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Arnold Wiesel, right, who organized the meeting, greets Councilman Al Corti. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
Arnold Wiesel, right, who organized the meeting, greets Councilman Al Corti. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
Featured Rancho Santa Fe

Some residents oppose Watermark

DEL MAR — As a proposal for a 54-unit housing complex on the corner of Jimmy Durante Boulevard and San Dieguito Road begins the permitting process, about three dozen people mostly opposed to the plan gathered Nov. 7 to discuss the project, although some attendees didn’t know where it would be built. 

The meeting was organized by Arnold Wiesel, who lives about 300 feet from the 2.3-acre vacant lot. Wiesel made an announcement at the Nov. 4 City Council meeting and mailed a flier the same week.

Given the short notice, he said he was pleased with the turnout.

San Dieguito Land Partners LLC is proposing to build 54 one- to four-bedroom apartments and townhomes in a development called Watermark Del Mar.

The one- and two-story units will range in size from about 650 square feet to 2,800 square feet.

Most of the proposed units will be sold. However, the project will include seven affordable rental units, four of which will be deeded at no cost to Del Mar Community Connections.

The remaining three will be owned by the developer and deemed affordable for 30 years.

The affordable component will have one studio apartment, three one-bedrooms and three two-bedrooms. Three will be available to those who make less than $40,000 annually, with rents from $1,100 to $1,500 monthly.

Four will be available to those who make between $60,000 and $85,000 annually, with rents from $1,600 to $1,900 monthly.

“So why do we want those people?” resident Sandra Goldberg asked.

The city is required by law to identify sites for 22 affordable units for those who fall in the low- or very-low income category.

According to a graphic presented during a July open house at Powerhouse Community Center, when the project was introduced to the public, tenants who would qualify for an affordable unit include police officers, firefighters, sanitation drivers and public school teachers whose annual salaries range from $37,000 to $73,000.

Wiesel said according to his research, people in those professions make more than that and wouldn’t qualify for the proposed units. Some attendees agreed.

“Teachers and firefighters make good salaries,” former Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, a Del Mar resident, said, adding that not all city housing options are unaffordable.

“We have people who build surfboards and ride skateboards and work at Jake’s who rent here,” she said. “Don’t tell me we’re a bunch of people who ride limos because that’s not true.”

A web search revealed firefighters in Carlsbad and Oceanside make between $23,500 and $66,800 annually. The salary range for teachers in San Diego Unified School District is between $40,000 and $82,000 a year.

Teachers in Carlsbad and San Dieguito school districts make an average of about $56,000 to $57,000 annually.

Resident Julie Korsmeyer suggested the group focus on the size and density of the proposed complex.

“We don’t want to be the ones that are against affordable housing,” she said. “It was genius of them to throw that in to dazzle the City Council but (the development is) not compatible to the community.”

Before anything happens the property must be rezoned from commercial/office to residential. The city also has to create a zone density that will allow 20 to 25 units per acre.

Wiesel urged attendees to sign a petition opposing the relaxation of any development standards.

“This entry should reflect the values set out in our Community Plan, Municipal Code and Local Coastal Program,” the petition states.

By signing, residents would agree they “do not support allowing high density residential at this location.”

The developers indicated at the July open house that a permit application would be filed in August, however, it was not submitted until late October.

Planning Manager Adam Birnbaum said it was incomplete, and a letter outlining the required information is being sent to San Dieguito Land Partners.

“The review process is just getting under way,” Birnbaum said. “They want to use the specific plan process.”

A specific plan addresses a single project in a defined geographic area and contains concrete standards and development criteria that supplement those of a general plan.

“That’s what will destroy what we love,” Wiesel said. “It’s a way to give away land and have power, too much power. … The city gives up discretionary review.”

Wiesel also said the developer paid “thousands of dollars to get this on a fast track.”

Birnbaum said a specific plan would create a new set of zoning rules that would “enable the community to more clearly spell out development parameters.”

He said the plans will still be subject to review by the Planning Department, Planning Commission, Design Review Board and City Council. The project will also require an environmental impact report.

Birnbaum also said the application is not being “fast-tracked.”

Council members Al Corti and Sherryl Parks attended the meeting. Parks said many of the facts were misrepresented and some accusations made against the council were “abusive.”

“This is my town, too,” she said. “I don’t intend to ruin it.”

Not everyone who attended the meeting opposes the project. “I think it should be smaller but I support it,” longtime resident Tensia Trejo said.

A commercial project known as the Riverview Office Complex was approved for the site in 2008 by the Planning Commission and Design Review Board but the owner decided not to move forward.

Birnbaum said the design review permit is still valid but the conditional use permit expired.