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A Coaster train passing through Del Mar Heights in San Diego County. Stock photo
A Coaster train passing through Del Mar Heights in San Diego County. Stock photo
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Del Mar council defers proposal for rail task force

DEL MAR — A proposal to form a residents task force to monitor plans related to the LOSSAN rail realignment project was stopped in its tracks on Monday by a City Council majority, who suggested that the concept be brought back sometime in the future.

Del Mar Mayor Dave Druker and Councilmember Terry Gaasterland, both members of the City Council’s rail subcommittee, proposed the task force and recommended they serve as chairs for a seven-person group to review the environmental studies for SANDAG’s planned rail realignment project.

In just over a month, the agency will kick off the environmental review process for the project with a notice of preparation, opening a 30-day window for stakeholders and the public to provide comments about what alignment alternatives to advance to an environmental review and highlight environmental concerns that should be studied. 

Gaasterland and Druker proposed forming the task force in time for its members to review the notice of preparation and provide feedback to help inform the city’s official response to SANDAG.

“Initially, this task force will be looking at the notice of preparation. Specifically, what this task force will be doing is making sure that all of the concerns that residents of Del Mar have are being addressed,” Druker said. 

Other council members raised a host of concerns related to the task force, ranging from excluding certain voices and potential Brown Act issues to it just not being necessary.

A map of potential railway alignments and tunnel openings in Del Mar that have been studied thus far. Courtesy SANDAG
A map of potential railway alignments and tunnel openings in Del Mar that have been studied thus far. Courtesy SANDAG

Council members Dwight Worden, Tracy Martinez and Dan Quirk said they believe it is better for these conversations to take place at regular council meetings, where everyone can be included.

“Here, at City Council, this is the best venue for everyone to come and share their positions and their thoughts publicly. This is where the process should take place,” Quirk said. 

Worden also expressed concerns about the suggestion to include two members of the City of San Diego’s Torrey Pines Planning Group in the task force, stating that this takes away from the group’s purpose to represent the people of Del Mar. 

Other council members said there is the risk of a majority of task force members speaking with each other about the notice of preparation outside of their meetings, which could violate the Brown Act and the potential for some council members not to be included. 

“It’s unnecessary. We are fully capable of doing this here at council, with the five of us,” Worden said.

Gaasterland expressed her frustration with the lack of support from her fellow council members and noted that several residents had requested a task force to address the rail realignment.

“We can dissolve the task force the very next day if that is the council’s wish, or maybe nobody will apply and then we’ll have no application. But I think we are doing a disservice to our community, not to give the people of the community the opportunity to apply for this task force. I think we’re doing them a terrible wrong,” Gaasterland said. 

Other council members said they are open to creating the task force at a later stage of the rail realignment environmental review process, which is expected to last until at least 2026

Because three of the five council members had stated their opposition to the proposed task force, Gaasterland did not make a motion for the council to formally vote on the item.

Regarding the review period for the notice of preparation, Del Mar officials said they will be asking SANDAG for an additional 15 days to form a response. 

Gaasterland also proposed a resolution that she said would memorialize the city’s list of guiding principles for the rail project, which the council adopted in the fall. The council approved the resolution in a 4-1 vote, with Quirk opposed, after agreeing on substantial changes to the language.

This included removing a statement asking SANDAG to include a specific rail realignment (one running under the San Dieguito Lagoon to Interstate 5) in its environmental review and expressing other concerns related to the rail project. 

Druker said many of these concerns are already expressed in the guiding principles and don’t need to be repeated. 

Quirk, who has been vocally opposed to SANDAG’s planned realignment project, voted against the resolution because the guiding principles do not represent the opinions of all Del Mar residents. 

SANDAG is considering multiple realignments to move a portion of the tracks off the fragile Del Mar bluffs and into tunnels beneath the city by 2035. Officials are seeking billions of dollars in funding to make it a reality.

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