DEL MAR — The City Council appointed a new 2024 mayor and deputy mayor last week, with current Deputy Mayor Dan Quirk declining to be included in the usual mayoral rotation.
Unlike in other cities, where the mayoral position is elected at-large, Del Mar council members rotate the mayor and deputy mayor seats annually. On Dec. 18, Dave Druker was appointed mayor, replacing Tracy Martinez, and Terry Gaasterland was appointed deputy mayor in a 4-1 vote with Quirk abstaining.
The council also issued a resolution of appreciation for the outgoing mayor, Martinez, honoring her work over the past year. Martinez thanked the city staff, fellow council members, residents, and her family for their support.
“It really has been an honor to be the mayor of this town that I love so much,” Martinez said.
Traditionally, the city has automatically placed the two members who received the most votes in a recent election in the queue to be considered for the mayor and deputy mayor positions.
In order of votes received, the top vote-getters in the 2022 election were Martinez, Quirk and Druker. This would normally make Quirk next in line for the mayor’s seat, but he communicated that he would be removing himself from the rotation.
Quirk said that because of his drastic difference in opinion from the rest of the council regarding the rail relocation project, he would rather not be in a position where he has to speak for the city.
The first-term councilman has been an outspoken opponent of the massive regional project, which plans to move a portion of the Los Angeles—San Luis Obispo—San Diego (LOSSAN) rail corridor off the Del Mar bluffs and into one of several proposed tunnel alignments under the city.
“The biggest issue by far where there is disagreement is the rail and the tunnel option. I clearly have a very different opinion from the four other council members,” Quirk said. “So, rather than be caught in a position where I have to publicly state something that I don’t personally believe in, I am choosing to decline accepting that mayor position.”
His decision follows the council’s action to formally censure Quirk earlier this month for what members said was his repeated failure to clarify that he was not speaking on behalf of the council when sharing his opinions about the rail and SANDAG, the agency leading the project.
Councilmember Dwight Worden supported Quirk’s self-elimination from the rotation this year.
“Dan, I respect your decision. I think it’s the appropriate one for you,” Worden said.
At the meeting, the council adopted a tenth guiding principle for the rail realignment project focused on the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The original list of principles was adopted in November and highlights the city’s priorities for the rail project.
One of the principles in November stated the city’s support of SANDAG studying various rail alignments, including one through the Fairgrounds. This elicited concerns from the 22nd District Agricultural Association, the body overseeing the Fairgrounds, who said that such a massive development on their property would be highly disruptive.
The 22nd DAA also warned Del Mar officials that further study of a fairgrounds alignment could jeopardize ongoing plans with the city to develop state-required affordable housing on the property.
In response, the city met with Fairgrounds leaders to develop a new principle to address their concerns. It states that SANDAG must engage the Fairgrounds in any study of a possible alignment through their property and respect and protect their operational, economic, environmental and planning needs and the proposed affordable housing program.
The Fairgrounds said they appreciated the city taking this extra step.
“We are grateful to Mayor Martinez and the members of the Del Mar City Council for recognizing the Del Mar Fairgrounds’ vital importance to our community as SANDAG discusses changes to the LOSSAN rail corridor,” said Fairgrounds spokesperson Tristan Hallman.
The council approved the new principle in a 4-1 vote, with Quirk opposed. He claimed it would mislead residents to believe that a fairgrounds alignment is possible and accused Gaasterland of promoting the alignment in interviews with the media.
“I’m very opposed to adding this. I think it’s very disingenuous,” Quirk said.
Gaasterland said she has publicly supported further study of the Fairgrounds alignment since many residents are asking for it, but she is not advocating for that specific alignment.
“Representing the people of Del Mar in that way is not promoting; it’s asking, and what people have been asking is for the Fairgrounds to be studied,” Gaasterland said.