The Coast News Group
Arnold Wiesel, far right, holds a neighborhood meeting earlier this year in front of his house to share his plans about Measure R, a failed initiative in the Nov. 8 election that would have allowed residents to vote on certain large developments. File photo by Bianca Kaplanek
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Measure R creator ‘not bitter’ about failed initiative

DEL MAR — Despite the defeat of Measure R in the Nov. 8 election, Arnold Wiesel said he has no hard feelings.

“In retrospect I’m not bitter,” said Wiesel, who led the effort to place the initiative on the ballot. “The bottom line is it was a very close vote. … I’m surprised it was even as close as it was.”

The measure asked if voter approval should be required for any proposed development in a commercial zone that is 25,000 square feet or larger that allows a density bonus or requires a specific plan, a zoning code change or an increase in the building height limit, floor area ratio or lot coverage.

Although the initiative didn’t specifically target Watermark Del Mar, the 48-unit multifamily complex slated for the corner of Jimmy Durante Boulevard and San Dieguito Drive prompted its creation.

Nearby residents, including Wiesel, said they support a project on the 2.3-acre vacant lot, which is currently zoned commercial.

Opponents said the measure was poorly worded, possibly conflicted with existing codes and could result in lawsuits.

“I am an enthusiastic supporter of the right to vote on major changes in Del Mar,” resident Bud Emerson said at an October community forum. “R is a reach too far. It creates a lot of unintended consequences.

“It is likely to end up in court and there are situations where the court ends up mandating decisions for our city,” he added. “We don’t need that.”

The initiative failed by 75 votes in a city with about 2,860 registered voters.

“We all get over that,” Wiesel said. “The loss in itself actually was maybe just one small step in the process to achieve the ultimate goal, which is to have the community have a right to vote as to whether a Community Plan change can occur or not with regard to a specific development of a certain size.

“When I reflect on it we kind of feel like we really are moving forward,” he added. “This is a work in progress. And at the end of the day, who cares if it was our initiative or a city initiative? As long as the community has the right to vote before a Community Plan change I think that’s the ultimate victory for everybody.”

Based on conversations with attorneys who crafted a similar law in Encinitas, Wiesel said he disagrees with claims that his initiative would have prompted lawsuits.

“They (opponents) continuously stated that Measure R is very similar to Measure A in Encinitas that resulted in about $1 million in litigation,” Wiesel said. “That was, I think, what caused people to fear the potential cost of litigation and not trust this particular initiative the way it was written.

“It unsettled the public here,” he added. “We have people who care in this city and when they hear things like that they back off because they get scared. Although they wanted the right to vote they were fearful they were going to bring down their own community.”

Wiesel said he believes the city could put together a similar proposition, with at least one newly elected council member likely to keep the conversation going.

Dave Druker is the only one of the six candidates who ran for office who supported Measure R.

“City Council said very strongly that they are for the community to have a right to vote, but they’d like to have it based on an initiative that would seem to have less impact where it might cause litigation,” Wiesel said.

“Our City Council is making overtures to move forward and do the right to vote I think at the end of the day that’s all that matters,” he added. This is a win-win for everybody. The fact that Measure R didn’t pass, in retrospect, it will probably be immaterial because the ultimate goal seems like it’s going to be achieved.”