development approved by 80% of Del Mar voters, and small quality projects integrated into our community.

I oppose state efforts to dictate housing policy to Del Mar. One size does not fit all. Del Mar is best positioned to make its own housing decisions.

4. How would you grade the city’s response to the climate crisis, and how much work still needs to be done to address rising sea level and other risks?

Del Mar has earned a passing grade on climate, but we must do better. With my help we adopted a Climate Action Plan, established the Sustainability Advisory Committee, helped launch the Clean Energy Alliance, acted to control plastics, enhanced waste recycling, and are currently working on Building Electrification for new development. We need to update our CAP, make it binding, and be a regional leader in meeting climate goals. I am working with key local, regional, and state leaders to assure our collective goals are met.

I supported and helped craft Del Mar’s adopted Sea Level Rise Adaptation Plan. I drafted the section detailing why “managed retreat” is not feasible for Del Mar. Sand replenishment, river dredging, and a living levee are our strategies, not managed retreat. I authored the Beach Preservation Initiative, which has protected our beaches for decades, and am equally committed to protecting our beaches today.


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