|Crest Canyon with its “greenery in the scenery.” Photo Art Olson
Yes, Del Mar is a very special place to live, but the secret sauce is how it got to be special. It did not just happen. And it did not happen over night.
Fifty-some years ago this town was gasoline alley lined with gas stations. It was an attractive piece of topography overlooking the ocean, with a race track. Its character was yet to be defined. It was an unincorporated section of the county with little or no capacity for how it was to grow. San Diego was expanding northward and intended to add it to its collection. So, how did we get from there to here?
|Crest Canyon Townhomes
as they could have been without citizen action.
Stills from an abridged version of the slideshow created a few years ago to show Del Mar as it is, and Del Mar as it could have been without citizen action. The slideshow, which can be viewed on the Sandpiper website, was created
by Art Olson and John Kerridge.
• San Diego County Water Authority - Del Mar Representative
• San Dieguito Lagoon Committee
• Traffic Parking Advisory Committee
• Parks and Recreation Committee
• Sustainability Advisory Board
• Finance Committee
• Design Review Board
• Planning Commission
• Housing Corporation
• Del Mar Foundation
• Del Mar Community Connections
• Del Mar Garden Club
• Del Mar Village Association
• Del Mar Rose Society
• Friends of the Powerhouse
• Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley
• Keep Del Mar Clean
• Friends of Del Mar Library
• Del Mar Historical Society
Del Mar’s secret sauce was the human element.
A small group of people hammered out a vision of what a small city could become and how it could survive. Organized and active, they built momentum to incorporate and were successful. Somewhat later, another group of visionaries began a process of constructing a Community Plan, a kind of constitution to guide its future growth, including how not to grow, and how to keep the best of what we have. It was adopted by the voters.
Forty years ago another group of leaders decided that open space was a better way to define our new town’s character. They launched a successful campaign to tax ourselves to “keep greenery in the scenery.” Instead of condos, we got Crest Canyon, Seagrove Park, and Anderson Canyon. Instead of agreeing to a planned restaurant row, another group decided to organize a campaign to tax ourselves again to acquire what is now Powerhouse Park.
Another group organized to rescue and restore our wonderful lagoon estuary. Another group successfully fought the establishment of a multi-modal train/bus/parking structure across from Powerhouse Park. Another group organized an initiative to reclaim our beach front for public access.
Every decade we fought off efforts to redefine our small community, always with citizen power. Without smart, involved, committed citizen involvement Del Mar would have a far different character today.
Our challenge today is to find citizens who will continue to carry that flame so Del Mar can find its way for this and future generations.
Frankly, we do not seem to be stepping up to that challenge. It is becoming increasingly difficult to get applicants for city committees. These committees do the real grass roots work that enables the City Council to make well-grounded decisions. Many of our best Council members have come up through the committee system where they have proven their leadership capabilities. Even our Council elections are failing to attract enough candidates so we can have spirited campaigns about how we want to grow.
How can we turn this around? Do we have too many absentee home owners? Are people too busy to commit to community involvement? Are too many of us taking Del Mar’s future for granted? If we do not find the answers soon, future generations will be asking who dropped the ball?