DEL MAR — Council members opted to let the voters decide if the calculation used to determine the size of oceanfront homes should be changed.
But after the 3-1 vote at the Aug. 6 meeting, those present all agreed to write the argument opposing the measure that will be on the ballot in the Nov. 6 election.
“Is something broken on the beach, and is this initiative the right way to go about fixing it?” Mayor Dwight Worden asked before weighing in. “There may some things broken on the beach but … this initiative is not the right way to address it.”
Rick Thompson, who owns an approximately 6,550-square-foot oceanfront home, submitted an initiative petition to the city on June 25 that he said would protect Del Mar’s beaches, coastline and “the public health, safety and welfare.”
The goal is to exclude a portion of beach known as the shoreline protection area when calculating the allowable square footage of homes on the sand.
Because he gathered the necessary 313 signatures from registered voters to qualify the initiative for the November ballot, election rules left council with essentially two options: adopt the ordinance as written or let voters decide.
Several homeowners and most of the attorneys representing some of them said seeking declaratory relief from the court was another alternative. But at an estimated, conservative cost of $30,000 to $50,000, at least three council members were not willing to try the risky maneuver.
“It’s clear to me that the two options, I think, are just unsatisfactory in representing our community,” said Councilman Terry Sinnott, who voted against putting the measure on the ballot. “I’m willing to spend the money to do it because I don’t think the other two actions are valid.”
Most people who oppose the ordinance doubt Thompson’s intentions. They say his goal is to prevent his neighbors from building a proposed 6,564-square foot home on the adjacent lot, which has been owned by the Naftzger family for about 90 years.
Sandra Naftzger said her project has undergone several changes in response to Thompson’s concerns and is currently in redesign to address additional input from her neighbor.
According to a council-requested report, the initiative could have unintended consequences on homes elsewhere in the city, in some cases constitute a taking of private property and result in a reduction in property tax revenue.
It would also prevent property owners from rebuilding their structures to the pre-existing size if they were more than 50 percent destroyed or remodeled.
Of the 92 private beachfront properties in Del Mar, 28 lots would be affected if the initiative passes, including two popular beachfront restaurants and a bluff-top parcel where a luxury resort is being proposed.
Matthew Peterson, who is representing Naftzger, said he doesn’t believe Thompson’s attorneys fully informed him of the consequences of the initiative.
He suggested council members ask Thompson if he would sue the city if they chose not to put the measure on the ballot. None did.
“I really don’t know what my answer would have been,” he said after the meeting. “I don’t know if I would sue or not. I’m glad they put it on the ballot so we can continue to have the conversation.”
Council members said they have confidence in residents and the election process.
“I would trust the citizens of Del Mar to figure this out themselves,” Councilman Dave Druker said.
“I prefer to direct it to go on the ballot, which is my understanding of what the law requires us to do,” Worden said. “There’s a lot of you who don’t like this. There’s not very many people I’ve heard who do like it. I think there’s a very high probability … it will go down.
“I think it’s a bad idea,” he added. “I do not support it. I will not vote for it. I will encourage others to vote against it.”