Mayor Wins House OK in Del Mar

Times Staff Writer

The Del Mar planning director ruled Wednesday that Mayor John Gillies can resume construction of his spacious three-story home without going through the politically embarrassing process of reapplying for city permits.

Planning Director Jim Sandoval relied on the results of an investigation by a land-use attorney from Northern California in ruling that the variance and design permits issued to Gillies are still valid and that he has not violated the terms of the permits.

A complaint about the home was filed in mid-June by former Mayor Tom B. Pearson, a political opponent of Gillies.

“It’s a relief,” Gillies said of Sandoval’s decision. “It’s taken a lot of psychological energy and time spent responding to the Planning Department’s request for information. The issue here isn’t really my house. I feel the political process has been misused on a frivolous complaint.”


Gillies has contended that Pearson was waging a political vendetta against him, but Pearson has countered that his only concern was that building regulations be applied fairly. Pearson could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

The Gillies case involves judgments of how much work must be completed to qualify as “substantial construction,” thus keeping the permits from expiring after a year.

After voluminous correspondence involving Gillies, Sandoval and City Atty. Roger Krauel, Walnut Creek attorney Daniel J. Curtin Jr. decided that Gillies had completed enough work on the home to keep the permits from expiring.

But Curtin, who was hired by Del Mar to investigate the case, also advised that Del Mar tighten its procedures on the issue of how variances, once issued, can be modified. A secondary issue in Gillies’ case had been whether he had violated the terms of a height variance; Curtin said he had not, but found Del Mar’s regulations overly loose.


If Sandoval had ruled that the permits had expired, Gillies would have been forced to submit a new application. That could have led to more hearings before the Planning Commission and Design Review Board.

The controversy has presented Gillies, an architect serving his first term on the City Council, with the prospect of being hoisted on his own political petard.

As a member of the city’s “green” movement, Gillies has championed the slow-growth movement. Last week, for example, he led the council in rejecting a property owner’s building plans on the grounds that the home would be too big for the neighborhood and would block views.

Gillies’ home under construction at 2136 San Dieguito Drive has a variance to be 35 feet high, enormous by Del Mar standards. Without a variance, the maximum height in the neighborhood is 26 feet.


The home was first approved to be 5,017 square feet, then later approved for 6,026 square feet--in a city where a major political issue is whether homeowners should be allowed to add bedrooms to their homes.

Under city regulations, any citizen can file an appeal of Sandoval’s ruling to the council within 10 days.