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Del Mar City Hall
The city hopes to finalize negotiations with referendum proponents by April 19. Photo by Dan Brendel
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Del Mar appears to avoid possible special election, negotiations continue

DEL MAR — While an agreement with the proponents of a referendum is not yet finalized, the city of Del Mar may have avoided a special election involving a key ordinance to the city’s 5th Cycle Housing Element.

The subject of negotiations, Ordinance 973, was approved by the council in October of 2020. The city later received notice of a certified referendum, led by resident Arnold Wiesel, calling for its repeal.

Since then the city has worked with referendum proponents to avoid a special election.

The ordinance established 20 dwelling units per acre within the city’s North Commercial Zone on Jimmy Durante Boulevard at San Dieguito Drive for low-income housing.

Proponents previously provided a list of requests to the city that would make them feel comfortable withdrawing the referendum. The city has considered those requests and while working with legal counsel on both sides has drafted an agreement with the proponents.

The city hopes to finalize the agreement by April 19.

“We don’t have the same urgency or time constraints that we previously did so if we were to put this over to the next council meeting, I think that would be fine,” said Barry Schultz, assistant city attorney for Del Mar.

The last remaining hurdle in negotiations appears to be regarding a wildfire evacuation plan for the Canyon Crest area of Del Mar. The problem is that some of that area is out of Del Mar’s jurisdiction instead of residing within the city of San Diego.

“So we will need to collaborate with the city of San Diego on an evacuation plan,” City Manager Ashley Jones said. “The other issue to consider is we share our fire management staff with two other cities. So there is also a capacity issue.”

Del Mar is able to commit to a series of community meetings by the end of June while also working “very diligently” to produce a plan in no later than 12 months.

“We hope to give it the attention and time it needs to get it done sooner, but given all the factors I would not feel comfortable committing to having that plan done in sooner than 12 months,” Jones said.

The proponents recently requested the plan be finalized inside of six months but the city is unwilling to commit to that timeframe and continues to be in communication with the proponents on this issue.

Negotiations with the proponents will continue but the optimism among the council and their legal representation was clear in the hopes all of the final obstacles would be dealt with for the referendum to be ultimately withdrawn and avoid a special election that could cost $100,000 and $175,000, according to the city.

A version of the withdrawal agreement was presented to the council Monday night but revisions will still be made as communications on both sides continue.

“I think we really are squeaky close and it’s nice to have gotten to this point,” Mayor Terry Gaasterland said.

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