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The Del Mar City Council approves a use permit to move forward with a plan that will extend River path Del Mar. Part of the funding for the $475,000 project comes from a county grant that must be spent by September. Courtesy rendering
The Del Mar City Council approves a use permit to move forward with a plan that will extend River path Del Mar. Part of the funding for the $475,000 project comes from a county grant that must be spent by September. Courtesy rendering
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Council OKs path extension permit

DEL MAR — With a deadline to spend a county grant only three months away, Del Mar council members at the June 1 meeting certified an environmental study and approved a conditional use permit for the River Path Del Mar extension.

The 2,965-foot addition will advance an existing path east from Jimmy Durante Boulevard to the Old Grand Avenue Bridge viewpoint and bring the scenic loop trail one step closer to a future connection at the Crest Canyon segment.

It is located between San Dieguito Drive and the lagoon and is part of one segment of a seven-mile hiking trail around the city’s perimeter.

A joint project between the city and the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy, the extension is estimated to cost $475,000.

So far $286,500 has been raised. That amount includes a $150,000 grant from the Neighborhood Reinvestment Program facilitated by County Supervisor Dave Roberts that must be spent by September.

Other funding includes $73,000 in private donations received by the conservancy, $7,000 from REI, $1,500 from the California 10/20 Race and $20,000 from the William Hall Tippett and Ruth Rathell Tippett Foundation.

Another $35,000 received from the city includes a $5,000 grant from the Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley.

The project will include two overlooks, two picnic areas, limited fencing and signage, the replanting of about one-third of an acre of coastal sage scrub and the removal of several eucalyptus and palm trees.

Joseph Smith, senior planner, said the extension implements provisions of the community plan and meets most of the criteria of the San Dieguito Lagoon Enhancement Plan, a 1979 document the city adopted to manage the lagoon.

The project crosses 15 parcels east of Jimmy Durante, about half of which are privately owned.

Deborah Rosenthal, a land use attorney representing one property owner, said her clients are not opposed to the trail but feel they are being asked to “foot a fair proportion of the land costs.”

She said Philip and Deborah Wyatt, who own a parcel in the center of the project, received a letter from the city asking them to donate their land in exchange for a tax deduction.

“The Wyatts are sorry to tell you they are not in a position to need a tax deduction,” Rosenthal said, adding that her clients met with staff members and offered to sell or exchange the property or work on development rights.

“The city was very friendly but no offer of any kind was ever received,” she said.

She said the Wyatts would like the city to put up fencing to distinguish on the ground that theirs is private property.

They would prefer the city purchase the property, “which probably should have been done years ago,” Rosenthal said, or at a minimum honor the community plan, which promises that private property owners would not be deprived of their property without compensation.

Councilman Don Mosier asked why they feel compensation is required since the trail won’t be on their property.

Rosenthal said the trail will “completely encircle the property,” deprive access, make “it virtually impossible for them ever to use the property” and bring additional pedestrians to the area.

Mosier said the trail extension will stop people who have been crossing the parcel for years from doing so.

“Doesn’t that seem like an improvement to you?” he asked. “I think you’re rewriting history. I’ve been through this whole process so I appreciate your comments but it’d be nice if (they) were factual.”

“I would respectfully say the same thing to the city’s description that this is not being treated as public property,” Rosenthal added.

Councilman Dwight Worden, a former land use attorney, said he was “very comfortable that a trail that doesn’t go on their property is not imposing on their rights.”

“I understand their feeling that it’s around them and perhaps encouraging public uses, but I don’t think any of that is something that we need to worry about,” he said. “But I would hope that at some point the city and the Wyatts can get together and either agree on an easement with some controlled fencing … or to come to some arrangement where we’re all on the same page.”

The lagoon committee had asked the city to eliminate two proposed parking spaces along San Dieguito. However, council agreed to add them.

They will be located about midway in the project area, near the picnic tables, and time limited.

Jon Terwilliger, senior management analyst, said there were requests from residents to add the spaces to allow for loading and unloading.

Proposed trash cans will be located nearby rather than within the project area.

Worden said his only concern is closing the $188,500 funding gap.

“I like the project,” he said. “We’re kind of committed to finishing funding. … If the rest of the money doesn’t fall in our lap it’s going to come to us (the city).”

“There’s a lot of momentum for doing the fundraising to close that gap,” City Manager Scott Huth said. “When we bring the final bid award to you we’ll have to close that gap or we’ll have to phase it.”

Huth suggested letting “it stew between now and September.”

Terwilliger said fundraisers are looking at various options, including asking the county for additional grant money.