The “community conversations” about how to revitalize our downtown have revitalized my vision of how we could realize the “pedestrian orientation” called for in our Community Plan.
I think we should be like smart businesses who “differentiate” themselves from their competitors. Our competitors are other small towns who want to attract visitors and most of them are trying for very similar versions of small retail shops that serve residents and attract visitors. Del Mar doesn’t need more big retail structures — it needs to differentiate itself from these other towns.
Perhaps we have already discovered our differentiator. It is open space. No other town has open space that rivals the open space assets that surround our community. We have lagoons on both north and south ends of town. We have invested in wonderful parks, including Powerhouse, Crest Canyon, Sea Grove, Anderson Canyon, numerous pocket parks, walking trails, and our newest Shores Park. Of course, we have our incredible beach and the beautiful Pacific ocean. Hopefully, the future will give us a bluff park when the train tracks are removed.
Our neighborhoods with their attractive greenery and ruralesaque streets complement all of these bountiful public open spaces. Residents and visitors alike are attracted to all of these wonderful green spaces. The common denominator to all of these spaces is that they are for pedestrians, not cars The only oddball in this picture is downtown where the car is king. Customers come from walkers, not drivers passing through.
The logical answer to our downtown revitalization puzzle is to convert our downtown to open spaces where pedestrians have a higher priority than the automobile. Let’s declare Camino Del Mar, Stratford Court, and Luneta walking spaces for residents and visitors alike. Add in Crest Road to head off any efforts by cars to bypass the system. Reduce lanes, narrow streets, put in comfortable walkways, add attractive greenery. Add a roundabout at 9th street, an underground parking structure under a new city hall, provide a shuttle from the fairgrounds parking lots which is full less than 30 days a year, convert the unfriendly 15th street intersection to a pedestrian “scramble”.
Del Mar will become the one place in all of Southern California where the pedestrian is king. Cars are secondary. Visitors will say “let’s go to Del Mar and enjoy a day free of traffic, strolling around, going to the beach, shopping, and picnicking in the parks — I would love to spend a day not worrying about traffic.”
Once we become the pedestrian mecca of the region, smart businesses will figure out what they have to do to sell products and services to all of those walkers. Just like mall developers — if we build it, shoppers and businesses will come.
Walkable Del Mar — it works for residents and visitors alike.