Who develops Del Mar?

By Bud Emerson

Del Mar columnist

We do! Downtown Del Mar is called out in our Community Plan as a viable center with small resident-serving businesses in a pedestrian environment with one lane of traffic in each direction.

For about four decades we have been holding on to this vision waiting for it to happen. Two large projects, the Plaza and L’Auberge, were narrowly approved by voters a long time ago and little else has happened since. The Garden development on 10th was approved by voters two years ago but their business plan was unrealistic and it went bankrupt.

All three of those projects were initiated by developers to be reviewed by Del Mar and approved by the voters. A very reactive approach.

We have now launched a very different approach to downtown development. We Delmarians initiate and developers get to react, a proactive approach. We specify what we want, including all of the specifics and the outer limits. Developers must operate within the limits we specify. We do this using a process to develop a “Specific Plan.” We vote on this and, if approved, we control our future development.

We are now at a crucial decision period in the history of our community, perhaps the most consequential since the Community Plan was approved in the ‘70s.

After months of citizen input, our city planners have developed a draft of a new Specific Plan. For the next few months, we need to roll up our sleeves, get out our fine-toothed combs and mold this plan into shape. We get to decide what our downtown will look like and how it will operate for decades into the future.

In August, the City Council will formally vote to adopt this new Specific Plan and put it on the November vote. In November, Del Mar voters will have the final say.

Sounds easy and logical, but to get it right we have to get off our keesters and go to work. If you have enjoyed what the hard-fought Community Plan brought us for the last several decades, you can look forward to what this Specific Plan for downtown will bring to the quality of our lives for the next several decades.

So, how do we proceed. First, read the draft plan. Find it at the library, city hall, or on line at Attend one or more of the scheduled briefings and workshops, listed in the paper and on Del Mar’s web site. Contact your Council members. Talk to your friends and neighbors. Exchange ideas, make suggestions. Help to reach a community-wide consensus.

Above all, do not wait until November. Election time is often irrational, emotional and polarized. Acting now to get involved, we can improve the odds that we achieve unity and a shared future.

We define our future, not developers. Go to work, Delmarians.