of Del Mar re-zoning will get referendum
Dan Brendel, November 19, 2020
MAR A grassroots group of Del Mar residents gathered
more than enough signatures to call a referendum on a lightning-rod
rezoning decision by the Del Mar City Council.
comply with its current state-certified affordable housing
plan, the council on Oct. 5 up-zoned parcels in
the North Commercial area, near the San Dieguito Lagoon, by
a 3-to-2 vote. The up-zone would allow higher-density multifamily
residential development including lower-income units
to meet state-mandated affordable housing targets on
land currently vacant or occupied by commercial buildings.
decision has been hotly contested, featuring prominently in
campaigns leading up to the recent city council election.
While those in favor fear state-imposed penalties, those opposed
say the North Commercial area is poorly suited for high-density
housing and want to propose alternatives to the state government.
group of about 20 residents, spearheaded by Arnie Wiesel,
set out to gather enough signatures to call a referendum,
hoping to reverse the councils decision. According to
state law, the group needed at least 345 signatures by Wednesday,
Nov. 18. They got 602, according to an unofficial count from
city staffer Sarah Krietor as The Coast News goes to press.
the registrar of voters certifies the results without any
hitches, the council must choose either to repeal the up-zoning
or else put it to a public vote.
groundswell of support was strong and remarkable, especially
given the rainy weekend after the election, said Councilwoman
Terry Gaasterland, who opposed the up-zoning. The petition
circulators chose to wait until after the election so the
petition would be considered separately from a contentious
and difficult election season.
Hugo-Martinez, who went door-to-door with the referendum petition,
told The Coast News she encountered few people who were hesitant
the right of the voters to do this, but I think
it puts us at greater risk, said Councilman Dwight Worden,
who supported the up-zoning. He doesnt believe opponents
have presented any viable alternative parcels that would satisfy
the states requirements.
opponents could also pursue a lawsuit, irrespective of the
law requires that zoning ordinances shall be consistent
with the General Plan of the county or city. But in
Del Mar, parties disagree about how the General Plan pertains
to the North Commercial area.
the one hand, Worden says the General Plan is internally inconsistent,
with one chapter (the Housing Element) saying the North Commercial
area must include residential use, while another chapter (the
Land Use element) doesnt.
the other hand, Everett DeLano, the referendum-seekers
land use attorney, says the Housing Element never actually
created a residential use, but only promised the council would
eventually amend the General Plan to include such a use
which the council never did.
in DeLanos view, the General Plan doesnt allow
residential use in the North Commercial area, period, rendering
the Oct. 5 up-zoning invalid.
zoning ordinance that conflicts with a General Plan is invalid
at the time it is passed, according to Lesher Communications,
Inc. v. City of Walnut Creek, a 1990 state supreme court ruling.
General Plan has been aptly described as the constitution
for all future developments within the city, according
to Citizens of Goleta Valley v. Board of Supervisors, another
1990 state supreme court case.
other words, a General Plan serves as the overarching
framework to which all specific land-use decisions must
conform, in the same way that specific legislative acts may
not conflict with a constitution, DeLano said.