Opinion/Letters to the Editor November 2020
Nov. 5 issue:
Misinformation about the SDFA
There’s a discussion in the community driven by misinformation and misunderstanding about the San Dieguito Faculty Association (SDFA). We write to define what the SDFA actually is and how it fits into our current circumstance. Some vocal and demonstrative community members have been claiming the SDFA is preventing teachers from returning to on-site classrooms and characterizing the SDFA as an external, bully-type force that somehow solely controls the decisions of the San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD).
The SDFA is not just teachers, it includes our counselors and it does not just represent the people teaching and counseling our children, it is those same people—their president is a middle school counselor and their membership is voluntary, consisting of a vast majority of our children’s teachers and counselors. To suggest that these people—our neighbors and friends—are being manipulated or are engaged in some plot to keep students off their campuses does one thing, and one thing only. It allows those who don’t believe that teachers should have the same employment rights guaranteed to other public employees to dehumanize and vilify our teachers and counselors for personal political gain. This vilification began a few years ago and has reached a fever pitch during this sensitive time. We should be especially wary of anyone in our community blaming the teachers’ association for problems caused by those in the district administration and elected leadership who sow division among us rather than try to bring us together.
Those who cast aspersions toward the SDFA might consider that teachers are not the only public employees to form associations as a way to organize themselves and speak with one voice. Our local police officers have the San Diego Police Officers Association and our local firefighters have the San Diego City Firefighters Association. Blaming or even giving sole credit to the SDFA for decisions made by the San Dieguito Union High School District would be like blaming or giving sole credit to the police and firefighters associations for decisions made by the Mayor of San Diego. It just doesn’t work that way.
Employees’ associations are just some of the many voices that leaders consider when making decisions for the public good. During this pandemic, state, county, university and public health voices are also paramount. When associations are excoriated for certain decisions, this might be a clear sign that communication and transparency have broken down at all levels. We urge all stakeholders in SDUHSD to come together to collaborate and compromise to ensure best practices in decision making—and that the education and safety of our children be the top priority, always.
Keeping the kids at home is not a solution
To the San Dieguito Union High School District board and Superintendent Haley:
I can’t properly put into words how utterly gutted I am in your lack of putting the welfare of the children foremost in your return to school planning. To capture the failure of your leadership, let’s look at the things I can now do with my 7th grader at Earl Warren under the approval of the county:
Dine inside a restaurant
Take him to church, movies, museums
Go inside barbershops, grocery stores, airports, gyms
As of 10/30 the CDC even allowed cruise ships to resume operations
Enroll him in the private schools that are all teaching in person
Move to a district that has the right priority in placing the student’s needs first. Grossmont, Vista, Escondido are teaching their kids on site
If he was 6 years older, he could even go get a tattoo of his most familiar teacher, a tossup now between Mrs. Dell or Mr. MacBook
On the other hand, here are things I can’t take him to:
Bars & breweries (unless they serve food in which case bottoms up)
Sauna or steam rooms
His middle school
You are continuing to keep the kids hostage in their homes in a situation all know fails to enable development to their potential. This going on 8 months of lack of adequate instruction and socialization leads to depression, isolation, and achievement gaps. Experts well versed in the pandemic response, including Dr. Fauci in remarks recently, said “the default should be getting children back in school as opposed to making the default, when you have infections, keep them out of school.”
I can appreciate that this is a difficult and unprecedented situation. However, the reality is that our kids are not as impacted by the virus as those who are older or have underlying conditions. We need to protect those at risk and learn to live with it for all others. Keeping the kids at home is not a solution and one that will guarantee unintended consequences far severe than the challenges that reopening our schools present.
In the SDUHSD you have so many parents and teachers willing to find a way to make in person learning happen. You as leaders have to outline the way for this to become reality. You have the power of the majority willing to support you in any way needed. We can do this.
Let’s go forward and use this time to reset, and figure out a way to get our kids back in the classroom, with their talented teachers doing what they do best. Teaching our kids in person.
Disappointed father of a EWMS 7th grader
Congratulations; now we need leadership with humility and civility
Open Letter to the Del Mar City Council:
The election is over — what a relief!
