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COMMENTARY: Beginnings
Bud Emerson | Klish Way

There we were, about 15 or more Delmarians sitting in a circle around Jacqueline’s living room, in the year 1996. I remember John, Chuck, Rosalind, Lou, Shirley, Brooke, Debbie, Joel, Judy, Henry, Joe, Rosanne, Lee, Joyce, Bill, Marshal, Julie, Mary Ann, Gordon, Gay, Joe, Ivo, Sharon Ann and several more. For years we had been diligently fighting to protect the small town character of Del Mar, meeting twice a month in between City Council meetings to study and discuss the issues of the day: planning, design review, view protection, traffic, fairgrounds friction, beachfront encroachment, city hall upgrading, downtown revitalization. Sound familiar?

From the 1997
March Sandpiper
Click to enlarge.

We were quite frustrated and often on the defensive, mostly from a faction in town who we believed were trying to commercialize and grow Del Mar into a Newport Beach look-alike. Their case was being marketed by the yellow journalism of a paper called “Del Mar Today” written and published anonymously, though everyone knew it was led by Tom and Bill. The paper ridiculed “green” values, railed against the Community Plan, and personalized attacks against environmentally-oriented leaders. This was the heyday of the we/they wars that made Del Mar notorious around the region.

We were fed up with our ineffectiveness in articulating the vision and values that were so well articulated in the Community Plan, our “constitution.” Instead of always being reactive to the relentless attacks from our opponents we needed to become proactive. We were convinced that if we could find a way to make the case for the development of our town consistent with the Community Plan, it would win the day. Newcomers and oldtimers would come to see that Del Mar would benefit by differentiating itself from the mindless development eating up the rest of the county. Del Mar would preserve its special quality of life that would ultimately result in increased property values.

One of our leaders, Chuck Newton, a man with a strong communications background, began making the case for us to create our own version of a community news outlet. He argued for funding a grassroots supported paper that would represent Community Plan values by soliciting writers from the community, would provide a forum for reasoned conversation and debate, would keep citizens up to date on local news, and would set a standard for civil discourse without personal attacks. The focus would be on a community working to balance the built environment, the human environment, and the natural environment.
After much discussion and debate we formed a consensus to raise funds and start a paper. Within a few months, with generous funding mostly from Harvey Furgatch, the “Sandpiper” was born.

Over the past 20 years the Sandpiper has appeared in every Del Mar home at least ten months a year. For most of that time the paper was cranked out heroically on the shoulders of a succession of individual editors including Chuck, Gay, Julie, Jacqueline, Penny, Mark, John, Sam, Carol, and Shirley. Finally, Carol and Shirley came up with the idea of an editorial team to spread the workload and achieve broader perspective. For the last five or six years we have been operating with a ten person editorial team. Over the years, the Sandpiper has proudly printed the words of more than 500 writers.

During its twenty years of operation, the Sandpiper has evolved, as has the community, to embrace a variety of views about how to interpret and bring to fruition the eloquent vision of the Community Plan



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