Del Mar council discusses impact of new state housing laws

Del Mar City Hall
(Jon Clark)

Del Mar council members discussed housing legislation taking effect in 2023 during their Jan. 9 meeting, echoing concerns over a loss of local control that many cities have expressed as state lawmakers try to add housing stock and reduce homelessness.

“In general, the theme is override of local control, which is unfortunate,” said Amanda Lee, the city’s principal planner.

A report from city planners said that the new laws create a “complex issue because coastal jurisdictions must comply with the Government Code and the Coastal Act and at this time the California Coastal Commission has not published guidance for these new laws.” The whole city of Del Mar is located within the coastal zone.

The city’s concerns include legislation that streamlines construction of accessory dwelling units.

Del Mar City Councilmember Dave Druker said there should be a process to validate whether an ADU is used for affordable housing “so they aren’t being used as extra bedrooms or offices or something like that.” Current state policies count all ADUs as housing units that cities can take credit for in the Regional Housing Needs Allocation process, but homeowners sometimes build them for other purposes. There are no laws that require them to be used for housing.

“In a place where land values are at a premium, people are gaming the system,” Druker said.

Other housing legislation involves allowing multi-unit housing in commercial zones and parking exemptions for some housing projects that are located near transit stops.

Del Mar City Councilmember Dwight Worden said that the city’s new housing element, pending state certification, should exempt it from new housing mandates from newly signed legislation.

“We spent a lot of blood, sweat, tears and money in this community developing our sixth cycle housing element to meet our state-imposed housing obligations,” Worden said.

He added, “One of the difficulties is that some of our legislators are the same people sponsoring some of this stuff.”

State Sen. Pro Tem Toni Atkins, whose San Diego district includes Del Mar, said in a statement last year that the package of housing bills was “one of the most significant efforts to streamline and amplify housing production in decades.”

Assemblymember Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, was the author of AB 2097, which eliminates parking requirements within one half mile of major transit stops.

These costs get passed onto individuals and families, even if they don’t own or cannot drive a car,” Friedman said in a statement after the bill was signed. “San Diego eliminated minimum parking requirements in Transit Priority areas in April 2019. In 2020, the city saw a more than four times increase in affordable housing units produced.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom wrote in a signing note to the Legislature that “this bill will undoubtedly have a positive impact in reaching our state’s climate and housing goals.”