As we commemorate the 45th anniversary of the Community Plan along with the city’s 60th birthday, it is important to understand what Del Mar might have become without it. Very likely we could have become a planned development, shorn of trees with minimal open space populated by over-built McMansions on over-lit streets with rampant view blockage, a restaurant row along our beach front teeming with short term vacationers, condos in our canyons, a multi-modal bus and train station, a major highway through our town center, and high rise commercial development in the center of town. We only have to take a look at so many other towns that let haphazard development overwhelm and define them.
Instead we elected far-sighted leaders who called on dozens of neighborhood leaders to work collaboratively on a far different vision. They invented a process that involved hundreds of citizens in the grueling, but promising tasks of laying out a blueprint for the kind of small town village we could become. The resulting Community Plan became our constitution which spelled our values and guidelines for how we would grow and change. Of course, there were doubters, but a solid consensus developed that became a constituency for a voter-adopted Community Plan.
From this very participatory beginning we evolved what came to be known as “the Del Mar Way,” a commitment to maximum citizen involvement in almost all decision making. Some worry that it takes so long to make decisions, but we have always benefited when we respect multiple viewpoints and observe the tenets of civil discourse. Our community attracted many smart, accomplished, value-driven citizens who have given of their time and talents in extraordinary levels of involvement. The result is a town that we can be proud of. The essence of our community is the collaborative harnessing of that human talent and energy.
We are not done yet, probably never will be. But we need to remember what got us this far. Our commitment to vigorous debate and involvement coupled with mutual respect will help us face the many opportunities and challenges in front of us.