The Coast News Group
Watermark Del Mar. Council members agreed the highest-priority benefit should be affordable housing, which is included in the pending applications for Watermark Del Mar, Del Mar Resort and a mixed-use “residential hospitality” complex. Courtesy rendering
CommunityDel Mar

Design board prefers 38-unit Watermark

DEL MAR — Asked to select a preferred option and provide preliminary input, the Design Review Board favored a reduced-unit version of Watermark Del Mar but said the multifamily complex proposed for the southeast corner of Jimmy Durante Boulevard and San Dieguito Drive still seems too tall and dense.

However, most members said they would reserve final judgment until story poles are installed on the 2.3-acre site.

In response to community feedback provided since the project was introduced in 2013, the developers created two options.

One includes 48 units, seven of which would be affordable. Four of those would be deeded at no cost to a nonprofit benefit corporation in perpetuity. All would help Del Mar meet a requirement of its state-approved housing element.

A 38-unit version, with more guest parking and trees, features six affordable units, with three gifted. Unlike the larger proposal, which meets the housing element goal of 20 to 25 units per acre with 20.24 units, the smaller project provides “substantial compliance to the goal” with 16.1 units per acre.

Both options include studios and one-, two- and three-bedroom townhomes and flats and will feature amenities such as a pool, a spa and a recreation area, access from San Dieguito into a parking garage and power line undergrounding.

Additionally, five of 13 Torrey pine trees will be relocated onsite and two will be replaced.

Many of the nine residents who spoke said Watermark doesn’t comply with the design review ordinance and would worsen traffic and parking in the area.

They said the colors, materials and overall design was incompatible with the surrounding neighborhoods.

Tracy Martinez said the city has committees such as the Design Review Board “to preserve the community in which we live … and protect property values, natural environment, primary scenic views and the aesthetics of the community.”

“That is your purpose and I think this violates that,” she said, adding that she believes Watermark will depreciate neighborhood values by creating a nuisance and an unreasonable invasion of privacy.

Martinez also said the project is inconsistent with the community plan, fails to separate structures to avoid crowding and doesn’t functionally use open space between buildings.

Bud Emerson, one of two speakers who supported the development, disagreed.

“I want you guys to look at this project with two eyes,” he said to DRB members. “One is that larger frame of what our community’s legal obligation is — and moral obligation — but then also the character. It doesn’t look like an apartment complex. It looks like a nice neighborhood.

“Every city has to provide more housing at all income levels,” Emerson added.

“This Watermark project has virtually nothing to do with affordable housing,” Arnold Wiesel said. “It’s a red herring. It’s about developer maximization of building.”

Don Glatthorn, vice president of Kitchell Corp., which is part of the development team, said he understands the residents’ concerns.

“I care about your quality of life,” he said. “We have worked hard to try to meet the goals of the housing element, or at least get close to substantial conformance.

“It makes me bristle a little bit to hear about tract houses and bad design and bad materials and colors,” Glatthorn added. “We’re going to spend a ton of extra money on this site to try to do it right. I’ve lived here for 37 years. …  I don’t want anybody driving by that site saying those guys screwed that up and did it on the cheap.”

He said Watermark will generate less traffic than a commercial development, which is currently approved for the site.

In response to comments about community plan inconsistencies, Glatthorn said the housing element is part of that document. He also said there is a 40-foot gap in the center of the project. Additionally, it will not generate excessive amounts of noise, light and glare.

“It will not ruin anyone’s life,” he added. “If this gets approved, you have my word it will be done right.”

The presentation and discussion were informational only. The board was not scheduled to take action. Members will weigh in formally at a future meeting.