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DEL MAR VOICES: A City is Born
Suzi Resnik | Crest Road

This is the third of a series of Del Mar Remembrances.


Downtown Del Mar 1955. Courtesy Del Mar Historical Society
Click on image to enlarge.

DEL MAR LOOKING BACK describes Del Mar in 1958 as “the village along the highway ready to emerge from all that neon.” During the post-war years, in addition to the beautiful beach and charming roads winding through the tree-covered hillsides, Del Mar was marred by many gas stations, motels, billboards, and glaring neon signs along the road.

In addition to dissatisfaction with the appearance of the center of the village, there was a growing feeling of dissatisfaction with planning being done by the County. The summer of 1958 marked the beginning of a time for change, and The Civic Association sponsored a Citizens Committee which began to collect statistics relative to 4 alternatives:

1. remaining under County government
2. annexing to San Diego
3. incorporating and providing our own services
4. incorporating and contracting for outside services

Under Chairman Henry Belling the committee gathered information and released a 20 page report explaining the options.

The first group to emerge was the Del Mar Committee for Self Government formed on July 24, 1958 by 28 citizens meeting in the school auditorium. Colonel Cheney urged incorporation under the Lakewood Plan, a form of government named for a city in Los Angeles County that had incorporated in 1954. It was the most economical form, as the control of municipal affairs, planning, and zoning would be retained by the city through elected and unpaid council members, and other functions would be contracted out. The committee wanted “home rule” plus economy. The Chamber of Commerce was in favor of the status quo.
By September 16, 1958, 20 volunteers were passing out petitions to bring it to a vote.

In her oral history Pat Welsh recalls, “My husband Lou Welsh and a man named Lee Robbins decided that annexing Del Mar to San Diego would be a very bad thing. So they got together and drafted a postcard that asked: “Do you want to be gobbled up by the city of San Diego?” The card asked for a yes or no answer, and a large majority were returned marked “no.”

Lou and Lee then went to Colonel Cheney and said “We need a fire department. Let’s form a committee to find out how we can afford to create a fire department here in Del Mar.” Pat went on to say that Colonel Cheney didn’t want to lose the right to control our zoning. “We saw what happened in La Jolla where it was very difficult for them and they got some high-rise buildings. We did not want high rise buildings in Del Mar.”

The committee, Pat added, was “all men,” and she noted wryly that “in those days men did the important things. However, they allowed me and a woman named Katie McReynolds, to do much of the work. Women were allowed to do the work and men were going to do the thinking.”

By becoming a city, they found, Del Mar would be able to get tax money from the county and by doing so would have enough money for a fire department. And so in Pat’s living room, with 30 men present and no women, the committee voted to move ahead.

Pat and Katie were put in charge of the door-to-door campaign and they made a list of 30 questions such as “Why should we become a city, and what are the benefits?” Sixty women showed up at the meeting they held to form the group who would go door-to-door.

“We got some amazing people to sign. If some were in doubt we’d go back again,” Pat says proudly. “We were the first city in the State of California to become a sixth-class city on the first vote. We did it! It was a great day.” By July 15, 1959, certification was issued and “the little village by the sea” was in business.



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