DEL MAR — Del Mar officials submitted the city’s revised 6th Cycle Housing Element for state approval for what they hope is the last time on April 3, after years of contentious back and forth with state housing officials and repeated revisions.
The California Department of Housing and Community Development, or HCD, has yet to find Del Mar’s 6th Cycle Housing Element in compliance since the city first submitted it in March of 2021.
Officials last submitted a revised version in November of 2022, and while they hoped it would be the last time, they received a letter with another round of requested revisions from HCD in January. The city’s most recent revision and submittal on Monday marks the fourth time the city has gone through this process.
At the City Council’s April 3 meeting, Del Mar Principal Planner Amanda Lee said she is very optimistic that the city has now addressed all concerns raised by the state housing agency.
“I think they’d like to be done with us, and we’re hoping that’s the case,” Lee joked. “We’ve been closely coordinating with them, so we feel like we have covered every little bit in these letters.”
In a January letter, HCD instructed the city to reformat data for certain programs, clarify their public outreach records, provide more detail regarding their action plans, and reaffirm their commitment to affirmatively further fair housing.
Del Mar is obligated under the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) to build 101 units for households earning between 30% and 80% of the area median income by 2029, along with a 12-unit requirement that went unmet during the previous housing cycle.
However, HCD instructed the city to add a goal to create 100 housing opportunities for median-income, lower-income and special needs households, in addition to the existing RHNA goals.
Lee said that the housing element thankfully already outlines programs to meet this requirement.
“The good news is that goal is substantially consistent with our prior adopted housing element and does not require the creation of new programs or new upzoning actions,” she said.
Councilmember Dwight Worden said this requirement did not sit well with him but that he can accept it since the city has already created plans for additional units and would not have to create new programs or projects.
“My first reaction was, ‘What’s the legal basis for that? Where do they get off doing that?’” said Worden. “The whole concept of the RHNA process is, this is our fair share allocation.”
HCD also requested more specific metrics and numeric targets related to increasing lower-income housing opportunities, especially in housing element programs related to the central commercial zone, accessory dwelling units, interfaith partnerships, senior housing and student housing.
Lee said the document has been revised to state that the city will contact nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity to solicit interest for potential partnerships on housing projects at city-owned lots on 10th and 28th streets.
Council members did not hide their frustration with the years of back-and-forth with HCD but expressed their readiness to move forward.
“This is arguably the most important issue for every city in the state, so it’s important that we get it right,” said Councilmember Dan Quirk. “There’s gonna be things we don’t like, but sometimes when you’ve got a gun to your head, you just have to do things and move forward.”
HCD now has 60 days to respond in writing to the city’s re-adopted housing element, city officials said.
The element was also revised to say that if the city cannot secure a binding agreement with the Del Mar Fairgrounds to develop 61 lower-income units by the state-imposed deadline of June 2024, they will pursue alternative strategies.
One backup location is the 929 Border Ave property at the city’s North Bluff just north of Del Mar Dog Beach. At their upcoming April 17 meeting, the City Council will discuss a “final map approval and public improvement agreement” for the property, according to an agenda.
However, a developer is also moving ahead with plans to construct a 259-unit mixed-income housing development at the site. The Seaside Ridge project was first proposed in October, with a more thorough application, including project renderings, submitted this week.
Project plans describe 85 affordable units, including 42 units designated as low- to extremely low-income. Developers are determined to push the project through, submitting it through the state’s by-right process and insisting that the city is obligated to accept it due to its out-of-compliance housing element — an argument the city disagrees with.
“We hope that the city will continue to advance this worthy project – which it must do under state law – so that it can do its part to help alleviate our region’s affordable housing crisis,” said project spokesman Darren Pudgil.
Another project, the 50-unit Watermark development planned for the corner of Jimmy Durante Boulevard and San Dieguito Drive, was approved by the city in April 2021 but then appealed by residents to the California Coastal Commission.
Lee said the Coastal Commission might hold a hearing regarding the appeal in the summer, although no dates have been confirmed. Ten of the proposed 50 units would be restricted to lower-income residents.