Building the Plaza, part 3

Presented by Joe Jelley

Approvals from elected officials and official boards appeared to doom the Del Mar Plaza project.

“I remember John Gillies, who was subsequently elected city councilman, coming into our office, pounding his fist on the table and saying, ‘Take 40,000 feet out of the project or we’re going to bankrupt you,’ ” said developer David Winkler.

As a result the entire project was revised and renegotiated, but not with the Planning Commission or City Council, but in local living rooms. Ultimately, a picture on the front page of the Del Mar Citizen depicting cooperation between advocates and opponents of the project won the day.

Del Mar Plaza’s Measure B vote was approved in 1987 by 2 percent, or 41 votes.

Over the years, tension between the pro-development “greys” and the so-called “greens” (anti-development) Del Martians has diminished.

“I’m a lawyer, a developer and a real estate broker, so as far as where I stand in terms of respect of most people, it’s not very high,” Winkler said. But he said there were rewards to the project other than financial.

For example, one woman told him that her father’s remaining days were brightened by sitting on the Plaza deck and taking in the expansive view of ocean blue. The Plaza also won awards for Best Commercial Project in North America from the Building Industries Association and the Best Small Retail Project from the Urban Land Institute.

Real Estate broker Chiquita Abbot, who also put a bid on the Plaza project but had more modest intentions, said that Winkler and fellow developer Ivan Gayler were the right team to take on the project.

Editor’s note: This article, written by Richard Arcello, is reprinted from the “Del Mar Picture Book,” published by Joe Jelley. Contact him at