Del Mar City Council approves zoning for emergency shelters

By Kristina Houck

To put the city into compliance with state legislation, the Del Mar City Council on Oct. 21 unanimously approved zoning to allow emergency shelters.

Under the new zoning, emergency shelters are allowed in the city’s north commercial zone, a roughly 15-acre section of the city that has 28 developed buildings and is located along the major transportation corridor. Shelters must be located at least 300 feet from homes, schools and other shelters. They must have a maximum of 10 beds and be open to people for six months, with a 60-day waiting period between stays. Shelters must also have on-site security.

The council adopted its housing element in May 2013, which was certified by the state in June. The plan included a number of goals, policies and programs to address the city’s housing needs, but it did not identify a zone for emergency shelters, which is required by state law.

Defined by state law, an emergency shelter offers up to six months of temporary housing for the homeless. There are 11 homeless people in the Del Mar area, according to the city’s housing element.

There were no public speakers, but some members of the public expressed concerns about property values during the Oct. 7 meeting. They suggested the city designate the Public Works Department or other city-owned land instead, or increase the buffer zone from 300 feet to 500 feet.

During the Oct. 21 meeting, city staff explained the Public Works Department is in a floodway, so new structures are prohibited in the area. In addition, staff shared a map that showed there would be no space left for an emergency shelter in the north commercial zone if the buffer zone were increased. Staff also explained the city has no plans or funds allocated to build an emergency shelter, and because of the high cost of land in Del Mar, it’s unlikely a for-profit company or nonprofit organization would construct a shelter in the city.

“So the likelihood of us having an emergency shelter down there — for people that are still concerned about it — would be most unlikely,” said Deputy Mayor Lee Haydu. “But we have to put this in the housing element because of state law.”