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Citizen Del Mar
Bud Emerson | Klish Way

See also:  McLeader - Suzi Resnik | Crest Road


The city of Del Mar attracts newcomers at an unusually high rate, maybe as many as 50% every five years or so. Why do you choose to live here we ask? The answers vary but the core opinion seems to be that the City possesses a “true sense of community,”a “feeling of place” unlike many other cities and communities which are dispersed and undistinguished.This unique quality begs for a periodic retelling for newcomers of the story of the struggles, successes and frustrations which shaped how we are today.

Part of the story involves the Sandpiper and how it was born in reaction to some yellow journalism in the ‘80s which was highly critical of our community, its leaders,and its direction. Citizens decided to create a journal dedicating to telling the real story about how Del Mar was born and how it created a constitution to guide its growth (our Community Plan).

We recently formed a strategic alliance with the Del Mar Historical Society to help us tell the story using resources they have developed with their Oral History Project. These oral histories profile important leaders who helped shape and influence our town’s growth, the real heroes of the Del Mar story. The first profile we feature tells about community leader Jan McMillan (see profile to the right).

• Del Mar was destined to be a remote suburb of San Diego with an interstate highway running through it (I-5). In the 60’s citizens rallied to resist San Diego’s quest to seize Del Mar. Against strong negative predictions of fiscal impractability, we voted to incorporate and never looked back, achieving a sustained record of sound financial management. We then resisted a powerful push from CALTRANS to run Interstate 5 through the center of our new town.

• In the ‘70s, we overcame vociferous opposition to adopt a citizen-devised “Community Plan” which has proven to be a venerable constitutional guide in preserving our small town character.

• In the ‘70s a small group of citizen visionaries mounted an ambitious plan to save and restore our rich lagoon estuary. That extraordinary effort mushroomed into the bountiful San Dieguito River Park lacing its way back into the mountains of east county.

• In the ‘80s we mounted a bipartisan “keep greenery in the scenery” bond campaign to acquire rapidly disappearing open space. We now enjoy Crest Canyon, Seagrove Park, and Anderson Canyon where high density condo development was then proposed.

• In the ‘80s we voted again, this time against fierce opposition, to acquire Powerhouse Park. Thanks to our foresight, we and visitors from all over the county now enjoy a wonderful ocean front park where a restaurant row had been planned.

• In the ‘80s we rejected a plan to create a “multi-modal” bus and train center at our train station site which would have created an incurable traffic nightmare. Solana Beach now defines its town center with that project. Many hope the train station site will one day be added to our “green belt.”

*In the ‘90s we convinced the region that the future will not tolerate train tracks on our precrious bluffs. Relocation of the tracks continues to be contentious but removing them from the bluffs in favor of a linear park is a foregone conclusion.
*In the ‘90s, we again taxed ourselves to acquire the former church site on 13th street so we could redevelop it for a coveted library site.

*In this new century we acquired the five acre Shores school property yet to be developed into a wonderful new park for all to enjoy.

These are the broad strategic outlines of the Del Mar story. There is much more to be filled in and likely much more to be added as the future unfolds. Throughout this story there is one consistent theme, citizens organizing to preserve and protect the natural and human environment. That is what differentiates Del Mar from so many other towns.



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