Owners must pay when reducing units in Del Mar

DEL MAR — Property owners will soon have to ante up when sizing down in Del Mar. 

Council members unanimously agreed at the Dec. 9 meeting to require payment of a housing mitigation fee when a project reduces the number of dwelling units on a property.

The fee amount will be set at a future council meeting. Money collected will be used to support the city’s affordable housing programs.

The plan is one of more than four dozen programs included in Del Mar’s state-certified housing element. The fee will help offset the adverse impacts of a loss of units when, for example, a duplex is converted into a single-family home.

“One of our housing goals is to protect the existing stock of residences in the community, especially rental stock because they inherently provide more opportunities for affordable housing,” Planning Manager Adam Birnbaum said.

According to the staff report, projects that deplete the housing stock by demolition are not uncommon in Del Mar, the most frequent type being proposals to raze two units on a property and redevelop the site with a single-family residence.

The city currently requires an in-lieu fee of $23,508 per unit when a property owner converts multiple units to a condominium form of ownership to mitigate the negative impacts when two units that would otherwise be available for rent become available for purchase.

Money is deposited in the housing assistance reserve fund, a designated account used to help pay for programs that increase affordable housing opportunities.

For condominium conversions with more than two dwelling units, payment of an in-lieu fee is not an option. Instead, the property owner must set-aside a percentage of the converted units for 30 years at affordable rental rates.

An exception is provided for development sites where the number of units on the property already exceeds the zoning limit.

In these cases, the mitigation fee would not be required unless the number of units removed would exceed the requirement to achieve zoning compliance.

For example, if a site has a three-unit apartment building where only two units were allowed, conversion to a two-unit project would not trigger payment of the mitigation fee.

However, if the property owner demolishes the three units and replaces them with a single-family home, a mitigation fee would be required for the extra unit removed.

The Planning Commission reviewed the housing mitigation fee proposal at its Nov. 9 meeting and unanimously recommended approval by the City Council. “While we’re not obligated to do this, we said we would do it,” Councilman Don Mosier said.

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