Congratulations to the winners and good luck to all of you as you attack the greatest challenges in Del Mar’s history through positive leadership.
This was an ugly election. We don’t blame you for the lapses in civility, courtesy and veracity that have become part of the process of our national leaders. But it would be a huge mistake to waste energy on partisanship when it will take all our collective energy and focus to manage our city through the coming years.
Please don’t take offense at our presumption in reminding you that you were elected to the Council as representatives of all the citizens of Del Mar, not merely those who supported and voted for you. We chose you because we believe in your individual and collective intellect, honesty, and objectivity. In order to govern effectively, obtain input from all your constituents and evaluate it fairly and equitably. We are counting on you to analyze and understand the crucial issues and to deal with them courageously, independently, and transparently, irrespective of the emotionally-charged election process. It is important that you have an open mind to consider ideas that came from those in a council minority and embrace them if they are in the best interest of our community. This means you are willing to “give and take” and compromise and collaborate with your colleagues. You have every right to change your mind as new facts appear and situations change. Both of those will happen.
Please lead our city to the bright future based upon the values and history that made our city the paradise that it is. Don’t be distracted by backward-looking negativism and by the pressures from special interests. As you navigate past COVID-19, you will have to make difficult choices and ensure that essential services are maintained and the city’s finances are on a solid footing. You will need to weave through these and, most likely, offend a lot of people in many cases. That’s part of the job.
If you do your best, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have risen above the petty politics in which we have been immersed in the past months. You can set a new example of courageous leadership. We promise that, when the dust settles, you will be appreciated and honored for your service. Let’s work together to create a better and stronger Del Mar.
Martin “Marty” Cooper
and Suren G. Dutia
Nov. 12 issue:
Please represent the best interests of the city
Open Letter to Councilmember-Elect Tracy Martinez:
I just received the referendum petition being circulated by the Hillside Community Association (HCA) seeking to repeal zone changes necessary for Del Mar’s compliance with state housing law. As a newly elected councilmember and member of HCA, please speak up against this ill-advised referendum. Show Del Mar that you will represent the best interests of the entire city.
Here’s what is at stake.
• Upon city clerk certification that the referendum has acquired the required 10% signatures, by state law the zoning ordinance is immediately suspended.
• Suspending the zoning will prevent Del Mar from complying with state housing law. Del Mar is out of compliance, as the State has told us in its September 30 letter.
• Decertification of Del Mar’s Housing Element will, predictably, follow.
• Decertification will disqualify Del Mar from obtaining grant funding needed for a fairgrounds housing project.
• Inability to fund a fairgrounds housing option will lead toward “by right” development at North Bluff and South Stratford with potentially hundreds of units.
To offset the 51 affordable units we propose to locate on the fairgrounds would require 250+ units on North Bluff and South Stratford under our 20% set-aside rules. Nobody wants that, but that is what the referendum puts at risk. Our one shot for success is to fund the fairgrounds program with grant funds, and meet our obligations there, rather than North and South Bluff. All that stops if we are decertified.
North Bluff and South Stratford are the only viable alternatives to the fairgrounds for 20 units/acre designation. Other options have been reviewed and are too small, have environmental or access constraints, or other disqualifying factors. Please, check with city staff or other reliable sources to verify what I am saying.
I believe in the right to vote. But this is different. The State’s housing hammer hangs over Del Mar. I urge you to support the broader city interest over the interests of your neighborhood. This isn’t easy—it’s your neighborhood, friends, and supporters promoting the referendum. But, that’s the job of an elected councilmember.
I am sharing this letter publicly in the hope of reaching those who might be considering signing the referendum petition. I ask that you join me in that effort.
Del Mar Councilmember
A note from the Kitchen Shrink
To my loyal readers,
The holidays are quickly approaching, and I really miss doling out a hearty dose of helpful and healthy food advice. Since the pandemic began food has become more important than ever to all of us made apparent by the maddening periodic scarcity of flour, sugar, oil, pastas, beans, and other staples on the supermarket shelves. Homemade dishes not only boost our immune systems and energy levels, but the art of cooking provides a source of comfort, joy, solace, much-needed distraction, and family bonding. Although many of our tables will likely shrink this Thanksgiving holiday, our appetites for sharing a festive meal with our close loved ones will likely swell. Please feel free to reach out to me for some turkey talk, culinary queries of all manners, and a few long-overdue laughs. I’m at the same place — firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, shop smartly, eat heathy, cook daily, and stay safe.
