Del Mar City Council adopts resolution supporting racial equality

Black Lives Matter
Del Mar resident Nicole Forrest began handing out Black Lives Matter signs to her neighbors when protesting over racial injustice began earlier this year.

Drawing strong, mixed reactions from residents, the Del Mar City Council approved a resolution supporting racial equality, condemning police brutality and espousing other goals of Black Lives Matter in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.

The resolution, which is largely symbolic and doesn’t commit the city to any particular policies, passed 3-2 during the council’s Nov. 9 online meeting.

After a contentious discussion about some of its assertions, Deputy Mayor Terry Gaasterland and Councilman Dave Druker voted against it. Among residents who emailed the city and spoke during public comment, some thought it was a step forward in the fight for racial equality. Others felt it was an overly harsh indictment of Del Mar and its people.

One of the resolution’s authors, Del Mar resident Sudeepto Roy, said the city will be “in good neighborly company” with other nearby cities, including Solana Beach, that have adopted similar resolutions.

“This resolution does not take anything away from the city,” Roy said. “It simply provokes the question: What can we start doing today so that the outcome five, 10, 15 years from now is different?”

The wide-ranging resolution includes clauses on acknowledging “structural racism,” “the killing of countless individuals by police across the country,” and calls on the city to “work proactively” with the county sheriff to improve policing. It also states the city’s opposition to facial recognition technology, which has caused concern about its racial bias. A temporary statewide ban on law enforcement using body cameras for facial recognition went into effect this year.

One of the clauses that drew some ire says that “the demographics and privileges of the City of Del Mar are testament to the failures of our principles, through overt historical policies and insidious externalities of longstanding discrimination and bias.”

Del Mar resident Nicole Forrest, another coauthor of the resolution, said “We don’t push for this resolution because Del Mar is a bad place to live, filled with bad people.”

“We fight for this resolution because we want to ensure that even Del Mar is more just, that it’s even more loving and an even stronger community and even safer for all of us who live here and who visit,” she said.

But many residents emailed the city to say the resolution is “inappropriate,” that “racism is not systematic,” and that it “presupposes that Del Mar is a city made up of racist citizens.”

Councilman-elect Dan Quirk said in an email to the city that he supported one of the clauses that calls for “peaceful communication to create a more peaceful and just community.” But he also wrote that he wants to vote to rescind the resolution once his term starts.

Del Mar resident Bob Gans, who spoke during public comment, said he was surprised by the vehement opposition.

“I view it to be an affirmation of the core values that I believe we all cling to, that no person regardless of their race, religion, creed or national origin should be subject to unlawful discrimination, harassment or violence,” he said.

Gaasterland said she had 12 edits that could help make the resolution more palatable to those who opposed it. One was deleting the clause about “the demographics and privileges of the City of Del Mar.”

“My principles are not failed, I work on them every day. They’re always evolving, as all of our principles are,”Gaasterland said, adding that “I’d like to see us looking forward.”

Another clause that could be revised, she said, mentioned a “long legacy” of violence against people of color, women, immigrants and California’s indigenous peoples.

Druker said there is systemic racism and a caste system in the United States, but added that the resolution could be more succinct.

“I think we can tighten this up, make it a lot simpler and get it passed,” he said.

But after a motion and a second, it passed without any amendments on the split vote.

“We have to be willing to acknowledge some of these historical remnants that are ugly and unpleasant,” City Councilman Dwight Worden said. “It’s not an accusation to people who are here now that they created those. They didn’t. But we are asking that they be acknowledged and we do better going forward.”