Del Mar receives long-awaited certification for housing element that adds 113 affordable units

Del Mar City Hall
(Jon Clark)

The city still needs to reach an agreement with the Del Mar Fairgrounds for a 50-unit affordable housing project included in the plan


State officials certified the city of Del Mar’s housing element, according to a May 31 letter, concluding more than two years of back and forth between the city and state over the city’s plans to accommodate 113 affordable housing units and other housing goals through the rest of the decade.

Through the state’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation process, Del Mar had to adopt a housing element that can accommodate 175 new housing units at all income levels — including 113 for low- and very low-income residents, relative to county median income.

The Del Mar City Council approved its housing element before the initial deadline in 2021, but readopted the housing element twice in response to feedback from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development.

The clarifications and updates the city added to the now-approved housing element included 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.

“I do think we are at the finish line, at least I hope we’re there,” Del Mar City Councilmember Dwight Worden said when the council approved the latest version of the housing element in April.

Del Mar is now the 12th local government agency out of 19 in San Diego — 18 cities and the county government — to receive HCD certification of its housing element, according to the HCD website. San Diego County’s cities and unincorporated areas are responsible for a little more than 170,000 new housing units for the sixth RHNA cycle, which runs from 2021 to 2029.

The city of Del Mar is relying on an affordable housing development at the Del Mar Fairgrounds to provide about 50 of the 113 affordable housing units. A deal between the two sides to make that happen is still in progress. If they don’t come to terms, the city identified the north bluff as an alternate location to upzone for more multi-unit housing.

The north bluff is currently the proposed site for Seaside Ridge, a 259-unit development that would allocate about one-third of its housing for low- and moderate-income tenants. The city and developer are at odds over whether it can proceed as “by-right” with little city oversight, or if it would have to go through a more arduous rezoning process controlled by city officials.

Darren Pudgil, a spokesperson for Seaside Ridge, said in a statement that Del Mar’s housing element certification “has no bearing on Seaside Ridge” because the project application was submitted while the city’s housing element was out of compliance. State law allows residential development with affordable housing to proceed, even if it doesn’t comply with local zoning, if a city does not have a certified housing element.

“The fact is, Seaside Ridge can significantly help Del Mar meet its state-mandated housing requirements, and in the most time-effective way,” Pudgil said. “It will provide affordable housing opportunities for the people who work in Del Mar and serve the residents of Del Mar – teachers, nurses, sheriff’s deputies, service industry workers and more. And it will provide public access to the property through a new park and trail, along with parking for the public.

When the Seaside Ridge application first came in last year, the city officials responded that they did not agree with the legal basis, and that the housing element (which was pending HCD approval at the time) already included all the zoning needed to meet the city’s RHNA numbers. The city also called the project application “incomplete” in an April 27 letter because it circumvents California Coastal Commission and California Environmental Quality Act standards for upzoning on a seaside bluff.

“Contrary to the Applicant’s legal position, both CEQA and the California Coastal Act do apply to the Seaside Ridge project,” Matt Bator, a city planner, said in the letter.