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EDITORIAL: Civility Works

The City of Del Mar has a lot of issues to deal with: construction of the new City Hall, short term rentals, policing in town, the Watermark project, planning the new Shores park, reviewing the Design Review process, a sales tax increase for utility undergrounding, among others. Of course there are differing opinions on all of these issues, and Del Marians are not shy about stating theirs. What we hope, however, is that differences of opinion do not turn to rancor, and that we can all respect our differing views.

Our national political discourse has become ever more polarized, which in turn has driven the national incivility index skyward. The City Council along with community efforts have taken steps to ensure that Del Mar does not follow that trend, by reminding us that while everyone may not agree on any particular issue, we can agree to be civil in our communications with each other. We applaud the City’s adoption of “Civility Works: The Del Mar Code of Civil Discourse,” a set of ground rules for how we should treat individuals and be treated by those involved in City public hearings. The code is clear and brief:

1) Promote inclusion --Share and respect diverse perspectives.

2) Listen to understand -- Be attentive, ask questions to clarify and confirm our understanding;

3) Show respect --Value all perspectives and look for common ground;

4) Be clear and fair -- Explain our positions and our reasoning; and

5) Focus on the issue -- Embrace the facts and avoid personalizing debate.

While this code is easy to propose, it will take work and self-control to follow. Del Mar has many issues that engender contentious opinions, which can inflame emotions. However, there is already movement to help us toward the goals of the adopted code. Several privately funded workshops on Civility and Conflict Resolution have already been offered free to Del Mar residents, with the intent and hope that civility can be contagious in the community. Other efforts are underway with specific policy suggestions, such as that of the Ad Hoc Design Review Committee intended to head off heated disputes at DRB hearings, by promoting early communication between applicants and neighbors before any development plans are prepared.

It’s easy for us to talk only to those who share our points of view, but living in such an “echo chamber” is not conducive to a complete understanding of the issues. The Sandpiper does have the stated mission of upholding the values and vision of our Community Plan, but reasonable people can disagree on how to attain that mission. We encourage the effort to let all voices be heard in the spirit of civil discourse. It can only make our community stronger.




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