Five to keep an eye on this year in Del Mar

Crystal Crawford

Outgoing Del Mar Mayor Crystal Crawford may be stepping down from the leadership helm locally, but her goal for 2010 includes stepping up to the 74th Assembly District seat.

Crawford, a Democrat, has 15 years of experience in local government, including 11 years on Del Mar City Council and three terms as mayor.

The 74th District includes Del Mar, Solana Beach Encinitas, Carlsbad, Rancho Santa Fe, San Marcos as well as portions of Escondido, Oceanside and Valley Center. Crawford will be up against incumbent Martin Garrick.

On her campaign Web site,, she said she has become frustrated with the lack of problem solving in Sacramento. Within the district, her primary concerns are jobs, small businesses, education at all levels, water resources, disaster preparedness and land use and its effect on the environment.

Fairgrounds growth plans

Debate continues over the Del Mar Fairgrounds’ expansion plan, which calls for a new exhibit building, a 330-room condominium hotel, a new official gate and administration office, a two-sided electric sign board along Interstate 5 and a 60,000-square-foot health club and sports training facility.

It also calls for demolishing existing structures to allow for new development and relocating the fire station off-site.

Feb. 8 is the deadline to submit responses on the more than 4,000-page draft environmental impact report for the proposal. After that, there will be public hearings before the plan can be finalized.

Residents have complained about the scope of the proposed changes and their potential effects on the environment, including the impact on neighboring San Dieguito Lagoon.

Also on the horizon is possible action on State Sen. Christine Kehoe plan to consider legislation to create a protected greenway along the river next to the fairgrounds.

The 22nd District Agricultural Association board has said they look forward to discussions with Kehoe, keeping in mind that any additional land use as a greenway that is not already planned in the draft environmental report must be analyzed to ensure that current and future fairgrounds operations are not impacted.

Comischell Rodriguez

In December, Comischell Rodriguez took the center seat at the Del Mar Union School District meetings as the board president. Rodriguez is a real estate agent, former PTA president and football fan. Her son Robbie was recently named Falcon of the Year on the Torrey Pines High varsity football team.

She is taking over the board after a tough year where things turned openly frosty between Superintendent Sharon McClain and the board, and the relationship between parents and trustees has soured.

Rodriguez’s task will be to heal some of the wounds opened up in 2009, oversee an impending financial shortfall and repair trust with the parents.

She has shown this year to be a good listener who seems to take the parents’ words to heart and keep the best interests of the students and schools as her number one priority.

Rodriguez said she is looking forward to working with McClain as board president.

“She has a job to do and the best thing we can do as a school board, in my opinion, is do our jobs as defined by the California School Boards Association and help set direction for the district and empower the superintendent to make it happen,” Rodriguez said.

The revitalization of Del Mar Village

Newly smoke-free, the Del Mar Village will get some infrastructure improvements early in 2010. And with the development of a new form-based code, hopefully going to the ballot by November 2010, the City Council hopes to encourage commercial property owners to freshen up their spaces to boost retail vitality and village character.

In coping with 2009’s financial crisis, the Del Mar Village Association worked hard to make sure Del Mar remained a destination in the region.

The group has added directory signs to the village and with the streetscape improvement project will come their new recycling containers. They have also helped bring people to town with events like Summer Solstice, Taste and Art Stroll and holiday events.

Jen Grove, DMVA executive director, also successfully lobbied the city to provide six weekends of free parking to encourage holiday shopping.

Of course there are still challenges. At the end of the year, Rumi Cafe, Sunset Grill and Southern Cross closed their doors in Del Mar Plaza. But there is hope that new businesses will spring up in their places — already Sunset Yogurt & Ice Cream is expected to open in spring in the Southern Cross space.

Del Mar Shores Park

As of Dec. 9, the Campaign for Del Mar Shores Park had raised $5,561,500 from 513 donors. While it is a very impressive total, the campaign still needs to collect funds to help the city pay down its $3.8 million loan on the 5.3-acre park with ocean views off Ninth Street and Stratford Court by 2011.

Yellow Shores campaign signs pepper the front lawns of the Del Mar homes of those who contributed this year in an effort to “paint the town yellow.” The campaign still needs help to avoid defaulting on the loan or worse — the land could be developed instead of remaining a recreational open space.

To learn more about the Shores campaign, visit

Here’s a look at our 2009’s people to watch:

  • Nick Scharr and Brynn Stroyke, Garden Del Mar developers
Last year, the hope was for Garden Del Mar to be complete by the end of October 2010. That’s no longer the plan as the developers were unable to secure funding on the mixed-use project on the old gas station lot. The property and project is currently on the market for $4.4 million.

  • Tim Fennell, general manager Del Mar Fairgrounds
Fennell will still be plenty busy in 2010 with the fairgrounds master plan. This year he oversaw a record-setting county fair, successful racing season, the return of the San Diego Sockers soccer team and rockin’ Derby Dolls roller hockey games.

  • Rachel Buehler, WPS soccer player
Fresh off her gold medal in the 2008 Olympics, Buehler played defender in the inaugural season of the Women’s Professional Soccer League. She started 17 games for the Bay Area FC Pride, played 1,530 minutes and even scored one goal as her team finished the season 4-10-6.

  • Mike Peterson, Winston School headmaster
The school continued to fundraise to contribute their portion to the Shores property and is in the early stages of refurbishing plans for the campus. Peterson is also excited about the school’s Conversation Series, which started in 2009 and brings local and national speakers to address topics of learning differences. The school hosted actor Ed Asner as a speaker this year.

  • Zach Groban, owner Rusty’s Del Mar
In 2009, Groban helped develop a club for Del Mar’s six-man outrigger canoe. About 30 members take the canoe out three to five days a week in the peak summertime. Junior lifeguards use the outrigger, as does the Wounded Warriors program that takes war veterans out on the ocean. This year Rusty’s also started movie nights behind the store, showed off boards at the Sacred Craft Surf Expo at the fairgrounds and held surfing demonstrations on the beach.