February 2012 home page

OPINION: Revitalization Revisited
A Common Vision Unrealized
Sam Borgese | 10th Street

The voter rejection of Proposition J in November 2012 was more than one group of organized residents opposing another. Containing elements of rational improvement in the village core along with an earnest experiment to control traffic the voter rejection of “J” was rooted as much in differing visions as it was in physical change.

Proposition J was not rejected because it was not well intended. It was rejected because it did not present a valid case that implementation of the elements in the Proposition Plan would: uphold and strengthen the community’s long-standing opposition to increased massing of commercial space; protect and enhance scenic and resident ocean views; and, solve the negative impact caused by commuter traffic on Camino del Mar and, more important, guarantee that this traffic not find its way to residential streets.

Proposition J did not address these physical impacts because it lacked a cohesive long term vision complementary and respectful to Del Mar’s history of environmental activism, open space priorities and a pedestrian-oriented lifestyle above the Proposition’s income prioritized commercial plan. Yet despite beliefs to the contrary repetitive adversity in Del Mar community planning projects such as Proposition J is not pre-ordained.

My history with Del Mar began in 1973. Accepting the invitation of a fellow urban design workshop attendee who happened to be a Del Mar born resident, I arrived in Del Mar aboard the last train on December 3rd with a backpack and a few dollars. This was the beginning of my 40-year relationship with Del Mar. My intent was to stay in Del Mar long enough to earn a ticket to the second phase of my architectural journey. I had my sights set on Auroville, a “new” city being built in Pondicherry, India. Eventually I earned enough for a ticket by 1975 and attended that urban design workshop.

What brought me back to Del Mar after these ventures was the personal solace rooted in my memory that Del Mar served as a daily diet. Living in Del Mar I became an avid cyclist, water sport fan and sailor. My proximity to the beach created a meditative lifestyle where I became addicted to falling asleep with the sounds of breaking waves and seeing the planet turn to create beautiful sunrises and sunsets. My new Del Mar friends were bright, humorous people who sought a life focused on quality of life above other choices. Scientists, teachers, inventors, human psychology publishers and small business owners made their home and conducted their business in Del Mar. The people of Del Mar raced, literally, with a 10K, in an attempt to prevent the unstoppable development of the large open space east of the interstate. Del Mar was not focused on architecture to change the world when I arrived, more so it was active in attracting a community of likeminded people who saw the value and cherished the contribution of Del Mar’s natural beauty to the quality of their lives and who fought vigorously to see it preserved.

Preservation of Del Mar as this idyllic community and the need to prudently manage its financial strength with an income-producing village center has often resulted in the type of polarization exemplified by Proposition J. This polarization historically has fragmented the community into fiercely opposing interests and has tested or broken life-long friendships. However, designing and building a community consensus on its preservation is more than a possibility. As a community, it is our choice to encourage creative conflict and turn it into one voice projecting not only our passion to protect the idyllic life we chose, and to expand our good fortune by responsibly building an environment that can be an example for other communities to follow.

Residents and visitors alike should be enriched by their experience of Del Mar as I was forty years ago. It is our obligation to unselfishly turn our multitude of community talents to this result. And the journey to this result should begin with an objective to create an idyllic purposely envisioned revitalization plan that positively impacts everyone it touches. We should settle for nothing less.

OPINION: Del Mar Revitalization – Vision to Reality Part Two by Sam Borgese will appear in March.


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