Remembering.. Building the Del Mar Plaza


Presented by Joe Jelley

Of the many royal battles that have shaped the history of Del Mar, perhaps none was more royal than the fight over the Del Mar Plaza. This controversy had all the elements of a classic development donnybrook. The Del Mar Plaza was where tradition faced off against progress, residents against developers, citizens’ interests against business interests, for all to see and in the center of town.

The mid-1980s was a time of tumultuous changes in and outside of Del Mar. Pardee was forging ahead with its North City West project across the I-5 freeway from Del Mar. North City West, which was destined to transform the rolling chaparral hills into entire new communities, was generally opposed by the citizens of Del Mar.

They feared that their roads and beaches would become overcrowded and congested. They worried that they would lose their wetlands, and to a degree, their way of life. Not a group to remain quiet or uninvolved, the city of Del Mar and her citizens were actively fighting North City West. Mission West, another development group, had proposed a massive new project for the vacant land across the street from the Plaza. Their proposal had been denied and they had sold the property to Jim Watkins. Watkins was trying to get his new hotel off the ground. It was in this environment that David Winkler and Ivan Gayler sought to develop the Del Mar Plaza property they purchased in 1983.

The reception of the Gayler-Winkler project was colored by plans for what Winkler calls a “monstrous” four-story Plaza that was “so tall it obliterated the views and we actually opposed it.” In fact, the original project, totaling more than 100,000 square feet, was a third larger than the eventually approved 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