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Chiquita Abbott: Living History
Anthony Corso, Stratford Cour

Photo courtesy Friends of the Powerhouse

Chiquita Abbott possesses a unique perspective on the last 50 years of Del Mar’s history. She moved to Del Mar and got her real estate license the same year the City was incorporated.

What was Del Mar like in 1959?
In the mid-1950s, La Jolla was thought of as “the place.” Del Mar was considered the stepchild; it was lovely, it was quiet; it was unspectacular!
In 1959, after moving from Pasadena with my family, I opened a real estate office on 15th Street, formerly Electrolux vacuum, then Kirby’s, and now Sbicca Restaurant. I and one other woman were the first and only female realtors at that time.

Since the fifties, what events do you think would be worthy of a full chapter if you decide to write a book?
Certainly the incorporation of the City in 1959 was a pivotal turning point. The Chamber of Commerce was the nucleus of the group seeking incorporation. There was considerable fear that the City of San Diego might annex Del Mar and we would lose control over future development.

We expected the “new” City to be a minor municipality, a village, operated by a small staff of people.

About the time of incorporation a number of influential persons were instituting changes that served to further attract an influx of families and individuals. Clark Howard, an early superintendent of schools in the 1950s, overhauled and revised the elementary school curriculum. His commitment to quality education attracted newly arrived professionals seeking a place to live - one which offered excellent schools.

his was especially true among those recruited by General Atomic with its new 300-acre Torrey Pines campus. It gathered scientists from all over the world; their presence contributed to the sense that Del Mar had at last become cosmopolitan.

The creation of the University of California, La Jolla in 1960 stimulated a similar growth in the City’s population. The newly established University attracted a number of faculty members and academic administrators, many of whom were younger, married persons with children. It was only natural that they sought out Del Mar as their new community. Unlike some earlier arrivals, they came with definite ideas about the type and design of housing they wanted. This represented a boon for local architects looking for new clients and the possibility of showcasing their talents. Many of the same architects, who gained prominence at that time, are still practicing and living here.

With the changes in the city’s cultural climate and demographics there was an increased concern about the design and aesthetics of housing. When Tom Pearson was Mayor, Jim Watkins came up with the idea of establishing a Design Review Board, with an emphasis and focus upon future development of what I christened “the Beach Colony.” I was lucky to be on that first DRB with him.

The impetus was to encourage the builders and developers to do something other than building “those ugly boxes.” One of the major problems was that all the lots were the same size (50 x 100 feet) so builders had to be creative. I felt good about my involvement on the Committee because we felt we were doing what we should be doing - emphasizing quality. I later resigned when I thought the DRB had been granted too much power over individual property owners. But that’s another story!

What do you think the future holds for Del Mar?
We will have to determine how to accommodate growth and community improvements while ameliorating the negative impact that often accompanies growth.

All in all, after more than fifty years as a business woman in Del Mar, I can predict that the future is sure to be a period of lively debate and discussion-- that is the way that Del Mar gets things done or undone.


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