DEL MAR — After weeks of planning and negotiations it appears there is still a chance a referendum could be on the ballot in Del Mar in November 2022 related to a housing ordinance passed last October, although the city is working to avoid that outcome.
Last year the City Council passed Ordinance 973 related to Del Mar’s 5th Cycle Housing Element Program 2E and amendments to zoning ordinances in the city’s north commercial zone. In January, a referendum was accepted by the city after it was submitted by resident Arnold Wiesel.
Since then, the city has been working with the proponents of the referendum to come to an agreement and avoid a vote on the ordinance at the next election. A draft agreement has been in front of both parties for several weeks, but neither side is ready to sign.
“I don’t think we can sign anything tonight. We’re still negotiating, and I think there is a bunch of work that we still have to do,” Councilmember Dave Drucker said at Del Mar’s most recent council meeting.
The last sticking points are related to a wildfire evacuation plan to the area around Crest Canyon that is between two jurisdictions, the city of Del Mar and the city of San Diego, and that the city consider making the private part of San Dieguito Drive into a public street.
Ashley Jones, Del Mar’s interim city manager, reported at the council meeting that the Del Mar fire chief has been in contact with the city of San Diego and there is interest in working jointly on a wildfire plan.
Mayor Terry Gaasterland and Druker have met with the residents of the private stretch of San Dieguito Drive and say they have had good conversations regarding that sticking point as well.
However, the city is concerned that the referendum proponents might still not agree to withdraw the referendum despite the work the city is prepared to begin with regard to the fire plan and with San Dieguito Drive.
“If there is no assurance that the referendum is going to be withdrawn at the end of this effort, I think that is something that the council needs to consider and give direction to staff on,” Jones said.
If the referendum is not withdrawn, it now appears that the city is comfortable allowing it to continue onto the ballot in November 2022. That would cost the city only $10,000, much less than the cost to hold a special election.
“It really doesn’t work for me for them to hold off on agreeing to withdraw the referendum until after the fire plan is done,” Deputy Mayor Dwight Worden said. “If they’re not OK with doing that, then I’m OK with not doing the agreement.”
Worden says he feels comfortable in doing that because the belief now is the city is not in danger of having their 5th Cycle Housing Element de-certified by the California Department of Housing and Community Development, as was the initial fear.
“I don’t feel pressure to make the deal in that sense,” Worden said, while also saying he supports everything in the current draft agreement.
The entire council in fact reiterated that many of the points in the draft agreement, such as regulations on short-term rentals, are things the city should be focusing on regardless of the referendum situation.
“We are all firmly committed to seeing all these things considered for the good of Del Mar,” Gaasterland said.