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Critical Decisions at City Hall
August 2008 | by Bud Emerson


Our City Council and City Manager are soon to make decisions regarding the city's Planning and Fire functions. It would be wise to consider the historical context of these two city functions because they have played a unique and vital role in developing the character of our community.

Over the years Planning has been a bone of contention among political factions who argued over growth in Del Mar. In the 70's we were one of the first cities to adopt a very visionary Community Plan with impressive citizen involvement, backed up by very skilled and resourceful Planning staff members. Planning staff guided us the through the process of creating ordinances that would assure implementation consistent with our vision. We were the first city to create a design review process involving citizen volunteer board members. Protecting views and neighborhood scale were new concepts in community development then. Code compliance in Del Mar became much more than checking on building and engineering requirements. Decades later we feel proud that Del Mar is one of the most desirable cities in California .

Throughout these years our Community Plan and implementing processes have enabled us to attract many of the best planners in the field to work here even though we pay less than other cities. These individuals have provided much creative staff work well beyond the perfunctory requirements of a planner job description. We owe tremendous debt to these extraordinary planners for helping us to shape the appearance and character of our community.

Similarly, our Fire Department has served a much more valuable role to our citizenry than what other cities experience. We have attracted individuals with a strong service orientation and commitment to our general well being. Over the years, we have called on them to solve a variety of problems in our neighborhoods that do not fit neatly into anyone's job description. They understand who we are and how we live, and it is comforting to know we can count on them for almost any kind of emergency.

City Manager, Karen Brust gives us some insight into how these critical decisions will be made: “As we continue to examine all of the options available to us in terms of Fire Management Services, my focus is to ensure that we do not lose the identity of our local Fire Department. We have a fine, highly professional and cohesive Fire Team who truly know, understand and care about our residents and businesses. We are currently assessing our options with the support of a retired fire chief who is acting on behalf of the City and I will be bringing a recommendation to the Council in the fall. In addressing the Planning Department vacancies, I am looking to fill the lead position with someone who understands the values of our community and will uphold the Community Plan and Design Review Ordinance to ensure the preservation of the character of our beautiful village. In the interim, for the next three to four months, I will be bringing in the services of a San Diego based planning consultant to support the department"

As citizens we can observe the decision process in the coming months to assess whether today's leaders are honoring our history and traditions.



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