Del Mar Council denies donor recognition installation at Del Mar Community Building

By Claire Harlin

The Del Mar City Council on Dec. 3 denied the Del Mar Foundation’s request to follow through with an installation meant to recognize the donors who helped fund the renovation of the Del Mar Community Building, located at 225 9th St. Council members had no problem with the ocean-scene mural slated for a crumbling concrete wall on the property, however, they said the part of the project that involves engraving ceramic fish and bubbles with donors’ names is in violation of city policy and must await the creation of a master plan to determine whether putting names in stone is what the community wants for that property.

“I am happy to have fish on the wall,” said Mayor Carl Hilliard. “I just don’t want names on them.”

The Del Mar Foundation has a two-year interim-use agreement with the City of Del Mar for use of the building, formerly the Del Mar Unified School District Administration site, while the city develops a long-term master plan for use of the entire Del Mar Shores property. The council determined that if it allows this donor recognition for the Del Mar Foundation, it is essentially jumping the gun on a master plan.

Because the building is on a two-year contract, foundation spokeswoman Betty Wheeler reiterated that the foundation was only asking for approval of a temporary installation.

“The wall is in a state of disrepair,” she said. “It’s pretty ugly.”

Local artists Mara Bickett and Becky Deller designed the installation, and 89 people voted for it, beating out two other design renderings at the Del Mar Community Building open house in August. Residents may recognize those local moms because they’ve steered youth art projects around Del Mar, such as the child-generated “Chihuly Plastique” recycled art project that was on display at the Post Office last year. At the open house, the artists attracted $1,250 in donations specifically for project.

Wheeler said she also made the mistake of ordering the construction of the tiles prior to council approval of the donor recognition, so council members suggested she hang them indoors and have blank tiles made in order to follow through with the artistic portion of the project.

Warren Spieker, of Friends of the Del Mar Parks, said just because the word “temporary” is in a proposal, does not mean it will be diligently taken down after two years.

“What’s meant to be temporary in Del Mar may actually take on permanence,” he said, garnering a laugh from the council.

More importantly, he said, if donor recognition for the community building is approved, the Friends would seek implementation of donor recognition for those who helped buy the Shores property for $8.5 million in 2007.

“Let’s stop this waste of your time having to consider every subject that comes up, and let’s use the time and community interest to develop the park into something we will all enjoy,” he said. “There’s no better time than now to master plan the Shores park.”

Lee Haydu, like the other council members, said she appreciates the donors and feels bad not supporting the recognition of those who have stepped forward to renovate the community building.

“I have mixed feelings,” she said. “But we’d be opening up a can of worms.”

Councilman Don Mosier reminded the council that there’s written policy to now allow donor recognition, and precedent was set through a previously denied effort to install a donor bench on the property.

“We would need to be consistent and make sure the donors who helped buy the Shores park would be first on the recognition list,” he said.