Del Mar City Council candidates discuss housing, rail, other local issues at forum

Del Mar City Hall
(Jon Clark)

Del Mar City Council candidates discussed affordable housing, local control and moving the train tracks off the bluff during an Oct. 10 online candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters.

Del Mar Mayor Dwight Worden, Councilmember Terry Gaasterland and entrepreneur Stephen Quirk are running for two at-large seats on the council in the Nov. 8 election.

One of the key infrastructure issues facing the city is moving the tracks inland, where they won’t be at risk of bluff erosion. The San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG, has zeroed in on two options for building a new route: Camino Del Mar and Del Mar Heights routes.

Quirk, whose twin brother Dan was elected to the council in 2020, said SANDAG should consider a wider array of options.

“I think SANDAG was premature in identifying just two routes that both require tunnels through Del Mar,” Quirk said. “These would be devastating tunnels. They would be destructive to our way of life and community for decades.”

Worden, who has been on the council since 2014, said he prefers the Del Mar Heights option.

“The overriding factor is if we don’t find a viable tunnel that works for Del Mar, we’re not going to get the rail off the bluff and we’re not going to be able to save the beach and bluff,” Worden said. “So they’re tied together. If you favor getting the rail relocated, you have to be willing to accept some tunnel alignment.”

Gaasterland, who was first elected in 2018, represents Del Mar on the SANDAG board of directors. She also said a third option might be necessary.

“I’m sure we can work together to make this right for Del Mar,” she said.

State housing mandates have also been a point of contention in Del Mar. To complete its recently submitted housing element, the city has to work out a deal with the Del Mar Fairgrounds to add about 50 affordable units. If no deal is reached, the city would have to shift those units to the bluffs.

Del Mar is one of many cities that were opposed to SB 9, a state bill that allows duplexes and fourplexes to be built on lots that used to only allow single-family housing.

“The state is taking away our ability to regulate housing, they’re telling us how to regulate the railroad and what we can and cannot do,” Worden said. “To protect our ability to exercise local control over zoning and planning is the No. 1 task. That’s a super difficult challenge.”

Quirk added, “There are extensive pressures from the state, and these have existed for a long time, to develop further.”

Candidates were also asked how they define redevelopment.

“Overdevelopment creates burden on water, electricity, traffic, parking, roads, escape routes,” Gaasterland said. “Overdevelopment creates noise that cannot be prevented, and just undue burden on all of these infrastructures that are needed.”

Voters throughout San Diego County have begun receiving their ballots in the mail for the November election. On Oct. 29, 39 voting centers for in-person voting will operate from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., according to the county. More than 200 voting centers will be open starting Nov. 5. Voting hours on Election Day, Nov. 8, will be 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.