Del Mar: Eight years without a fight?

BY GORDON CLANTON

For the fourth consecutive season, there will be no contested City Council election in Del Mar.  Only two candidates stepped forward for two seats, incumbent Terry Sinnott and retired environmental attorney Dwight Worden.

Likewise in Solana Beach and San Marcos, council elections were cancelled because the number of candidates was equal to the number of seats.  Doing this saves money — $9,000 in Del Mar and $12,000 in Solana Beach.

The idea of four straight uncontested council elections in Del Mar is remarkable, almost bizarre, in light of the community’s history of polarized, high-stakes, hardball local politics.  In the 1970s the Community Plan was adopted in the face of well-organized opposition from real estate, construction and other business interests.

In the 1980s the “greens” recaptured the council from the “grays” with intense council campaigns attached to Measure B (a growth-control initiative inspired by L’Auberge and the Del Mar Plaza shopping center) and the Beach Protection Initiative.

In the subsequent absence of proposals for major commercial development, Del Mar politics cooled.  Consensus formed.  Fewer people stayed longer on the council.  And now, we approach a fourth consecutive uncontested election.  Eight years without a political fight in Del Mar.  Amazing.

Of course, Del Mar did divide on the Village Specific Plan, an ambitious 2012 proposal to narrow Camino del Mar to one lane each way, install roundabouts, and permit second-floor apartments above downtown businesses.  Had voters not defeated that measure, opponents probably would have mounted council campaigns promising to overturn it.

Not that there is nothing to argue about in Del Mar.  At one time, I thought the community division over undergrounding utilities might produce one or more council candidates.  Likewise the split between dog owners and Little League parents on the Shores School/Park property.  And I hear rumblings that some residents believe the city has become too permissive in its regulation of the wave of re-development and extra-large home enlargements now sweeping the community.  But, so far, none of these concerns has produced a council candidate.

To his credit, former Del Mar City Attorney Dwight Worden was prepared to run in a contested election.  Although by then appointed to the seat, Worden went ahead with his “kickoff party” Sept. 6, taking the opportunity to meet and listen to the concerns of voters.  He is one of the most able people ever to seek election to the Del Mar council.

Gordon Clanton teaches sociology at San Diego State University.

He welcomes comments at gclanton@mail.sdsu.edu.

Previous columns available at: www.delmartimes.net/columns/

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