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One of a series from the Sandpiper editorial board

 

This I Believe
Ann Gardner | Via Latina

 

 
Book Works 33rd Anniversary Party in 2009

 

I don’t go to Flower Hill Shopping Mall anymore. And I won’t be going after the construction is finished either. There just aren’t enough places to go now that the movie theatre and Book Works are gone. Somehow the balance tipped – what could be a better gathering place than the Pannikin/Book Works combination: creaking wood floors, a book lover owner and her devoted helpers along with the indoor/outdoor European atmosphere of Pannikin. Yes I know Pannikin is still there, but the movie theatre isn’t and somehow – with the loss of Book Works, the balance shifted away from a local place to go. A four-story parking structure and an “upscale” 30,000 square foot Whole Foods Market just doesn’t do it.

This has caused me to think about how the same could happen to Del Mar if we aren’t very clear about what we want downtown. I believe it is critical to save the places we like to go where social connections are possible, as well as encourage new places that are unique to Del Mar and its residents (Dexter’s Deli). That is why there was such a reaction to the 15th St. outdoor cafes, especially Del Mar Pizza, taking over part of our wide ocean-view walkway to the park. Let’s be aware of “the highest and best use” mantra that makes our best local places to go vulnerable to inappropriate development. I have heard some say, for instance, that it would be wonderful to have a restaurant in place of the post office, a better use. A better use for whom; certainly not residents who walk or ride a short distance to use an essential service and at the same time make contact with neighbors and enjoy the Garden Club landscaping which often involves a visit with the local gardeners.

The old Del Mar Plaza was, despite its outdated architecture and surface parking lot, a place of social connection whether we were going to the popular grocery store, the cleaners, Chiquita Abbot’s real estate office, the original Zel’s, the florist shop, Monty Wooley’s insurance office or the library; it was a place to go where we ran into neighbors. Although the Plaza developers planned carefully for resident oriented businesses to be combined with visitor services and the architecture adds to the town’s aesthetics, resident attractions have given way to visitor places. Even the patio in the back, meant to replicate the gathering spot next to Chiquita’s former office, is abandoned framed by a men’s clothing store with no customers, a storage unit and a vacant space.

I believe Places to Go where social connections are possible for residents is an important part of our community fabric. Let’s make sure we plan for them.

 

 

 

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