Del Mar, the smallest city in the region, has an impressive history of hitting beyond its weight, accomplishing big things against big odds. We have been successful in diverting the I-5 freeway away from our main road, incorporating as the region’s smallest city, moving private encroachments off of our public beach, developing Crest Canyon as open space instead of planned condo development, reviving our lagoon as the opening of a giant river valley preservation, raising funds to achieve one of the highest per capita open space/parks ratios in the nation, and much more.
What is it that accounts for this continuing string of accomplishments over the decades? We believe our “secret sauce” is human talent, citizens and leaders who work in a unified way to plan strategically and work persuasively in key decision-making forums. We have a deserved reputation for arguing among ourselves to get the details right, but when it comes to core values and working on vision and big challenges we have been effective in creating a unified majority. That unity makes us strong.
Contrast that with many other cities where internal bickering, personal attacks, and parochial perspective define their reputations and therefore their limited influence in regional decisionmaking. One very concerning consequence of such a reputation is that talented managers and staff professionals are reluctant to apply for positions where professional level work is devalued by political contentiousness.
Del Mar’s strategic challenges today are more daunting than ever. Crumbling bluffs put the rail tracks at risk. Funding track relocation will require significant outside cooperation. Fighting sea level rise to protect our beach community is a huge priority. Regional wild fire risk imperils our homes. Storage of nuclear waste at San Onofre is an existential threat. Actually achieving our fair share of solving the statewide middle-class housing shortage will require real resourceful planning. Add Marisol, Watermark, and Shores Park as more big items on this long agenda.
It is time for us to come together, pool resources from our community talent bank, and work on plans to meet the many huge strategic challenges in front of us. We cannot afford to waste our extensive talents on internal bickering or political gamesmanship. In order to attract the best talent and experience to our critical City Manager and Planning Director positions, we need to show we are serious about attacking our strategic change goals in a rational, serious way. We need to show that we can rise above our small differences and step up to accomplish big things, based on our shared core values.