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Del Mar meeting addresses impacts of bluff-top resort

DEL MAR — About 45 people attended an Oct. 11 scoping meeting held to garner public input on what should be studied in an environmental impact report for a proposed bluff-top resort in Del Mar.

But it was mostly Solana Beach residents who weighed in, saying their city will be more impacted.

“Inconveniences that go with a project like this are going to fall on our community, not Del Mar,” Jan Shields said.

“The revenue is going to be gained by Del Mar,” Carol Bohl said. “We’re going to deal with the impacts. … There’s an inequity there.”

Brian Cooke said having the entrance to the proposed Del Mar Resort in a residential neighborhood will worsen traffic on the already busy roadways.

“Sierra Avenue … is already a parking lot during the summer so I’m not sure how they’re going to mitigate that — whether it’s a decrease in units or some magical engineering,” he said.

Addressing other environmental issues that should be studied, Cooke had concerns about aesthetics and the bluffs.

“It’s not a four-story area,” he said. “It’s a two-story area. It’s not a modern design. It’s kind of a timeless design. We need something that actually blends in with the site. That’s going to be increased setbacks, lower height, more timeless design.”

Jim Jaffee, a Solana Beach resident and member of the San Diego Surfrider Foundation, said a proposed 40-foot setback from the bluffs is an arbitrary number and may not be adequate to protect the development, lateral bluff-top access or both.

“Let science tell you what that number should be,” he said, adding that the project “in no way should ever require coastal armoring” such as a sea wall or other bluff retention devices.

Lateral public access should be preserved and vertical public access via a low-impact relocatable stairway on the north boundary at Border Avenue should be considered, Jaffee added.

Encinitas-based Zephyr Partners and Robert Green Company are planning a resort complex with buildings that range from one to four stories on a 16.5-acre site that for nearly a century has prohibited public access because it is a gated residential area.

Located on the southwest corner of the Via de la Valle and Camino del Mar intersection, the development will include approximately 290 hotel rooms and 86 residential units, as well as typical resort amenities such as a restaurant and meeting and banquet rooms.

A low-cost visitor lodge, with rates regulated by the California Coastal Commission, affordable workforce housing, visitor-serving and public parking and public trails are also proposed.

Access will be from the north off Border Avenue where it turns into South Sierra Avenue.

In addition to the scoping meeting, the developers have held three public workshops, only one of which was required, to garner public input.

“All of this is going to be taken into account in our final design,” Green said. “We’re still very early in the process. … We have a long way to go in this process and we need to hear from everybody.

“That’s what we’ve been doing for many months now,” he added. “The purpose of these analyses is to study the realities.”

For example, Green said, his team used the existing tree lines as if they were story poles to assess views. They electronically removed the trees and superimposed a preliminary massing model with the hotel and it was actually lower than the existing trees, Green said.

Not everyone attending the meeting opposed the project.

“I used to climb over grassy sand dunes to get up that bluff and look at a fence that I wasn’t allowed to go into,” Jack Jaeger, a longtime Del Mar resident, said. “I really am looking forward to access to that property after almost 60 years.

“I think it is an incredible benefit to both communities, and I think it is very naïve to think the burden’s going to fall on one community more than another,” he added.

“We’ve got this great public process,” Bob Sexton said. “Let’s go through it. I can absolutely appreciate the issues with regard to the density. There is a due process for that.

“I think that that has been a … long-term eyesore there and an underutilized asset,” he added. “Let’s see what these folks have to bring to increase and upgrade our community and our values.”

Green said the project will provide many positive impacts to the area, including jobs and customers for retail businesses and restaurants.

“We want to hear what people have to say,” Green added. “We’ll continue to gather information. The objective is to go away from all of this interaction and work with our design team and make it the best project it can be, taking everybody’s concerns into account.”

Public comments on what should be studied in the draft EIR, which will be released in spring 2018, must be submitted in writing by Oct. 30 to [email protected] or to Matt Bator, Senior Planner, 1050 Camino del Mar, Del Mar, 92014.

“This is not a public hearing (to comment on the overall project) but we do want to hear what you have to say,” Bator said. “There are going to be a lot of opportunities … to gain more information and actually voice your concerns and comments.”