Del Mar citizens have spoken clearly. The vote on Prop J, the downtown Village Specific Plan (VSP) was a decisive “NO”. Despite the fog of campaign wars, the message from the vote was clear: too big, too fast, too much, too scary.
We hope the City Council got the message that putting a comprehensive plan on the ballot before a community consensus has jelled makes no sense. There is no question that the Council tried valiantly to get citizen involvement (at least 90 meetings). But many citizen leaders warned the Council that going to a vote was premature, especially on a crowded ballot in a Presidential year.
Many citizens tuned in late and were surprised and confused by the complexity of the plan. Others felt there was too much change, period. Some disliked the traffic circulation plan for roundabouts and two lanes. Some disliked the second stories on the west side. Some disliked the increased density. Some feared the negative impact on nearby neighborhoods. Either of these could cause a negative vote but the combination of these concerns and dislikes leads to a safe conclusion to vote NO, which is what happened.
So, what now? Is there a way to get a return on the investment of public money and years of effort?
There is a ray of hope. Sifting through all of the letters, public testimony, and campaign flyers two elements of widespread agreement emerge. One: many believe downtown needs some level of revitalization. Two: many still believe in the Community Plan’s vision of a viable downtown. Perhaps these areas of agreement can become the building blocks for some more modest changes in the future.
Before any new efforts to change our downtown are undertaken, we need to find ways to heal some of the damage that has occurred to our community compact. We need to find a project that can unify our community. In previous periods of division in Del Mar we focused on projects like the library and the Powerhouse community center to pull us back together. Hopefully, we can find such a unifying project now.
After a while, with the experience of working together on something less contentious, we can refocus on what our downtown needs without tearing the community apart.