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Commentary: Rebuttal to Phil Blair’s message to the community

By Hershell Price

(Phil Blair quotes in italics)

Phil Blair: “Voting to Make Planned Development Impossible Made Uncontrolled Development Inevitable.”

Untrue statement. What is he talking about? Does he even know?

Phil Blair: “Del Mar residents received an unpleasant October surprise in an October 16th letter to the City Council from the attorney for the developers of Watermark. A copy is attached. They state their intention to build a mega-housing complex on Jimmy Durante Boulevard at the intersection with San Dieguito Drive: multiple 3-story buildings constructed over a parking garage/podium yielding 48 units.

“This dramatic change in the developer’s approach was caused by the intransigence of two members of the City Council – alone – who created this crisis. By voting against implementing the mandated zoning change Del Mar had promised to make since 2013, they pushed open the door to uncontrolled ‘by-right’ development and shut the door to the Specific Plan negotiated with the city that provided reduced building heights and 10 fewer units.”

What Mr. Blair states above is completely wrong. He, evidently, does not know much about this issue. To be clear, the developer’s ability to build “by-right” was granted in 2013 by Councilmembers Don Mosier, Sherryl Parks, Lee Haydu, Al Corti and Terry Sinnott and had nothing to do with Druker and Gaasterland.

Dave Druker was not elected to the Council until 2016. Terry Gaasterland was not elected until 2018. Gaasterland and Druker had nothing to do with the granting of ‘by-right’ development as Mr. Blair proclaims.

Until 2017, the developer pursued a ‘Specific Plan’ with zoning that would allow him to build 48 residential units on the Watermark property.

In 2017, he ran into major environmental issues which blocked his progress with the Coastal Commission (As stated by attorney Marco Gonzales on page 1 of his October 16th letter to Mayor Haviland and the Council members, the developer has “faced certain challenges with the site plan analyzed in our Draft EIR due to environmental resources at the site”).

On October 5th, Worden, Parks and Haviland changed the Watermark (North Commercial) zoning to allow 20 units per acre, i.e., 48 units on this property. The developer has NOW chosen to develop the project using the ‘by-right’ process given to him in 2013. ‘By-right’ allows the developer to bypass environmental review.

BOTTOM LINE: This is election time, the Sandpiper has endorsed their Slate. They want to conveniently shift blame to Dave and Terry for the ‘By Right’ problem created by Don Mosier, Sherryl Parks, and the other three councilmembers in 2013.

FOR THE RECORD: Since 2016, the Council has been controlled by the three-person majority of Worden, Parks, and Haviland. They have done nothing to solve the state-mandated housing allocation in the past four years, and they are still in charge. Now, at election time, they want to blame Terry and Dave for not bringing Del Mar into compliance.

Phil Blair: “Despite the dire warnings from their colleagues, when Dave Druker and Terry Gaasterland voted against the sensible plan on September 8 and October 5, they opened the door to uncontrolled development “by right.” Now, Watermark is walking right through that open door.”

FOR THE RECORD: Any property that is rezoned to 20 units per acre or higher gains ‘By Right’ development because of recent new State laws. If Mr. Blair had read the June 10th, 2020 State Housing Element Guidebook, he would have known that. But that was not the intention of his email to our community. He is merely attempting to blame Dave and Terry falsely for the lack of action by the Council majority.

Phil Blair: “Druker knew this could happen because he was on City Council between 2005 and 2012 when the City was violating Housing Element Cycle 4, which led to the State’s 2013 award to Watermark of the power to do “by right” development.”

This is incorrect. Dave Druker was on Council only until the end of 2008 and had nothing to do with the granting of ‘By Right’ development to Watermark in 2013.

Phil Blair: “In voting to make planned development impossible, they made uncontrolled development inevitable.”

That statement makes no sense at all. What is he talking about? Mr. Blair has no shame. He will say anything to try to get elected, including this completely fabricated insinuation.

Phil Blair: “Let me be clear: as a member of the City Council, I will fight to prevent any additional part of North Commercial, the North Bluff and the South Bluff, and any other Del Mar property, from suffering the same fate of “by right” development.”

Mr. Blair was a major supporter of the Marisol high-density project and its ‘by-right’ development. Marisol Measure G was voted down by 59% of Del Mar voters. Blair has no credibility on the Marisol issue. How can he now claim he is against ‘by-right’?

Mr. Blair was also involved in creating Proposition J in 2012 which would have up-zoned our entire downtown Central Commercial area to high density with two-story (26’ high) buildings on the west side of Camino Del Mar (currently one story, 14’). Fortunately, that plan was defeated by the voters of Del Mar by 58%.

Phil Blair: “I’m running for City Council because I believe in listening to people. I have heard the people of our Village clearly say they oppose “by right” developments such as Watermark, with no Planning Commission or DRB discretionary review.

“That is why I support the rezone of the North Commercial zone so we can retain local control of development, not give it away to “by right” development. This is why I want to be your voice on the City Council.”

The re-zone of the North Commercial Zone to 20 units per acre on October 5th activated ‘By Right’ development for the entire zone. State law says if the developer dedicates 20% of the units as very-low and low affordable housing, they get to develop ‘By Right’.

Hershell Price is a former chairman of the Del Mar Planning Commission and a 30-year resident of Del Mar.

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