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Is Del Mar Different?
Bud Emerson - Klish Way

The election season often produces heated rhetoric bordering on hyperbole. Some of the heat this year focuses on “the old guard” holding back “progress.” I suggest we refocus beyond the narrow lens of a Council campaign to a larger frame of the past several decades. Let’s examine how Del Mar got its unique small town character which in turn has produced the highest property values in the region.

Let’s start with vision. The voters who adopted the Community Plan set out from the very beginning to differentiate Del Mar from most other communities. Del Mar was not going to become another Rancho Santa Fe or Mission Beach with houses that cry out “look at me” or neighborhoods over run with “spring break” visitor behavior. They rejected the mindless large scale growth of nearby towns. Instead they set out to create a managed growth process which would encourage structures of modest scale and bulk surrounded by open space and lush greenery.
Our Community Plan became the “constitution” that has guided our careful development for more than four decades. Its vision is clearly to preserve our small town atmosphere. The strategy to achieve that vision was to set up planning and review processes that would scrutinize all proposed developments very carefully, with maximum opportunities for neighbors and the general public to weigh in on how each neighborhood would be affected. 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 always rising property values.

Del Mar defines “progress” differently 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 nighttime stars. The look of Del Mar’s built environment is softened by acres of lush greenery, flowers, and magnificent trees. We maintain our parks and long pristine beach as welcome recreation destinations for people from all over.

It has not been easy to manage this journey. All along the way we heard strident voices warning of “fiscal irresponsibility,” “too much regulation,” “revitalize Del Mar,” “things take too long” and more. We have been fortunate almost always to have had generations of participative leaders who embraced our vision and managed our “progress” with patience and fiscal prudence to achieve community consensus.

My hope is that we can hold on to that vision and move very deliberately into the future. Is Del Mar Different? You Betcha!



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