“The Kitchen Shrink”
The high drama of the 2020 election
By Gordon Clanton
Key local races were influenced by the down-to-the-wire presidential race and took place against the backdrop of the global coronavirus pandemic, economic collapse, and racial unrest not seen since the 1960s. (Note: Results were unofficial as of press time according to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters which said on its website that 33,000 ballots still had to be processed. Percentages below were as of press time Wednesday, Nov. 11.):
In the 49th District, first-term Democratic Congressman Mike Levin defeated (56-43 percent) Republican challenger Brian Maryott, former mayor of San Juan Capistrano, probably because support for Donald Trump was slipping in the district, which includes southern Orange and northern San Diego County.
Similarly, in the Third District race for county supervisor, Republican incumbent Kristin Gaspar had strongly identified with Donald Trump, embracing his policies on immigration and the border. This probably hurt her in a district where support for Trump was declining. Her Democratic challenger, Terra Lawson-Remer, won by 16 percentage points. After decades of Republican rule, the county board will now have a Democratic majority. And on the San Diego City Council, Democrats will have an 8-1 edge – and a new Democratic mayor, Todd Gloria.
In rural North and East County, Congressional District 50, where support for Trump is very high, Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar fell short in his second strong bid for Congress, losing (54-46 percent) to Republican Darrell Issa. In 2018, Issa resigned his 49th District seat rather than face likely defeat. That seat is now held by Mike Levin.
When I arrived in Del Mar in 1974, Republicans held three of the county’s four Congressional seats. Now Democrats hold four of five seats, a metric unchanged by the recent election.
Proposition 15. In 1978 California voters passed Proposition 13, requiring that residential, commercial, and industrial properties be taxed based on their purchase price. The tax was limited to no more than 1 percent of the purchase price, with an annual adjustment of no more than 2 percent.
Prop 13 was good for California homeowners, substantially reducing property taxes and allowing retired folks to stay in their homes. But Prop 13 was also a huge windfall for California’s largest corporations. They, too, were taxed at the same low rate and low appreciation limits. Chevron and PG&E get the same tax break as your grandmother, but on a much larger scale.
Prop 15 on the November ballot would have required large commercial and industrial properties, except for commercial agriculture, to be taxed based on their market value, rather than their purchase price. Most Democratic elected officials statewide supported the measure. It was opposed by Chevron and PG&E. Prop 15 was defeated 56-44 percent.
Gordon Clanton teaches sociology at San Diego State University. He does not speak for the university. He welcomes comments at email@example.com.
Nov. 19 issue:
Proposition 15 defeat a good result
I am glad that the majority of the residents of California see through the trick of the people who wrote Proposition 15. Because if they did approve it, the same people who wrote Prop 15 will write another proposition to impose more taxes on portions of what was approved by Prop 13.
In “One View” of the Nov. 12 edition of the Del Mar Times, Mr. Clanton says that corporations benefit from Prop 13. He says Prop 15 will raise their taxes. Let me remind him that if corporations pay more taxes, they will simply raise the prices of what they are selling. We, the people, end up paying for it. Mr. Clanton forgets that corporations employ thousands of people, so that these people can make a living. If they have to pay too much taxes, they’ll probably lay off some workers.
Mr. Clanton, I suggest you think it through before writing your editorial.
Del Mar’s ADU charade
As many are aware, accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are becoming ever more popular in Del Mar. As of today, there are 30 new ADUs under development within our small city. One might think that this is a good trend that will help the city reach its affordable housing goals – which, in fact, is the intent of the recently implemented state law that incentivized this trend. Both Deputy Mayor Gaasterland, and City Councilmember-elect Tracy Martinez have indicated that ADUs are a reasonable alternative to re-zoning to reach our mandated housing goals. Unfortunately, this is not the case, and the trend, if it continues, has the unintended consequence of undermining our cherished Community Plan much more than the approved North Commercial re-zoning.
