September 17, 2018
Dear Del Mar Community,
Our homes provide us safe harbor. We invest in them emotionally and financially and we all want to be assured our investment is not arbitrarily at risk.
That fundamental expectation was the motivation for Measure R. As the measure’s proponent, my goal for qualifying it for the November ballot was to ensure fair treatment and consistent rules in the City of Del Mar, and expose a troubling lack of transparency, faltering due process, and questionable integrity in conducting the citizens’ business.
An unfair, two-track system has taken root at City Hall: one set of rules for lobbyists and insider lawyers, a different set for the general public.
I first became aware of how the City operates while planning to rebuild the mold-infested house my wife and I purchased in 2012. The City’s planning staff told me I would have to reduce the size of our house by almost 50% if we built a new one. They explained that the lot area definitions used for FAR calculations had changed by law decades ago, which meant the house was left as “non-conforming.”
Thus, we were forced to rehab our existing house instead of building a new one, a process that took more than two years and cost us considerably more than building from scratch.
After our home’s completion, I discovered with great dismay that in a poorly-noticed session, a well-connected local land use attorney had convinced the Planning Commission that the City’s lot area definition was wrong, allowing his client to build a new house that was 30% larger.
After a number of fruitless efforts to resolve the issue with the City, I tried another tack. I circulated a ballot initiative petition containing the new ordinance that was signed by more than 400 voting residents of Del Mar, enough to qualify the initiative for the ballot. When I presented it to City staff and Council Members, they also expressed disagreement with the Planning Commission’s new lot area interpretation—Mayor Dwight Worden being particularly vocal—and suggested that it could be “fixed” by a new ordinance instead.
On June 4, the City Council unanimously approved a motion by Mayor Worden to direct staff to draft an ordinance similar to the one contained in the initiative. However, at the very next Council meeting on June 18, the City Council disavowed their earlier vote and unanimously voted against adopting the ordinance—leaving as the only option to place Measure R on the November ballot.
For reasons and motives that still remain unclear, the Mayor and City Council flip-flopped from fixing the Planning Commission’s bad decision to defending a private land use attorney’s position. Bowing to threats of legal action, the Council then drafted and signed the ballot argument and rebuttal against Measure R.
Measure R’s inclusion on the November 6th ballot has proven to be a welcome catalyst for conversations throughout our community. Most recently, the opposing sides of Measure R have invested time to listen to each other and have begun to collaborate on ways to bring positive reform to our City. I could not have hoped for a better outcome. I want to publicly thank the opponents of Measure R for their concern and commitment to making Del Mar a better community. This is the way meaningful change happens.
As we continue to find common ground, I recognize and believe that passing Measure R is not so important as having clear and consistent rules and having the community come together. In light of this I will immediately suspend all campaign efforts and support for Measure R and urge voters to vote no on R.
Suspending the campaign may be unorthodox, but it is far more important to stand for our common interest in improving transparency and fairness at City Hall and to hold our politicians accountable. We must elect leaders that will listen, respect, and fairly represent us all—not just the well-connected. As a community, it is time we once again make Del Mar a safe harbor: a place safe to invest in our homes, our businesses, and our lives.