Why I can’t vote for the Del Mar Village Specific Plan


After reading the Del Mar Village Specific Plan (Proposition J on the November ballot), there are elements I like but others that will threaten our quality of life. Since I can’t vote for the positives without approving the negatives, I can’t support it.

My family moved to Del Mar in 1975, the year our Community Plan was approved, and we’ve enjoyed its many benefits ever since. The Community Plan was democracy at its best, a bottom-up, grass roots effort by hundreds of citizen-volunteers. The citizens worked, from the beginning, on task forces with City Council and staff. The citizens designed, debated, revised and ultimately approved a highly-focused, resident-oriented plan that:

•preserved our small town character

•protected our natural environment

•promoted resident-oriented businesses

•favored pedestrians, joggers and cyclists over automobiles

•enhanced our property values

Thanks to the Community Plan, Del Mar residents enjoy a quality of life that’s unparalleled in Southern California or anywhere else I know.

The Village Specific Plan (Proposition J on your ballot) is a horse of a different color. It’s the result of a top-down process that invited citizen comment and involvement after plan elements were selected by the Council in response to commercial property owners. Unfortunately, few citizen-inspired ideas found their way into it, and they had little or no impact on its organization, structure or intent. Thus, it remains the City’s plan, not the residents’.

That’s the big picture on why I can’t vote for it. Here’s the specifics:

•its elements are complex, unfocused, unprioritized, and poorly thought-out.

•the traffic element is counter-intuitive and depends on optimistic projections by traffic engineers that don’t address impacts like diversion of traffic onto residential streets. The City actually abdicates that responsibility, asking residents of impacted areas to find solutions themselves.

•the motivation, rationale, goals and success of the commercial revitalization element are not clear. It impresses me as too big (equivalent to three Del Mar Plazas), too little (in terms of captured revenue) and too slow (to make a revenue difference given its 30-year build-out time-frame).

•it doesn’t consider that the retail shops it attracts may fail because of external competition by the massive retail development that surrounds us and will increase if Paseo One is built.

•it doesn’t anticipate what the City will do if those new shops fail, if tax receipts don’t make up the city’s shortfall, and the buildings become vacant.

Bottom line, this is a poorly designed, top-down plan whose commercial and traffic elements will threaten our quality of life.

Given these concerns, it’s no surprise that Del Mar residents who’ve always supported the Community Plan are divided about Proposition J.

The good news is that there’s an alternative that’s modeled after the process that gave us the Community Plan. The City Council could:

  1. Create committees of citizen volunteers to establish priorities and identify elements that they, the citizens, want to incorporate into a new plan, instead of presenting a City-designed plan to the citizens for comment. Bottom-up trumps top-down in my book.
  2. Provide adequate staff support so the committee can design a separate plan for each of the elements, and establish a deadline for their report.
  3. Ensure that each element includes clearly defined acceptance and stopping criteria and is rigorously tested before adoption so it proceeds only when it’s working well.
  4. Allow citizens to vote on each element of that plan individually. We shouldn’t have to accept all the elements together.

A plan designed by a volunteer committee of Del Mar citizens would reflect a consensus of our neighbors, and have the corresponding power of that consensus.
Let’s give democracy a chance to work today the way it did in 1975 when Del Mar citizens created the Community Plan.

I will vote

for Del Mar

on Nov. 6 by voting

against Prop J.

I hope you will too.

Frank Chisari

Del Mar