Let me explain. Firstly, under current state law, for an ADU to be counted as affordable housing, it must be dedicated as such for 30 years with a legal deed restriction. So far only one of the ADUs being developed has agreed to such a restriction – and that one was proposed before the current state law went into effect. Under this law, an ADU of up to 1,000 square feet can be built without any of the city’s discretionary oversight, such as DRB evaluation or floor area ratio restrictions. These ADUs need not be dedicated to any affordable housing use. So, what is the consequence for a city like Del Mar, where house prices are $1,000 per square foot or more, and those who buy them have no need to rent out their space to help them financially? One doesn’t have to be an economist to see that the availability of an extra 1,000 sq.ft. not subject to Del Mar’s FAR restrictions increases the value of a home by a million dollars, while placing a deed restriction on the property diminishes its value accordingly. The implications of this are apparent. Del Mar’s Community Plan and its Design Review Ordinances, that make our beautiful city unique, is being undermined, with new developments increasing building density on their lot with ADUs that can block views with impunity, and decrease the open space nature of our neighborhoods. The primary goal of our Community Plan states: “The overall thrust of this Plan is to preserve the unique environment, low density character and quality of life within Del Mar.”
There are three takeaways from Del Mar’s ADU charade. 1) The intent of the State Law fails miserably in a place like Del Mar; 2) ADUs in Del Mar are not the answer to our affordable housing obligation; and 3) ADUs threaten to undermine our Community Plan. But don’t get me wrong, I am in favor of ADUs that are dedicated to affordable housing, and would be happy to have them in my neighborhood. The only solution to this dilemma that I can see is to lobby our state representatives to modify the ADU statute to require deed restrictions in cities (or neighborhoods) where property values make the law’s original intent irrelevant.
Racial inequality: Actions speak louder than words
If your gut reaction to a symbolic anti-racist resolution is outrage and indignity, you just might be racist.
The backlash to this simple commitment to racial equality isn’t entirely surprising. Del Mar is 94% White with a median age of 50; not exactly a bastion of progressive thought. The public denial of “systematic” racism, however, is what happens when the privileged are faced with acknowledging their privilege. Rather than accept any personal responsibility, we choose to ignore the enduring inequality.
A more insidious rebuke of racial justice, however, is the effort by some residents to overturn a zoning change approved by the City Council. Believe it or not, this decision has a far more tangible effect on racial justice than some ideological resolution. A long history of redlining, restrictive zoning and discrimination excluded non-Whites from buying homes here in California while creating a massive housing shortage. When small towns like Del Mar refuse any attempt at upzoning, the entire state suffers.
Our neighbors in Solana Beach are fighting a similar increase to density. SANDAG asked them to build 875 new units over 10 years but apparently such a massive expansion of housing would destroy the “character” of these exclusive little beach towns. That exclusivity, however, is slowly draining out the neighborhood as prices go up and people look for houses elsewhere. Del Mar’s population has been falling since the ’90s and Solana Beach hasn’t grown in 20 years.
It might be hard to see the connection between racial justice and the state’s broken housing market; what you can see are the 150,000 Californians sleeping in the street on any given night. And, while they account for only 5.5% of the state’s total, Black Californians make up 30% of the homeless population. That disparity is a direct result of systemic racism and it doesn’t matter if you, personally, are vehemently racist or not. If you refuse to address the structural racism from which you benefit, you are at least complicit in the continued disenfranchisement of Black and other non-White Californians.
Over the past few years city councils, school boards, and community leaders alike have been jumping on the “woke” train and releasing toothless statements outlining their theoretical commitment to racial justice while ignoring the literal steps they could take instead. People seem to think of it as somebody else’s problem; it’s not our job to fix statewide issues. As long as we tell everybody we don’t like racism, we’re good, right? When in reality the continued refusal of all the little towns like Del Mar to actually do the work is what perpetuates racial and economic inequality.
Don’t tell us you’re anti-racist; show us.
