February 2011 home page

  Valuing Citizen Brain Power
Art Olson | Avenida Primavera


Community Plan Plaque in Seagrove Park. Photo Art Olson



Community Plan Plaque in Seagrove Park. Photo Art Olson

If you want to understand the importance of Council appointed ad hoc committees to Del Mar, the foot of 15th street in Seagrove Park at is a good place to start. The stone mounted plaque at the entrance speaks volumes about the nature of citizen involvement in the evolution of our City. The list of people serving on the various task forces that produced our Community Plan is both impressive and inspiring. Impressive because of the number of people involved, and inspiring because of the importance and impact of their work for the evolution of Del Mar.

While standing committees such as the Design Review Board and the Planning Commission serve a quasi-judicial role for the City Council, ad hoc committees serve temporarily to advise the Council on specific policy and action. Both types of committees can play an important part in shaping the look and feel of Del Mar – but only if the Council uses them and heeds their advise. Bypassing DRB review on such issues as the sidewalk cafes, and the new Flavors roof structure at the Plaza shows that ignoring citizen committee involvement can result in unnecessary negative impact.

Over the years Del Mar City Councils have established a number of ad hoc committees to address pressing issues and make recommendations for action. Serving on one of these committees requires both time and energy, but is an excellent way to get a deeper understanding and appreciation of our treasured environment. Whether such service results in real impact depends upon how the City Council acts upon the committees’ recommendations. Having served on several such ad hoc committees, I can speak from personal experience on both the rewards and frustrations involved.
The Ad Hoc Urban Forest Fire Safety Committee was formed in 1997 sparked by the devastating fires in the Oakland Hills. After over a year of work we produced a Fire Safety plan in 1999, which is still accessible on the City’s web site. While a number of strategies and tactics are clearly spelled out in the plan many have yet to be implemented. However, recent actions by the City Council have acknowledged the continued threat of fire to our city and the plan may yet provide a blueprint for future action.

In 2002 the Council established an ad hoc Committee on Historic Preservation, following the threat of demolition of the historic Canfield-Wright home on Avenida Primavera. Serving on this committee gave me a heightened appreciation of the cultural and historic nature of our community. The committee dutifully examined all of the properties in the city, and came up with a list of those that might be considered further for examination as worthy of preservation. Unfortunately, notification to property owners at this early stage generated a strong anti-preservation backlash – and the Council abandoned the process.

In 2005 the Council formed a City Facility Advisory Committee to find a new site for the fire station, whose uncertain future on fairgrounds property was looming, and to examine feasible approaches for improving the inadequate City Hall facility. The Committee examined a number of potential sites for the fire station – some accommodating a new location for an improved city hall. Today both facilities remain as they were when the committee’s work began. However, it was this committee that initiated discussions with the Del Mar Union School District for acquisition of the Shores Property – which now is in the hands of the City.

While ad hoc committees may or may not have long-term community impact, it is a critical part of citizen involvement. It is where knowledge is gained, ideas are generated and distilled, and public debate proceeds. It is where your involvement becomes an important part of “The Del Mar Way.” Consider participating.

Thank you to the Volunteers


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