Time is ticking, deadlines loom. Del Mar needed affordable housing yesterday, and they will need it tomorrow. The city has until 2021 to fulfill their low-income housing allocation for the current housing element. That's 12 units. So far three are underway, and zero actually exist. Next cycle, the bar will be raised again.
This fall, SANDAG will finalize the sixth cycle of the Regional Housing Assessment, detailing how many units for each income category cities must provide to meet state mandates.
For the current, fifth cycle, Del Mar was assessed 61 units total, plus 10 additional low-income units as a penalty for failing to meet the goals in the previous housing cycle. For the next eight-year cycle, it could be as many as 160 to 225 units.
Of the 33 units they've completed since 2013, all but one were in the “above moderate” income category.
One option in the city's plans came up at the July 1 council meeting: zoning amendments that could open up two commercial properties for affordable housing. By allowing mixed uses, the northern zone could yield 52 low-income homes; the Professional Commercial Zone in the center of town could add five more. The proposal would still have to undergo environmental review and public hearings.
But would property owners take advantage of the code changes?
It isn't clear so the city is looking to its northeastern corner, its biggest employer, for help. And the state may be their best ally.
The San Diego County Fair ended July 4th, but the jobs it brought live on. Not that Scream Zone Scare actors or any of the numerous other online listings, which ranged in hourly pay from $12 to $18.50, became permanent jobs. Some workers even made a roundtrip from out of state. Twenty-two security bike patrol members flew in from Portland. Two others came from Florida and Texas for the temporary jobs.
But council members wonder if those temp jobs might have gotten counted by SANDAG, leading to a higher number of affordable units – housing that rents to people who earn under the area median income – Del Mar must produce.
Up next is the six-week horse racing season, and over 1200 jobs that go with it. Will SANDAG fold them into the formula, as well?
SANDAG tallied more than twice the number of jobs in Del Mar than the city found.
"I've been super curious about the jobs numbers," said Councilmember Gaasterland, who has been trying to unravel SANDAG's methodology, which was supposed to be finalized in June. The agency allocates housing according to nearby transit opportunities, equity in the spread of housing – and jobs.
Gaasterland wants to know how all the stablehand jobs for the racing season, with workers housed in the 664 units in the fairgrounds, impact Del Mar? "Are those 1200 jobs counted as part of our 4300 SANDAG says we have?" What about students housed in or near the colleges who have part time jobs? Maybe "it's not just us."
And what if San Diego is impacted only two percent by part-time jobs, but Del Mar is impacted 40 percent? With answers, they could tell the fair board, "your jobs gave us this allocation. How can we work together?" That should give them leverage next year, she said.
For that matter, the state-owned fairgrounds take up 20 percent of the land in Del Mar. And the state is planning to partner with cities, one of which is San Diego, to create affordable housing on some of its excess lands.
"We are still vetting sites with state agencies and finalizing the listing of excess property to pursue development," says Jennifer Iida, spokesperson for the Department of General Services.
When consultants for the city came up with four key strategies to help solve affordable housing, one was to partner with the 22nd District Agricultural Association (which operates the fairgrounds). A few possibilities: put units in the backstretch housing; create new ones in the backstretch housing parking lot; or annexation of the Surf & Turf RV park into the city's jurisdictional boundary to create affordable housing on the site.
According to city documents from the latest housing element (2013), the temporary housing on the fairgrounds, though mostly "substandard," can shelter about 1200 workers – up to 110 RV parking spaces and multiple dorm buildings with sleeping rooms and shared bathrooms. When racing season ends, the sleeping rooms are locked. The RV spaces are available for the rest of the year to travelers and exhibitors at shows.
Del Mar councilmember Dwight Worden, who is on the community relations committee, said they will be having housing discussions with the fair board.
The council unanimously agreed to send a letter to Sacramento opposing SB330, the latest proposal to create affordable housing. The bill has been toned down, removing contentious tinkering with coastal height limits, and it may not even apply to cities as small as Del Mar, but they aren't taking chances.
"Small coastal cities are a very small group," said city manager Scott Huth. "You want to keep your toes in the water and keep giving feedback. Or else we're gonna get gobbled up with all the other cities."