DEL MAR — Based on comments at a July 29 community open house, Del Marians seemingly prefer that housing rather than offices be built on vacant property on the southwest corner of Jimmy Durante Boulevard and San Dieguito Road.Watermark Del Mar, a proposal from San Dieguito Land Partners LLC, is slated to include 54 one- to four-bedroom apartments and townhomes on the approximately 2.3-acre lot. The one- and two-story units will range in size from about 650 square feet to 2,800 square feet.
“I like it,” said Tensia Trejo, who has lived in Del Mar for nearly nine decades. “It brings warmth. An office building is very cold. It’s just a bunch of glass.”
Former Mayor Richard Earnest, who lives next to the lot, also said he favors residential over commercial development.
“I don’t know a lot of the details yet, but anything is better than what’s there now,” he said. “I especially like that it will offer affordable housing, which the city desperately needs.”
Most of the proposed homes will be sold. However, the project will include seven affordable rental units, four of which will be deeded at no cost to Del Mar Community Connections.
The remaining three will be owned by the developer with a 30-year restrictive term as affordable.
“We look for opportunities like this,” resident Bud Emerson, a member of the Del Mar Housing Corporation, said. “(Del Mar Community Connections) gets units with no debt. That’s a huge asset because it gives them a revenue stream.
“And people who provide services here can now afford to live here,” Emerson added. “It’s a whole bunch of wins all wrapped together.”
According to a graphic provided at the open house, tenants who would qualify for an affordable unit include police officers, firefighters, sanitation drivers and public school teachers whose annual salaries range from $37,000 to $73,000.
The affordable component will have one studio apartment, three one-bedrooms and three two-bedrooms. Three will be available to those who make less than $40,000 annually, with rents from $1,100 to $1,500 monthly.
Four will be available to those who make between $60,000 to $85,000 annually, with rents from $1,600 to $1,900 monthly.
“It’s about time we had something like this,” one attendee said.
Bob Scott of RJS Planning + Sustainability, a Del Mar consulting firm, said the comments he received at the open house were “overwhelmingly favorable.”
“People liked the idea of converting the development to residential,” he said. “They like the gateway entry and the affordable component. And they liked the coastal-style architecture rather than something that was too Spanish or mission-style.”
He said attendees told him they support the concept of attached homes to balance the mix of housing in the city.
While much of the input was positive, residents also had concerns, mostly about traffic, providing sufficient parking and the density.
“The lot doesn’t look big enough to accommodate what’s being proposed,” Susan Morrison said.
Sharon Hilliard said the units appeared small and there wasn’t enough open space. Architect John Maple said seating and barbecues will be included in common areas.
Hershell Price said the buildings look too large and are set too far back into the hillside. “But whatever the developer does, there has to be a roundabout at Jimmy Durante and San Dieguito,” Price said. “If they don’t build it with this project it’ll never go.”
Planning Manager Adam Birnbaum said while “something is needed there, clearly, the developers don’t want to be the ones that drive that decision.”
“The best way to control traffic there will be a community decision, but the developers will be required to implement whatever the community determines is the best approach,” Birnbaum said.
A commercial project known as the Riverview Office Complex was approved for the site in 2008 by the Planning Commission and Design Review Board but the owner decided not to pursue implementation, Birnbaum said.
A formal permit application for Watermark has not yet been filed with the city. The goal of the open house was to garner community feedback and determine whether residents wanted residential over commercial.
Before anything happens the property must be rezoned from commercial/office to residential.
The city also has to create a zone density that will allow 20 to 25 units per acre. To mitigate for the higher density, the developer will be required to provide community benefits, which will likely include gifting the units to Del Mar Community Connections.
According to a timeline presented at the open house, applications will be filed in August and an informal Design Review Board review is scheduled for January 2014.
Public workshops are planned for October and November of this year and in February 2014, when the project design is 30 percent, 60 percent and 90 percent complete, respectively. Public hearings are tentatively set for February, March and April of next year.
A draft environmental impact report is slated to be released for a 45-day review this November.
“There was enough positive momentum to keep us moving forward with a residential project,” Scott said. “But we know we need to keep working on it.”
“It’s a good start,” Morrison said. “I like the concept drawings.”
“In general I like the use,” Councilman Al Corti said. “I have some concerns about density and traffic but the EIR will figure those out. It’s a little premature. Right now it’s just pretty pictures.”
“As long as they deal properly with the drainage off the hillside and potential traffic issues, I’m in favor of the project,” Earnest said.
Emerson said he is confident the developers will use the community input provided. “They have genuinely been listening to us and not pushing us to swallow their ideas,” he said. “It’s been a very cooperative process.”