The Coast News Group
Del Mar
An aerial view of the Del Mar coastline captured by a drone. Photo by Marley St. John
Community Commentary Opinion

Commentary: Concerns with SB 9

By Terry Gaasterland

Dear Sen. Atkins, Although we recognize recent amendments, the City of Del Mar continues to have concerns with Senate Bill (SB) 9.

Specifically, it would require cities to ministerially approve, without condition or discretion, a housing development containing two residential units on an individual parcel in single-family zones.

Further, this measure would require the City of Del Mar to ministerially approve an urban lot split, thus creating two independent lots that may be sold separately.

Housing affordability and homelessness are among the most critical issues facing California. Affordably priced homes are out of reach for many people.

Housing is not being built quickly enough to meet the current or projected needs of people living in the state.

Cities lay the groundwork for housing production by planning and zoning new projects within their communities based on unique community factors, extensive public input and engagement and state housing laws.

While we understand and appreciate your desire to pursue a housing production proposal, unfortunately, SB 9 as currently drafted will not spur much-needed housing construction in a manner that supports local flexibility, decision making, and community input.

State-driven ministerial or by-right housing approval processes fail to recognize the extensive public engagement associated with developing and adopting zoning ordinances and housing elements that are certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).

If passed as currently written, the implications to Del Mar would be significant.

• First, it would circumvent the City’s long-standing design review process for housing development projects subject to SB 9, including the opportunity for the public to participate in that process.

SB 9 would override certain local land use plans and regulations and usurp the careful planning that we have undertaken at the city level.

• Second, it would limit our ability to require on-site (“off-street”) parking to one space per residential unit. As a small, compact, dense coastal city that borders the ocean, Del Mar has no unused space that could be used for parking.

Existing and new residents, as well as numerous beach visitors, would all be negatively impacted by this provision.

Competition for street parking already reaches unbearable levels in many Del Mar neighborhoods during much of the year.

• Finally, SB 9 would require the City to ministerially approve urban lot splits as discussed above.

In Del Mar’s case, a typical 10,000 square foot lot in the City’s R1 zone, which is the current minimum lot size, could be split into two 5,000 square foot lots.

Subsequently, each lot would then be able to submit a ministerial application for a housing development project (i.e., duplex-style development) per SB 9.

This would quadruple the allowed density with extremely small lots in an area already impacted by parking needs, noise, and considerable numbers of daily visitors to the beach and bluff-top trails.

For these reasons, Del Mar cannot support SB 9 as it is currently drafted.

SB 9 would result in increased density on tiny lots without addressing the need for affordable housing stock.

Further, it would have considerable impacts on coastal resources such as public parking and public viewsheds of the beach.

We support sensible housing solutions that are tailored to each unique community, but we cannot support a “one size fits all” approach to something as critical as housing.

For the City to support SB 9, we respectively request the following amendments be adopted:

• Allow coastal communities to be excluded from SB 9. This could be accomplished by adding a statement in the bill’s exemptions that all lands located within the Coastal Zone to be excluded.

• Alternatively, the City would support an amendment to allow coastal cities to retain their discretionary review process when it considers housing development projects.

The City of Del Mar remains committed to being part of the solution to the housing shortfall across all income levels and will continue to work collaboratively with you and other stakeholders on legislative proposals that will spur much needed housing construction.

Terry Gaasterland is the mayor of Del Mar.

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