2009: A look back

City of Del Mar celebrates 50 years

2009 was the city of Del Mar’s golden anniversary. It was a year of celebrations and reminiscing, a year when the city went smoke-free, sidewalk cafes sprung to life and parents fought to save a neighborhood school. Here’s a look back at the stories that kept Del Mar moving in 2009.

New life for downtown

On Jan. 12, City Council approved moving forward with developing form-based codes to help revitalize the downtown commercial area. “Form-based codes” means tailoring zoning regulations to each parcel, how a building is designed and positioned on a lot.

The codes may allow for redevelopment of commercial buildings in the hopes of attracting more businesses to the village.

Since May, the form-based codes committee has been meeting — an open house for public input will be held in December with the aim to have a draft plan available by spring 2010.

Raising the roof

The Del Mar Arena at the Del Mar Fairgrounds reopened on April 16, following a $15 million renovation that included installation of a 76,267-square-foot roof. Officials marked the completion of the project with a ribbon-cutting ceremony to coincide with the start of the three-week Del Mar National Horse Show, which started the same day in the arena.

7/11 drama 24-7

The 7/11 committee formed in April to study the use of surplus space within the Del Mar Union School District. The seven-person committee has looked at the possibility of closing a campus to find a new home for the district office and help with the district’s budgetary shortfalls. The process has caused Del Mar Hills and Del Mar Heights parents to rally in opposition to closing the Hills and merging Hills and Heights.

As of December, there have been 17 meetings, three public hearings and recommendation to the board has been delayed until January.


Details for the plan to move utility wires underground in the North Hills and Sunset districts in the city were ironed out at the April 20 City Council meeting.

The districts proceed toward construction in 2010, if property owners approve paying for the improvements, although people in both districts have expressed concern to City Council about the fairness of assessment rates.

Voting was expected to occur in the fall but has since been delayed.

If approved, North Hills was to be completed in January 2011 and Sunset by March 2011.

Library gets a new look

The Del Mar Library’s expansion was celebrated on April 16, with the new digs including a new 550-square-foot community room that was described by many as a dream come true.

“I am so thrilled to have it,” said Pat Freeman, treasurer of the Friends of the Del Mar Library, which donated $50,000 toward the $250,000 project.

In December the library also completed their landscaping project, which added a succulent garden and a new eye-catching wave sculpture by artist James Hubbell to the Camino Del Mar frontage.

Walk remembers a treasured friend

The Jerry Finnell Lagoon to Lagoon Memorial Walk was held on May 16. Beginning at Torrey Pines State Beach, participants walked two miles along the sand to Dog Beach. The walk honored the city’s civic leaders of the past 50 years but especially Jerry Finnell, former mayor and City Council member who died of cancer in 2008.

The memorial walk paid tribute to two of Finnell’s passions — he was a strong advocate of the San Dieguito Lagoon restoration project and a founding board member of Del Mar Community Connections.

For sale: Fairgrounds?

Beginning in May, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger toyed with the idea of putting the Del Mar Fairgrounds up for sale along with seven other state-owned properties to raise more than $1 billion to help close the state’s $21 billion budget gap.

The sale of the fairgrounds, at 350-oceanfront-acres, was estimated to bring in $650 million.

More than 200 people showed up to oppose the sale at a June 9 meeting of the 22nd District Agricultural Association.

The sale was nixed on July 28, when the Governor signed the budget without the fairgrounds included.

Sidewalk cafes

As sidewalk cafes got built along 15th Street in June, a group of 14 residents called for their removal, comparing them to fortresses that blocked views and narrowed the sidewalk.

Their opposition prompted a special meeting by the City Council on June 15, in which more than 60 people showed their support for the cafes.

“I like what is happening,” said lifelong resident Tensia Trejo. “For a long time we were sort of dead ... I believe the cafes are going to give us that little uplift again.”

The city received more than 150 e-mails, the vast majority in favor of the new outdoor cafes.

Del Mar’s birthday party

The city celebrated 50 years with a picture-perfect summer evening on July 12 at Powerhouse Park. Children playing on the lawn, friends and neighbors relaxing and socializing and the sun slowly setting into the ocean seemed to capture the essence of why so many residents love Del Mar.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said resident Beth Davidson.

The Del Mar TV Foundation set up an outdoor studio to record residents’ memories of the city and birthday wishes.

In 50 years, “we’ll be right here,” said resident Randy Amerine. “There’s not a place in the United Sates we’d rather be than right here.”

Lagoon Nature Center finds a plan

The San Dieguito River Park Joint Powers Authority held a workshop July 17-19 to gather locals’ opinions on what they want for a San Dieguito Lagoon Nature Center.

The final design includes two buildings linked by a center courtyard. The buildings’ flat roofs will serve as viewing platforms for visitors. There will also be two solar chimneys, one with a slanted feature, creating the look of a long-necked shore bird.

The center will contain space for rangers, docents and a viewing lab for scientists. Across the courtyard will be an open space for exhibits and theater for film screenings. Upstairs will be a community room for meetings as well as the viewing platforms.

Now they just need the funds to build.

Fire displaces six families

In the early morning hours of Aug. 1, a fire burned for 90 minutes at the six-unit condominium Del Mar Woods complex overlooking Torrey Pines State Beach, injuring one person and causing an estimated $3.5 million to $4 million damage.

Construction on the complex continues.

Reserve celebrates anniversary, too

The Torrey Pines State Reserve Extension celebrated its creation 35 years ago with a party at Del Mar Heights School on Aug. 22.

The extension was at one time slated for development, but a grass-roots fundraising campaign in 1974 led to the acquisition and incorporation of the extension into the state reserve.

Streetscape improvements on the way

Del Mar residents got their first look at the city’s streetscape enhancement plans at an open house on Sept 29. Construction will begin at the beginning of 2010 and is expected to be complete by the end of February.

From 11th to 15th streets, there will be new sidewalks and driveway tree grates and new landscape median from 15th to 14th streets. The project will be paid for by TransNet funds and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, part of the federal stimulus package.

Smoke-free city

The council approved an ordinance on Oct. 5 that banned smoking at all city facilities and on downtown sidewalks, outdoor cafes and adjacent streets. The ordinance was made official on Oct. 26 and went into effect in November.

The ordinance also prohibits mobile sales of tobacco products, such as hand-outs of coupons or free packs by cigarette company representatives.

By the numbers

1.27 million:

Visitors to the San Diego County Fair, breaking an attendance record set in 2007.


Dollars raised by Del Mar Union School District parents to save art, music, science, physical education and technology in their schools.


Pages in the Fairgrounds Master Plan draft environmental impact report.


Pugs who attended the Pug Rescue of San Diego held their annual Pug Party at the fairgrounds in May.


Wooden fish decorated with recycled materials by Del Mar Hills students placed on the beach at the annual Keep Del Mar Clean beach cleanup on May 30.


People dressed at Jason Vorhees from “Friday the 13th” at Scream Zone, setting a world record for the most people dressed like Jason.


Years 2008’s Mayor Crystal Crawford has been a member of the Del Mar City Council.


Del Mar school, Del Mar Hills, that will be recommended for closure by the 7/11 committee in January.