Editorial: Adults in the Room

As we watch the City Council in action, we’re struck with how important it is to have “adults in the room” when key decisions are made – and how much we lose or put at risk when they are out-voted by councilmembers who vote based on simplistic views and a very limited understanding of how to govern effectively. Political grandstanding may play well to the crowd, but too often it undermines the interests of Del Mar and its citizens. Adults know that compromise is sometimes the path to the best possible outcome, and know that effective leaders can play a big role in public understanding of complex legal, political and practical factors involved in key decisions.


The latest example: the 2-3 vote on Feb. 28 that sank a proposed deal with NCTD on fencing. In our view, the adults in the room were those (Druker, Worden) who spoke unpopular truths and voted accordingly: NCTD does not need Del Mar’s permission to install a fence, and the proposed deal would serve as an “insurance policy” so that if/when a fence is built on the upper bluffs, it will be a lower profile fence that preserves public access and, for the first time, grants the public a legal right to use the informal trails on the upper bluffs. The majority, by contrast, hung their hat on the view that the fence is unnecessary and wrong –betting the farm (or the upper bluffs) on the ability of the Coastal Commission to ride in on a white horse to stop the fence. CCC’s own letter to the Council, delivered on the day of the vote, noted that CCC will continue its “collaboration with the City and NCTD to ensure the project is implemented consistent with the Coastal Act.” That language seems to imply that the project will be implemented in some form, not stopped. But nuance is lost on those not willing or able to be the adults in the room.


Other examples the Sandpiper has covered in the past:


  • Grandstanding opposition (including by Druker and Gaasterland) that resulted in a denser Watermark project (50 rental units with three-story elements, instead of 38 townhomes in a two-story project);


  • Pre-election opposition to the NC re-zoning (Druker, Gaasterland) that turned into post-election “yes” votes – and with Martinez, Quirk, and Gaasterland all working to gather signatures for the anti-NC rezoning referendum that cost the City great effort and legal expense to resolve;


  • Jumping Tewa to the front of the line for undergrounding (with only Worden voting “no”), in violation of the priority previously recommended by UPAC and adopted by the Council for neighborhood priority; and a decision based on an unrealistic cost estimate of $635,216 that suddenly ballooned to almost $1 million.

Sometimes, political neophytes quickly navigate the learning curve to govern well (comedian/actor Volodymyr Zelenskyy comes to mind); others, alas, do not. It is unclear, for Del Mar, whether the jury is still out, or whether the verdict is already in.