By Bud Emerson
Just spent a week in New York and was flabbergasted to see that Mayor Bloomberg has succeeded in closing a huge section of Broadway to car traffic. That’s right, I said “Broadway,” right in the middle of Times Square. Instead of fighting our way through jammed sidewalks, we strolled down the middle of the street, saw people sitting at small tables with umbrellas and realized cars were deferring to pedestrian traffic.
I was thrilled. It was gratifying to see how humanized Times Square has become. But I couldn’t resist the urge to bellyache about my hometown’s inability to civilize our downtown streets. If the Big Apple could do it, what is Del Mar’s problem? After all, our Community Plan clearly calls for the narrowing of Camino del Mar to achieve a more pedestrian-friendly downtown. We agreed to this plan in the mid-'70s, so what has stymied our decision-makers? I went on quite a toot, ready to come back home and start raising hell as I have for so many years.
Well, what to my wondering eyes do I see when I return? Unbelievably, there is a serious proposal coming before our council to pilot test eliminating one southbound lane on CDM between 15th and 12th streets. This has every chance of really transforming our downtown in a way that no revitalization effort has ever achieved. Instead of being a “pass through” highway to go through Del Mar to get somewhere else, Del Mar could become a place to go to, not go through.
Every year when we have the Art Stroll and close off the street for a few hours, Del Mar becomes that quaint European-type village that our Community Plan envisions. Cars slow down. Cars detour to Interstate 5. Pedestrians rule. Pedestrians meander into shops, stop and talk with neighbors, and seem to enjoy not being in a hurry to get somewhere. This new pilot proposal could make that an everyday phenomenon.
There is a movement alive in the country today to take back our streets. Check it out at livablestreets.com.
We can be justifiably proud of all of our efforts over the years to preserve the small town quality of life we enjoy. Transforming our downtown into a livable street could be the culmination of our Community Plan and put us in the forefront of a national trend of taking back the streets. We can do this. Let’s make it happen.