When LandWatch came calling to the city of Del Rey Oaks this fall as the city was creating its first housing plan in 27 years, city officials opened the door and invited the land-use watchdog to sit down at the table. As a result of their discussions, city staff made adjustments to how they might bring more housing to the small town in the face of strict state requirements. Somewhere between those discussions and the Del Rey Oaks City Council vote on Dec. 17, the welcome mat was rolled up and things got testy.
In a potential lead-up to a lawsuit, LandWatch attorney John Farrow sent a 27-page letter to the council on Dec. 16, detailing how the organization believes the city is violating state housing laws by approving a plan before knowing exactly where it will get water on a parcel of former Fort Ord land. Executive Director Michael DeLapa writes by email that while the nonprofit supports providing more housing for the region, it has consistently opposed additional groundwater pumping in any city on former Fort Ord properties served by Marina Coast Water District. “We’re not singling out DRO,” DeLapa says.
City Manager Dino Pick and consultant Denise Duffy disagreed with LandWatch’s assessment of the water situation. Pick countered there may be future alternatives to providing water to the parcel that don’t include pumping groundwater. Later he said the city had made a “good faith attempt” to hear LandWatch’s concerns.
Councilmember John Gaglioti said before voting in favor of the housing plan that the city needed to move forward before a Dec. 31 state deadline. He did not mince words when it came to a potential lawsuit. The housing plan, Gaglioti said, “is bold and the times require that the electeds be bold. It takes courage. LandWatch is a bully.”
Three other councilmembers joined Gaglioti in voting to pass the housing plan, with Mayor Alison Kerr dissenting.
Farrow says LandWatch leaders have 30 days after the Dec. 17 vote to decide whether to file a lawsuit.