Del Mar, local nonprofit try to work out a deal to keep four low-income tenants housed

Del Mar City Council meets at Del Mar Civic Center.
(Karen Billing)

Del Mar Community Connections proposes a new funding model for the city to continue a longstanding local rental subsidy program


Del Mar City Council members will consider a proposal next week to continue a program that provides rent subsidies to four low-income tenants in the city, according to two council members and a local nonprofit.

The Del Mar City Council had previously voted to end the program in June 2022, followed by a one-year extension to June 2023, because the city could no longer maintain the $94,400 annual cost. Recent trends in developer fees that the city collects, which fund the program, are no longer enough to sustain it, according to a city staff report.

A proposal endorsed by Del Mar Community Connections, a nonprofit that runs the program with that funding, would split the cost between the city and nonprofit to keep it going as long as the current tenants need it.

One of the four tenants, Dave Ralph, has been a recipient of the rental assistance program for about 10 years. After a car collision more than 30 years ago left him with neurological and physical disabilities, Ralph has relied on Del Mar Community Connections and his friends in the community to help him with his day-to-day needs. If the rental assistance program ends, he said his only option would be to move to Florida where he could live with either his brother or a friend.

“I’ve received a great deal of help,” said Ralph, 70. “In other words, I would be a good example of why we need communities.”

The city initially planned in September 2021 to enlist a social worker to help the four tenants, who all have incomes of less than $17,000 per year, find new affordable housing. In May 2022, city officials said they had consulted a county social worker, but no progress had been made on securing replacement units.

“We all knew that was a pipe dream,” said Bob Gans, president of Del Mar Community Connections, referring to the already overwhelming number of low-income San Diego County residents vying for a small number of affordable housing units.

The Del Mar Community Connections proposal asks the city to maintain at least 50% of the funding, with the other 50% coming from DMCC-organized fundraising.

“You have an orderly wind-down instead of just kicking people who have lived here for decades to the curb,” Gans said. “These are our neighbors and our friends, and people who have lived in Del Mar a lot longer than I have, and I’ve been here over 20 years.”

Another one of the tenants, Tracy Mull, grew up in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, and has lived in Del Mar since 1985, including the last 10 years with help from the rental assistance program. Del Mar Community Connections began helping her with some everyday tasks that she couldn’t complete herself while taking an anti-seizure medication that prevented her from driving.

Mull, who lives with her 17-year-old son, said her grandmother’s sister also lived and worked in Del Mar during World War II.

“I’m invested in this city,” Mull added. “To feel like I’m being thrown out of my community because I’m financially unstable, based on what our current situation is in the world, is heart wrenching. I’m not trying to take it personally, I’m trying to look at it as a business thing. Let’s find some solutions.”