Commentary: Privilege

COMMUNITY PLAN: Inspire a more diverse, sustainable, and balanced community preserve … the opportunity for people of all economic and social backgrounds to share in a liveable Del Mar)


While Our national conversation about race and wealth inequity continues, Del Mar continues to strengthen its reputation as an enclave of white privilege. Our efforts to preserve and protect our community character are resulting in a supply/demand imbalance that feeds an escalation in real estate values that effectively closes the door to most middle income and minority families. Census figures tell the story. We are now over 96% white with median household incomes over $110 thousand. Compare that to our neighbor San Diego with 66% white and median income of $75k. Our single family resale home sales are escalating rapidly toward a median price of $2.5 million compared to San Diego County at $825 thousand.


This privileged outcome is not to suggest any nefarious intentions but only to acknowledge that we inhabit a situation that is not available to most families of modest income and most minority families. Our success in building a small town community identity rewards us financially and effectively excludes others of lesser means.


I would like to suggest that our privileges can be troublesome or we could turn them into an opportunity. We can find opportunities to use our privilege to address quality of life challenges faced by those with more modest circumstances. Undoubtedly, many of us are already contributing to philanthropic causes aimed at helping those in need. As a community we can take some credit for our generous welcome to literally a couple of million annual visitors who use the beaches and parks that we protect and maintain. Although we have a long deplorable record of providing affordable housing, there are some promising new plans in process thanks to legal pressure from the state of California.


An often overlooked segment of our population is the large number of workers, many of whom are not white, who labor in our homes and businesses: gardeners, maids, caregivers, construction workers, restaurant workers, and more. There are probably several thousand low income workers among us. What do we know about them, their families, their kids, their housing, their health care, their schooling, their lives in general? What are some ideas for enhancing the quality of their lives and treating them more like neighbors in our community? We could start with a voluntary commitment to pay a minimum wage of $30 an hour (at a $60k annual level still classified by the County as “low income”). We could agree to 25-30% minimum tip levels for restaurant workers. We could contribute to a fund for scholarship grants to their kids enrolling in college. Perhaps we should consider a DMCC-type non-profit organization to provide services to families who work for our community.


The idea is to acknowledge our advantages and use them to achieve a modest increase in equity within our own community. Perhaps we can have a community conversation about more ideas for how we can do good for others right here in Del Mar.