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Del Mar to see sizable increase in housing allocations

DEL MAR — As San Diego county moves to finalize its countywide distribution of state-mandated housing units, Del Mar is likely to receive 163 units in the upcoming housing cycle.

The allocation for the 2021-2029 housing cycle is almost three times what the nearly built-out city was allocated for its current cycle.

At a Sept. 6 San Diego Association of Governments meeting, representatives from the county’s 19 jurisdictions voted to approve a methodology that essentially solidifies the distribution of housing units in the county for the next nine-year housing cycle. The state apportioned 171,685 housing units to San Diego based on its regional housing needs assessment (RHNA).

The methodology was opposed by most of the region’s small cities — except for Del Mar, by far the smallest of the bunch.

Del Mar Councilwoman Ellie Haviland, who represents Del Mar on the SANDAG board and voted in favor of the methodology, said it aligns with Del Mar’s goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the county’s transportation system.

“If we don’t change the way we think about housing, then we are not going to make the changes we need to get people out of these crushing commutes, improve our environment and have better living standards for future generations … we have to start somewhere,” she said at the meeting.

Haviland told The Coast News that approving the methodology is consistent with the city’s support of SANDAG’s “5 Big Moves” — a multi-faceted plan to help improve San Diego’s traffic and transit woes.

Several officials from Del Mar and Solana Beach spoke out at the Sept. 6 meeting against the methodology, which substantially increases the number of units allocated to the region’s smallest cities. They were joined by countless residents from Coronado, Imperial Beach and Lemon Grove.

“(The seven smallest SANDAG cities) received 8% of the RHNA allocation; but have less than 2% of the habitable land area,” said Del Mar City Councilwoman Terry Gaasterland.

The methodology meted units based on a 65% weight on job density and a 35% weight on the presence of major transit stops and rail and rapid stations. It also took into account equity, in an attempt to bring more low-income units to wealthier areas and vice versa. The equity adjustment is particularly salient in a city like Del Mar, in which above moderate housing represents 65.5% of its housing stock.

Since the methodology was unveiled, a number of residents and local officials have pointed out that a large quantity of Del Mar’s jobs are held by seasonal workers at the state-owned Del Mar Fairgrounds who don’t actually live in the city — a fact that might skew the intentions of the methodology.

“Surprisingly, the 4,400 jobs allocated to the city of Del Mar exceeds the city’s total population of 4,200,” wrote active Del Mar resident Laura DeMarco, in a public comment submitted to SANDAG. “How can this be when the city’s small commercial corridor is stagnant, and the population has shrunk since the last census?”

Solana Beach Mayor Dave Zito proposed a motion which would have adjusted the methodology to reduce the impact on smaller cities.

Imperial Beach and Del Mar both voted against the ordinance, which lost by a small margin — nine jurisdictions voted in favor of the motion, 10 against.

The motion proposed that the county’s five smallest cities — Imperial Beach, Lemon Grove, Coronado, Solana Beach and Del Mar — have their allocations reduced by 55% and that those units be redistributed to jurisdictions that have had their allocations reduced since the state’s previous housing cycle.

When asked why she voted against the motion, Haviland said it was “never really a valid option.”

Haviland pointed out that without the support of San Diego – which can call for a weighted voted based on its population – the motion would not have passed.

And further, she said it’s likely the Department of Housing Community and Development would not have approved it. The Department must ultimately approve the methodology.

“We already had feedback that it was going to be a problem for them,” she said.

Del Mar was allocated 61 units in its previous housing cycle, of which it was able to build 33. The city currently has zero low-income or very-low-income units — largely due to the astronomical costs of coastal property in the city.

The city has started looking to the Del Mar Fairgrounds in the hopes of finding creative solutions to its housing shortage. Haviland said working with the property’s governing board will be an important step for Del Mar to be able to “hit the ultimate target we need to meet.”

“We have two interested and willing parties, and a lot of ideas out there we’ve been talking about, we just need to get them moved along,” she said.

Although the property is governed by a state agency, it falls within Del Mar’s jurisdiction and was included in calculating the city’s housing allocation.

With the SANDAG methodology on its way to the Department of Housing Community and Development for approval, jurisdictions will have until April 2021 to complete their housing elements and get them certified by the state.