Mask law on the beach should be enforced
It’s time the city starts enforcing the mask law on the beach. I’d say daily compliance hovers around 25%. That’s disgraceful. Lots of signs have done very little. Send a law enforcement patrol once a week, preferably at 8-9 a.m., up and down the beach. Watch compliance shoot up. That works on those rare occasions when the city decides to enforce the loose dogs law, which, by the way, is also rampant at those hours. The default action is closing the beach. I don’t think any of the beach folks want that. But, apparently, they do need encouragement to behave in their own self-interest.
This is not progress
Parents and grandparents might wish to compare both the writing and the requirements in the pre-World War II and the most recent Boy Scout astronomy merit-badge book for a clear demonstration of the decline of American education.
Before the war there were no constantly changing approaches to learning because it was understood that the basics were essential, required personal discipline and even (gasp!) memorization. With a solid foundation of the basics, young minds acquired the tools required to make something of themselves. The rest, it was understood, was a function of individual character.
This country would do well to return to a rigorous grounding in the basics. Then perhaps all our children might be able to read with the level of comprehension we once took for granted and our children, as they once did, could easily deal with the kind of writing found in old merit-badge books.
Grandmother of two Del Mar students
Nov. 26 issue:
Give teachers the choice to teach remotely and improve safety measures
At the Nov. 19 San Dieguito Union High School District (SDUHSD) board meeting, district administration said that requiring all teachers to physically return to classrooms on Jan. 4 will result in significant teacher loss. The district reported that 10% of all teachers are choosing an unpaid leave without benefits over returning physically. It’s estimated that 60-120 teachers will not return, creating a need for long-term substitutes. The forced physical return is unnecessary; the district remains in a distance learning model and teachers can continue teaching the same curriculum remotely. Forced return undercuts the San Diego County Public Health Officer’s directive that all employers, including essential employers like schools, encourage employees to telework.
The district reported that, even before the board’s chosen policy creates the anticipated teacher loss, SDUHSD needs to increase substitute pay because it faces a severe statewide shortage of substitutes. The shortage is so bad that the board discussed recruiting substitutes by hanging banners to attract random passersby, noting that there are lots of parents and unemployed people who could teach our kids; all they need is a college degree and they don’t need to take the CBEST if they can demonstrate an SAT score that doesn’t even need to be that high. The board is creating conditions it knows will lead to an irreparable 10-20% teacher loss, resulting in experienced, professional teachers being replaced by unemployed college graduates whose main qualifications are a willingness to be in a classroom.
Teachers are not commodities. SDUHSD’s outstanding teachers are subject-matter credentialed, prepare students for Advanced Placement examinations, encourage AVID learners to reach for college, and lead programs like IB, Envision, and teams and clubs that form students’ campus experiences. Academic integrity, quality of instruction, and campus culture will be severely degraded because teachers are not easily replaced by unemployed college graduates.
In a tight employment market, employers strive to retain employees. They don’t create plans causing mass resignation, increasing the need for employees. They improve working conditions. Teachers don’t feel safe under the current SDUHSD plan. The difficulty attracting qualified substitutes is worsened by the district’s plan which is woefully insufficient in filtration, testing, and more compared to San Diego Unified, a district competing for the same substitutes.
The county COVID situation is growing worse. The average number of cases reported per day over the prior week more than tripled from 307 to 1,004. Hospitalizations have more than doubled, from 181 to 439, and the worst is yet to come since hospitalizations lag cases by 2-3 weeks, according to State Secretary Ghaly.
SDUHSD board: Please give teachers the choice to teach remotely and improve safety measures at least to the standards of San Diego Unified and UCSD recommendations.
Big thank you to outgoing Del Mar council members Parks and Haviland
Retiring Del Mar City Council members Sherryl Parks and Ellie Haviland deserve a giant bouquet of thanks from us all for their exceptional community leadership. Sherryl’s steady hand has always been grounded in the core values of our Community Plan and her extraordinary ability to listen and learn from her constituents. Ellie’s principled representation of our interests in the region has been exemplary, especially while enduring with dignity a deplorable hate spew from some quarters.
Both Sherryl and Ellie deserve to know how much they have contributed to our quality of life and our reputation in the region. Thank you.
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