Del Mar council approved updated housing element to comply with state mandates

Del Mar City Hall
(Jon Clark)

Del Mar council members adopted a revised housing element during their April 3 meeting, the latest in a back and forth with the California Department of Housing and Community Development to keep the city compliant with state housing mandates.

“I do think we are at the finish line, at least I hope we’re there,” Del Mar City Councilmember Dwight Worden said.

As part of the state’s latest Regional Housing Needs Allocation, which runs from 2021-29, Del Mar had to accommodate 175 new housing units in the city’s housing element — including 113 affordable units.

The city submitted a new housing element to meet that requirement by the April 2021 deadline, but has had to make clarifications and revisions based on feedback from HCD.

The clarifications and updates the city included in the revised housing element include more specifics about adding housing for low income and special needs households, according to a city staff report. Another revision specifies that the city will try to work with Habitat for Humanity and other nonprofits to build housing on city-owned land.

“We have basically taken all of the comments that HCD has made and responded to those,” Del Mar City Councilmember Dave Druker said. “So look forward to us getting this approved so we can move on and basically get the fairgrounds done.”

The city is relying on a proposed development on the Del Mar Fairgrounds with more than 50 affordable housing units to help meet its state mandate. Officials from the city and the state-owned fairgrounds have a three-year deadline to strike a deal to move forward with the development. The clock started in April 2021, when the city first sent its housing element for approval, leaving about one more year. Without a deal, the city would have to move forward with an alternative option that would add housing on the north bluff.

The status of Del Mar’s housing element also factors in to a newly proposed development, Seaside Ridge, which would add 259 units for all income levels on the north bluff. The developers said in a letter to the city last fall that they can proceed with the project “by-right,” meaning they can bypass local zoning and approvals to add more density, if the city doesn’t have a housing element that accommodates the new units

City officials responded with a letter that said they are “not in agreement with the proposed legal basis” of the plans. The housing element adopted by the council, while it has yet to be certified by HCD, does account for all 175 new housing units at all income levels that were assigned to Del Mar.

Ten out of 18 cities in San Diego County have had their housing elements approved by HCD, according to the agency’s website. San Diego County, which develops a housing element for the unincorporated areas that don’t have city governments, has also been approved.