Morning Report: Del Mar’s Resistance to Housing Project Draws Lawsuit

The test we’ve been waiting for could finally be here. 

Let’s catch you up: The developer of a proposed housing project in Del Mar is suing the city for repeatedly rejecting it. We’ve been following this project since May because the developers are using an untested state law to override the city’s wishes — Del Mar has made it clear it doesn’t want to approve the project. 

The Seaside Ridge project proposes 42 low-income units, 43 moderate-income units and 174 market-rate units. Del Mar is required by the state to make way for 113 affordable units.  

But Del Mar isn’t on board: City officials argue they already have enough sites identified in their Housing Element to meet their housing goals.  A Housing Element is a state-required plan outlining how a city can accommodate enough new housing to meet its population’s needs. Officials also say they would have to rezone the site to even consider it.

The other side: The developer argues that the city has no choice because at the time they submitted their application, the state had not approved Del Mar’s Housing Element. In fact, the state had rejected it three times.  

It’s called the Builder’s Remedy: If a city doesn’t have a compliant Housing Element, the city can’t use its zoning code or general plan to deny an affordable housing project.    

The developer is also applying the Housing Crisis Act, which says cities can only rely on rules that were in place at the time the developer’s preliminary application was submitted when they’re reviewing a development project.    

So, even though the state approved Del Mar’s Housing Element last May, the city was not technically in compliance with state law at the time the developer submitted the first application, which was last October.

But Del Mar officials don’t agree. They have told Seaside Ridge developers to resubmit their application four times because it is “incomplete” and “not supported by law,” and have explicitly said they don’t agree with the developer’s “legal theories.”  

The lawsuit: In a press release yesterday, spokesperson for the project Darren Pudgil, said they are now suing the city of Del Mar for violating state housing laws and repeatedly “snubbing” a project that would create affordable housing.

Golden Hall to Remain a Shelter, for Now

Ian Wiggill, 42, snacks on fruit in his upper bunk at the Golden Hall men’s shelter area on April 8, 2022. San Diego’s homeless shelters present a variety of opportunities for people experiencing homelessness, and an equal number of restrictions for residents there. The pandemic, rising housing costs, and competition for low-income housing all conspire to put the focus on how to house the growing number of people who fall through the cracks. / Photo by Peggy Peattie for Voice of San Diego
Ian Wiggill, 42, snacks on fruit in his upper bunk at the Golden Hall men’s shelter operated by Father Joe’s Villages on April 8, 2022. / Photo by Peggy Peattie for Voice of San Diego

A year ago, Mayor Todd Gloria’s office announced a plan to move out hundreds of homeless residents sheltered at the City Hall complex by the end of 2023. The city later relocated dozens of families and homeless youth elsewhere but has since decided to continue using the Golden Hall event space to for now temporarily house more than 260 homeless men.

The San Diego Housing Commission board earlier this month signed off on a plan to move homeless men now staying on the first floor to the facility’s second floor in April. The board also approved a nearly $1.2 million increase in the shelter’s operating budget to cover higher-than-expected expenses tied to the change.

What they said last year: Gloria spokeswoman Rachel Laing said the city decided it needed to make plans to move homeless residents out of Golden Hall at the urging of the city fire marshal, who has signed off on temporary permits since 2019.

A year later: City spokesman Matt Hoffman said the city is continuing to search for new shelter locations and has decided it needs to hold onto beds at Golden Hall. Hoffman said he couldn’t say when the facility will cease to be a shelter.

“Mayor Gloria previously said no one will be moved out until there is another bed available for them,” Hoffman wrote in email. “The city will continue to use Golden Hall as a shelter to maximize the number of available beds while work is underway to add more to the system.”

Hoffman said the city’s existing permit for Golden Hall is set to expire in April and that the city expects to seek a new permit for the building’s second floor before Golden Hall residents move there.

One Housing Commissioner’s take: Before commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the new Golden Hall plan on Feb. 16, Vice Chair Ryan Clumpner said repeatedly changing plans – and the shifting that those have spurred – are evidence the city needs to pursue permanent shelter sites.

“We need more permanent shelter that we are not running on six month and one-year timeframes and extensions and amendments because it is not the way to address a permanent situation with this constant piecemeal approach,” Clumpner said.

Mayoral Candidates on Sales Tax

Mayoral candidate Geneviéve Jones-Wright is against raising the city of San Diego’s sales tax. She’s against efforts to raise the county one for transportation projects, too.

On Saturday, at a mayoral forum at Porter Elementary School, Jones-Wright said the city has mismanaged and wasted taxpayer funds for too long. She doesn’t believe in asking residents to step up because there are other ways for the city to get money, she said. 

“We need to get state and federal funds for the things we need to do, but I am not asking San Diegans to pay more in sales tax,” Jones-Wright said. 

Background: There’s a push to raise the city’s sales tax from 7.75 percent to 8.75 percent. This is a general tax increase, so that means it only needs a majority vote to pass. Mayor Todd Gloria supports it. He told the U-T that, “A penny for progress on infrastructure will solve this problem and allow us to rebuild our neighborhoods.” 

What about Larry Turner? He also doesn’t support a sales tax increase, as he told the U-T. Turner also shared during the forum that if he is elected, he’d audit how the city is spending money. “We are going to go through the books and make it open to everyone. It’s going to be very transparent,” he said.  

More on the race: Jones-Wright announced Sunday that Supervisor Monica Montgomery Steppe endorsed her for mayor. Montgomery Steppe in her endorsement statement wrote, “San Diego deserves a leader who prioritizes the People over power, and Geneviève brings the vision, dedication and leadership needed to move San Diego Forward.” 

In Other News

  • In the first six months of San Diego’s public camping ban, police have issued 30 tickets, but only two people have been charged with allegedly violating the ban. The city attorney’s office said it’s partly because it’s a brand new law, and they’re waiting for the Supreme Court to weigh in on camping bans later this year. (Union-Tribune)
  • Local tribal leaders and charro groups, which are Mexican American cowboys who stage their own versions of rodeos, are fighting a proposed citywide ban on rodeos arguing that it could threaten a historical practice rooted in tradition and culture. (Union-Tribune)
  • Border Patrol continued dropping off migrants at public transit centers in San Diego on Monday after a county welcome center for migrants ran out of funding and closed its doors last week. (Fox 5)
  • The March Primary is exactly one week away. The Union-Tribune put together a guide on everything you need to know about filling out your ballot, voting in person, understanding each race and more. (Union-Tribune)

The Morning Report was written by Tigist Layne, Lisa Halverstadt and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña and Scott Lewis.

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