September 2011 home page

  Make Del Mar Better at Being Del Mar
Bud Emerson | Klish Way


Mark Ochenduzko.  Photo Art Olson

Fifty-six year old interim Del Mar City Manager Mark Ochenduzko is “in the saddle” again after retiring from 20 years of managing in quite a number of California cities, most recently in Coronado. He finds the work “stimulating” and brings “passion for moving Del Mar down the road,” but he will not be a candidate for the permanent job. A contract for recruiting a new city manager has already been signed.

Having him here for six months is like having a high powered consultant to take an objective look at how we are meeting some big challenges. So the Sandpiper interviewed him about his early impressions.

“Mark O” is very impressed with the quality of Del Mar city staff, their expertise, and that “they really want to serve Del Mar.”

He appreciates our problem of dealing with an independent and unaccountable Fair Board.  In Coronado their “hundred pound gorilla is the Navy, but we were fortunate that they had a defined program and methodology for communicating with the city and the region...and they understand accountability.”

He assesses our financial condition as “fine, not strong but healthy...revenues exceed expenses...enough to deliver basic services...a sufficient reserve...not nearly enough to meet all of our important capital projects.”

He believes the Council is right to make revitalization a first priority but we need to “strike a gentle balance” preserving what is unique about Del Mar while “creating a receptive environment for small businesses.” He believes “Bird Rock got it right but La Jolla went too far.” He wants to see a “traffic analysis to help strike a balance between pedestrian uses and auto traffic to feed businesses...with ideal speeds of 22-27 mph.”

He thinks the City can provide “streetscape, civic uses, paving, modest increases in building heights, set backs, sidewalks”--we should look for “pedestrian scale and beware of canyonization.” We must not “lose sight of the special ambience that Del Mar already has...make Del Mar better at being Del Mar.”

Mark O believes the most effective way to run a city is employing the “Council/Manager model” where the Council listens to citizens and sets policies but leaves freedom for the professional managers and staff to implement. Del Mar presents some unique challenges in that regard he thinks because of the “incredible level of citizen participation.” He thinks both the “Council and the Manager have to be flexible.” Compared to “Coronado where there is a strong retired Navy presence that is used to the chain of command, we can’t control as much--there are many free thinkers in Del Mar, creative citizens doing sophisticated analysis--the Council and the Manager have to adjust to a different kind of relationship with the public.”

Asked by the Sandpiper if he would give us his best advice when he leaves at the end of his six month term he said “of course, but I will give you one piece of advice now. It is time to move to implementation downtown. There are enough studies and plans. Forge a general consensus. If you try to reach unanimity on every detail right it will be hard to get from the study stage to getting it done.”



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