Del Mar Says 'NO!' to Growth Plans : Poll Finds Strong Opposition to Downtown Projects

Times Staff Writer

Big is not beautiful in this seaside city, according to results of a poll of Del Mar voters released Monday.

In 700 households--about one-third of the city's residences--voters interviewed were overwhelmingly against construction of a 500-room resort hotel and resoundingly for a citywide vote on all major commercial developments in downtown Del Mar.

Both issues are on the city's April 8 municipal ballot.

The telephone survey conducted by the Del Mar Initiative Committee, made up of supporters of the development control initiative, showed that 69% of those polled oppose construction of a major hotel on a 20-acre hillside site known as the Snake Wall property, which overlooks the state fairgrounds. Fourteen percent of the respondents favor the project and 17% were undecided.

The controversial "downtown initiative," which would subject all major developments along the commercial section of Camino Del Mar to a vote, also won approval from 69% of the respondents. Opposing the ballot measure, Proposition B, were 26%. Only 5% were undecided.

If the project should fail to win a majority of the votes cast, developers would have to scale down their proposals to meet existing zoning standards, or redesign and resubmit the project to another citywide vote. The measure is opposed by a majority of the Del Mar City Council.

Two proposals for major development at 15th Street and Camino Del Mar--a hotel-shopping center and expansion of an existing shopping center, both with underground parking garages--prompted the ballot measure. Opponents of the two projects argue that they exceed the needs of the community and would only bring traffic congestion and other urban woes to Del Mar.

Proponents of the two developments argue that the city would gain hundreds of thousands of sales tax dollars and much-needed off-street parking if the commercial expansion were allowed.

The poll also shows that Del Mar residents are much less emphatic in their opinions about the present City Council and candidates seeking one of two vacancies on the council.

Forty-nine percent of those polled said they thought the council members, now unpaid, should earn $150 per month, but only 26% thought the council members were doing a good job. Thirty-nine percent rated the council's performance as fair, 19% poor.

A whopping 57% of those polled were undecided on whom to back in the April 8 City Council election. Those remaining who had a preference chose Brooke Eisenberg (31%) and Mayor Arlene Carsten (30%) over John Gillies (24%) and Bill Dougherty (15%).

Another issue on the April ballot, a proposal to increase the present 25% residential lot coverage restriction by 400 square feet, found respondents tied in their opinions with 42% in favor, 42% opposed. Sixteen percent were undecided.

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