DEL MAR — Developers of a mixed-use project on Camino Del Mar can proceed with pursuing permits and beginning construction after the Del Mar City Council ratified development and regulatory housing agreements for the project this week.
The planned project at 941 Camino Del Mar, a blighted vacant lot that formerly housed a gas station, involves a two-story development including eight residential units, with two to be set aside as low-income units and over 4,000 square feet of commercial space.
An overhaul of the site has been in the works for over a decade. A specific plan for the development was approved by local voters in 2018, replacing a previous 2008 specific plan for a project called Garden Del Mar on the property that never came to fruition.
Many residents implored the City Council to adopt the agreements at its July 25 meeting and finally set the project into motion, after concerns about affordable housing requirements led the council to table the issue on July 11.
“We have lived here long enough to remember the old gas station that once sat on this lot, and then its demolition, and then the long and circuitous route to finally building something on the site,” wrote resident Anne Farrell. “It is time for this project to move forward.”
The project will be the first of its kind in Del Mar, with applicant Kitchell Development agreeing to implement “exceptional public benefits” in the city’s downtown area as a condition of developing the project outside of usual building standards.
These benefits, outlined in a 10-year development agreement with the city, include around $137,000 in total contributions to help fund the city’s streetscape plan, Safe Railroad Crossing and Coastal Rail Trail projects, public art, speed limit radar signs, a future city shuttle system and the Shores Park Master Plan project.
Kitchell will also collect transient occupancy tax for any residential hospitality uses of the non-affordable residential units, according to the development agreement.
Don Glatthorn, vice president of Kitchell, said they have had interest from some potential commercial tenants, but that they are not ready to confirm any until after construction begins, with permits still to be obtained in the meantime. The changing economic landscape has made it hard to accurately estimate the project cost at this point, he said.
“We understand there is a difficult economy facing us in this time, we fully recognize that. Yes, we’re concerned about inflation, we haven’t priced the project yet. We will get these construction documents submitted for permit, we will process for permit, and upon having permits received, we will then price the project and move forward,” Glatthorn said.
The two affordable units included in the project are expected to help chip away at the city’s hefty affordable housing obligations. The council’s adopted regulatory housing agreement for the property requires the units to be owner- or renter-occupied and be under a 55-year deed restriction as affordable units.
The city will have first dibs on purchasing the properties to rent out to qualified households, or can opt to put them up for sale to a nonprofit or qualified household.
Concerns from council members about affordable housing requirements delayed a vote on the agreements when they were first brought before the council for approval on July 11.
Terry Gaasterland and Tracy Martinez both worried that if the project’s affordable housing units were not constructed within the 6th Housing Element Cycle ending in 2029, it would be able to move forward under a by-right approval process without the need for discretionary approval from the city.
Glatthorn assured the city that he was dedicated to developing this project as soon as possible.
“We are not in this for the short term as you know,” he said.“We believe in Del Mar, we believe in the Torrey Pines Mesa and all the jobs up there, and we believe there are great things ahead for this area and for this site and we’re excited to move forward. Yes, it can absolutely be done within seven years — I’ll be very disappointed personally if it’s not done within two and a half.”
After the July 11 meeting, Barbara Kautz, Del Mar’s special counsel for affordable housing matters, determined that there is no current risk of 941 Camino Del Mar becoming a by-right project because the two affordable units are not accounted for in the 6th cycle.
Kautz’s assurance led the council to unanimously approve the project agreements at their July 25 meeting with little discussion.