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Is Del Mar Different?
Bud Emerson | Klish Way

A recent road trip to several distinctive, small California cities gave me opportunities to reflect on how and why Del Mar is different from most other small towns.

Cities in the Gold Country such as Jackson, Placerville, Auburn, Jamestown, Angels Camp have made important public policy decisions to differentiate themselves from other towns that tolerate mindless development. Clearly many of these towns value small scale buildings, greenery, energetic business centers, and walkability.
Similarly, a number of small cities in Central California, especially Pacific Grove and San Luis Obispo, have intentionally differentiated themselves with some values similar to Del Mar’s core values.

Both cities are very walkable and have vital downtown centers. Pacific Grove like its adjacent neighbor Monterey is embraced by large bodies of water, the bay and ocean. Both cities have incorporated the water into their design logic. However, Pacific Grove has a demonstrably stronger commitment to small scale houses, large trees, semi-rural walkways with few sidewalks, and a beautiful bayside bike trail. San Luis Obispo (SLO) differentiates itself with small scale neighborhoods, an energetic downtown with a world class farmer’s market, pedestrian and bike amenities, and a warm relationship with Cal Poly University.

What is interesting about these towns is their intention to be different. And they are different in the way our Community Plan differentiates Del Mar. They and we celebrate that they are not like other towns. We do not want to be Rancho Santa Fe or Fairbanks Ranch or San Diego with houses that cry out “look at me .” It is easy to see our differentiators if you compare the bulk and mass of most houses along Del Mar Heights Road with nearby Del Mar houses whose scale is regulated by our design ordinances.

Del Mar is different and we have a right to be proud of our differences. We have invested in a greenbelt of canyons, open space, parks, two lagoons, and our wonderful beach. Our citizens have voted overwhelmingly to tax ourselves to acquire open space to prevent intense development such as condos in Crest Canyon and a restaurant row where Powerhouse Park is now. Our winding streets with no sidewalks trumpet the fact that pedestrians and bike riders have equal standing with autos. The absence of street lights gives us wonderful views of nightime stars. It is easy to recognize Del Mar’s lush greenery, flowers, and magnificent trees. We maintain our parks and long pristine beach as welcome recreation destinations for people from all over.

Our Community Plan is the “constitution” that has guided our careful development for more than four decades. Its vision is clearly to preserve our small town atmosphere. Yes, our regulations are tight, but the result is a town that is the envy of many and one that we enjoy living in. For those who need metric proof, check our our high property values.

Is Del Mar Different? You Betcha!


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