Art Olson | Avenida Primavera
|Adam Birnbaum. Photo Art Olson.
Click on image to enlarge.
Adam Birnbaum, Planning Manager, is retiring after 27 years working for Del Mar, capping his 34-year career in public service, having worked for the Coastal Commission and the California Conservation Corps prior to coming to the City. If you like the character of the our built environment, you might want to thank Adam for the effort and expertise that he’s put into the City’s development over these past 27 years.
We talked with Adam about his motivations for retirement, his plans, and his thoughts on Del Mar.
SP: At the age of 60, why did you decide to retire now?
AB: It all relates to time. I work long hours, with late night meetings at City Council, Design Review Board and Planning Commission, and then coming back to my desk at 7:30 in the morning. My father died not long after he retired and I always lamented that he didn’t get to enjoy his later years. I want time to savor life and to get back into pursuits that I just haven’t had time for of late. What will I do with my time? Well, in the past I’ve been involved with environmental groups like the San Dieguito Lagoon Conservancy, and student literacy efforts like the Playwrights Project. And while I do love the work I do in Del Mar, it is exhausting and all consuming. I want to again devote time and energy to the social activism that I find so fulfilling. I also want more time with my granddaughters (ages 6 and 4), doing goofy things with them, watching them grow. I also plan to up my swimming and biking regimen and also to do art projects. And I’m an avid reader, mostly history and biography, so I look forward to afternoons reading books rather than environmental impact reports. My wife and I will also do some travelling. There are so many great national and state parks I’ve yet to see.
Of course retirement will be an adjustment and I envision struggling to retain a sense of purpose. I feel like I’ve been a big fish in a little pond, a go-to person. I will miss that daily interaction. But at the same time, I don’t want to miss out on other things that life has to offer.
SP: In your years working for the City, what are you most proud of?
AB: On the whole, I’m proud of helping Del Mar retain its unique charm and character, and of serving the people of Del Mar, who are so very accomplished and committed to their community. As for specific accomplishments, I’m proud of my role in the San Dieguito restoration project, and of the drafting of the City’s Local Coastal Program and its Housing Element. And while there were some legitimate concerns raised, I’m also proud of shepherding the sidewalk cafe atmosphere in the Commercial district. I have also found the mentoring of the younger City Staff to be very rewarding.------
SP: Any regrets, things that didn’t get done, or did?
AB: I was disappointed that the Village Specific Plan did not go forward. I recognize that it had numerous components and, as such, there were parts of the Plan some voters didn’t think were appropriate. But the downtown is in need of revitalization. You look at the residential areas of the City and you see beautiful homes and charming neighborhoods. The Downtown does not reflect that same charm. Del Mar deserves a revitalized commercial district. I think that will come after the community feels more comfortable with a comprehensive parking program - that is key to opening opportunities for investment and a more vibrant commercial area. And I regret that I didn’t accomplish more. There are projects, many administrative, that I just didn’t get to. But we have had a lot on our plate and I hope people feel that I worked hard and did my best.
SP: There will be big shoes to fill once you have retired. You have more institutional memory than anyone else at City Hall. Are you concerned?
AB: No. Scott Huth, the City Manager, has done an excellent job of assembling and leading a good team. As to the institutional knowledge, I started a formal training process some months ago. I enjoy that type of teaching. And there are others on staff who also have long-term have experience, so I think it will be a smooth transition. Plus, I’ve made it clear that people can call me if they have questions or want my input.
SP: Anything additional that you’d like to convey?
AB: I just want to thank the people of Del Mar for giving me the opportunity to serve. It has been an honor to work in such a beautiful place, and with such involved and sophisticated citizens, who, even in their differences, all show an obvious love for this gem of a community.