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Conversations with Ourselves
April 2008 | by Henry Abarbanel


On Sunday March 9 George and Barbara Pache generously opened their home on Balboa to two dozen neighbors for the first of a series of “Community Conversations” with members of our City Council, our City Manager, and senior City staff. Through these gatherings the Council is seeking neighborhood input about the various challenges facing Del Mar and all California cities such as the effects of the State budget deficits. The Council decided to use a very successful method that we used in the past and is being implemented in Vista of going out to people's homes and asking them what is on their minds.

The number one concern of the March 9 th group was how to collect some form of user fee from out-of-town visitors to our beach for the rather high costs we incur for maintaining them. There are about 2,000,000 visitors to the beach annually. Because of the Coastal Act passed in 1972, there is precious little we can do to collect any money from these visitors, but two ideas emerged: institute a permit parking plan and/or additional pay-and-display machines beyond those North of the San Dieguito bridge and bring retail shops for food and drink to the beachfront to sell items to these visitors and collect sales tax. The former can be done by the City, with the permission of the Coastal Commission, while the latter can be stimulated by the City but undertaken by private enterprise.

Our Community Services staff (the lifeguards) have done many studies, and the Coastal Commission has made it clear that residents as well as visitors must pay, not just visitors. Our citizen Finance Committee will be considering this in the near future, and will make a proposal to the Council soon. It seemed unfair to the participating neighbors at the Paches that we would have to pay, but other coastal cities, such as Laguna Beach, have faced this fact and successfully implemented a permit program that works for all.

The other big issue on people's minds was the cost for implementing the State imposed rules about clean water. Even though people agreed with the goals of the Federal Clean Water Act, next year's fees of $500,000 stimulated serious conversation about this unfunded mandate, and whether we should pay for it. We see no way to escape paying for it---via our taxes or via fees on our water and sewer bills. The first charges you by the size of your property while the latter charges you by the amount of water you use.

Not surprisingly, people at this gathering prefer their information delivered from the City by e-mail. Since any information given to a municipal government is public, Del Mar has contracted with a third party to hold safe and private all e-mail and other personal information so that residents can benefit from this method of delivering information and not lose their privacy. If you'd like to participate in this, send the information to the City Manager and she will pass it along to our safe provider.

What's on your mind about Del Mar? How would you suggest to your Council and City staff to approach the issues coming this year and next year and the years after that? There will be a conversation about all this in your neighborhood soon. Please look for announcements through door hangers in your neighborhood, e-mail notices when possible, and word of mouth among your neighbors. And thanks to the Paches for our inaugural meeting.


Henry Abarbanel is a member of the City Council.



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