What about homeowners’ rights?

By Jeanne Carney

Resident, Del Mar

Multiple articles addressing undergrounding in Del Mar’s North Hills district have appeared in local newspapers. Among those in support, the only argument that survives close scrutiny is citing bottom line — the lure of greater profit in selling one’s home. (“Beauty,” after all, is in the eye of the beholder.) Set against this potential advantage for some, who obviously are able to bear the expense required, is looming financial distress for others, or even forced sales.

Del Marians can recall decades when City Councils protected individual homeowner rights whenever unjust challenges were mounted by influential and moneyed individuals. Those protections seem to have vanished where this divisive issue is concerned.

City Council’s passage of the project glosses over serious objections from a number of homeowners affected. Some brave souls have spoken out, but others hesitate to do so publicly, if only out of an understandable reluctance to show up hat in hand. For years I’ve been aware of the myth, cultivated by realty professionals in the phrase “California Riviera,” that everyone in Del Mar is wealthy.

Our bungalow was built in 1954-55, and my husband and I — residents since 1971 — have been working on plans for much-needed improvements to our yard and interior areas. Our ocean view is westward, unimpeded by overhead lines, and is preservable, thanks to the steep slope. Eastward, there is no benefit to us from undergrounding. Still, we’ve been assessed $20,768.26.

On the street side of our lot, we have two concrete retaining walls and a paved walk, portions of which would have to be jackhammered and replaced. Also, our two Torrey pines are in harm’s way and would probably suffer irreparable damage. Costs for this grading, drainage control and landscaping, plus new electrical hookup and wiring, are at this point unknowable.

Our case is only one example. Other neighbors have larger assessments and little or no additional view. Still others have major benefits and comparatively smaller assessments. This controversy has proved especially troubling to those of us who’ve long been proclaiming — to anyone who’d listen — the joys of living in our village. Undeniably, Del Mar has earned plaudits in the past for its emphasis on open space, on community service, on fairness and sustained justice for its citizens.

Whatever happened to “tweaking”? This project was insensitively designed and inequitably administered. Sadly, the latest City Council meeting (April 5) offered no genuine relief to those most anxious about their Del Mar future.