DEL MAR — The Del Mar City Council remains optimistic about building housing units at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, but a three-year clock to strike a deal with the state fair board starts ticking next month.
In October of 2020, the city sent a formal letter to the 22nd District Agricultural Association, the state body operating the fairgrounds, requesting to build at least 51 affordable housing units on the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
Since then, discussions between the city and fairgrounds have been ongoing, with the 22nd DAA working on strategic planning for the proposal. However, a timeline for anything more substantial remains unknown.
“Every time we ask that question we don’t get a direct answer,” Mayor Terry Gaasterland told The Coast News. “I think the reason is they want to take the time needed to do the strategic planning well.”
The Del Mar City Council plans to fully approve its housing element on Dec. 13, which begins a three-year deadline for the city to reach an agreement with the 22nd DAA on housing at the fairgrounds before submitting a firm plan to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).
“That three-year period is statutory,” Gaasterland said.
Getting a plan in place for the fairgrounds site is critical for city leaders, who would like to avoid an upzoning action on one of two sites — both of which rest upon the Del Mar bluffs. If a plan is not finalized within the three-year window, the city must upzone one of the two bluff sites for high-density affordable units.
“With our housing element, we have to show (HCD) that we can do it,” Gaasterland said.
In the meantime, the city is doing all it can to prepare for housing to be constructed on the fairgrounds property.
The council was prepared this Monday night to approve the contracts of both Stephen Dalton Architects, an architectural firm operated by Encinitas Planning Commissioner Steve Dalton, and Keyser Marston Associates, a financial analysis firm, to begin developing plans for a 54-unit complex on the fairgrounds site.
A power outage caused the city’s virtual council meeting to be adjourned before that action could be taken but the meeting is scheduled to continue Friday morning.
Gaasterland remains confident that a plan for the fairgrounds site will be finalized, avoiding the upzoning on the bluffs, but she says she will begin to get anxious relatively soon.
“The day after the housing element is approved,” Gaasterland said. “We’re getting ready to be anxious on December 14. This is of the utmost importance to Del Mar. We want to build this housing and we see a path to building the housing.”