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Property Rights and Property Wrongs
December 2008 | John Kerridge, Editor Emeritus of the Sandpiper


Your home is your castle, right?   You paid for it (boy, did you ever!), so you get to decide what changes you make to it, right? Well, only up to a point.
To figure out where that point is, it helps to take a look at some of your neighbors.

Let’s start with the couple who bought the house next door in the ‘90s. The sale of their Internet start-up company was so successful that they were able to indulge their fantasy of a Del Mar house with a white-water view.

Across the street is the doctor who moved there during the ‘80s. Since then she has become deeply involved in volunteer work in the city, and was the first to offer assistance when you moved in.

Next to her is a couple, both faculty members at UCSD, who arrived in the ‘70s. Their house isn’t the sharpest one on the block, but their fame is world-wide in their respective fields. Plus, they raised two kids who have made their own contribution to our community life as dedicated lifeguards, while helping maintain the TPHS standard of academic excellence.

And just down the block is the retired schoolteacher who purchased his cottage (so “cute” to the eyes of visitors) in the ‘60s. A “scraper” by today’s standards, it sits within a horticultural paradise, lovingly created and tended over decades.
So what do they all have in common, besides being your neighbors?

Answer: They all committed a significant fraction of their available resources so that they could become part of a community that appealed to them; they have property rights, too. One of those rights is a reasonable expectation that the qualities that drew them to the neighborhood, and for which they paid good money, would not be casually overturned.

In the early ‘70s, came the Del Mar General Plan, crafted by a task force of residents and local business owners. That Plan unequivocally affirmed the right of the community to maintain the values that had given Del Mar its special character, and was approved by a popular vote with a roughly 2/3 majority. Interestingly, subsequent periodic surveys have indicated continuing support, at about the same level, for the Plan’s land-use policies. Some people still complain that Del Mar’s land-use regulations are designed to favor an elite; 2/3 of a community is one big elite!

Community rights are an integral part of the Del Mar Municipal Code and, for that matter, of California state law. And why not? After all, community rights are simply a bundle of individual property rights, all based on the same respect for an individual’s inalienable constitutional rights.

So yes, your property rights are absolute only up to the point where they infringe on those of your neighbors. Four hundred years ago, John Donne expressed this as well as anyone: “No man is an island, entire of itself.”

Del Mar has so much to offer. Let’s all respect our neighbor’s right to enjoy it, too.



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