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Meet the Del Mar council candidates

DEL MAR — For the first time in 10 years Del Mar is holding an election to fill three available City Council seats. With incumbent Don Mosier not running there will be at least one new face on the dais.

The six candidates are split on why they are seeking public office. Council members Al Corti and Sherryl Parks, who is currently serving in the annually rotated mayoral position, want to continue what they started during the four years since they were first elected.

Ellen Haviland wants to help the city continue on its current path. Jim Benedict, Dave Druker and T. Patrick Stubbs are hoping to change a few things.

In the following profiles they provide additional information and elaborate on some of the statements made during a Sept. 29 forum in which they shared their views on several issues that have been discussed recently and are likely to come before council in the next few years.


Jim Benedict is a 17-year resident who was a partner in an advertising and public relations firm and once owned a Del Mar restaurant. He has been a member of the Finance Committee for the past five years and worked on ad hoc committees for the railroad quiet zone and utility pole undergrounding.

Jim Benedict
Jim Benedict

He is running for City Council to help complete many of the ongoing projects, which he said are taking so long because of a lack of leadership.

“We need to elect council members that make strong decisions and don’t bend to the noisy minority or go to a survey every time,” he said. “Fifty people can speak about an issue and if two are against it it’s over.

“I’ve seen whispers turn into facts and that drives me crazy,” he added. “That’s wrong. … Some people are too nice.”

He said City Council should make better use of the committee system, which Benedict describes as “the secret sauce of our community.”

“We have people with amazing credentials who are willing to help.”

He supports Measure Q and would like the revenue from the 1 percent sales tax increase to be used for utility undergrounding and downtown revitalization.

“The opportunities to shop here are so limited,” he said. “We’re lagging behind.”

Benedict is hoping the new civic center complex will add some “vibrancy” to the south end of the village. He supports “something funky that our city doesn’t have” for the expansion parcels and a proposed boutique hotel at the Garden Del Mar site.

He also favors a standalone Del Mar police force, a plan he has been working on for years as a Finance Committee member.

To ensure safe and legal railroad crossings, he said city officials should call on state and federal representatives to change existing rules.

“I don’t accept no for an answer,” he said. “We need to explore the chain of command, put heat where heat needs to be to get the right people to deal with the issues, not just listen to what North County Transit District is telling us.”

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Al Corti, a 23-year resident, is semi-retired from a career in commercial construction management and consulting. He was appointed to City Council in 2012 and served one year as mayor.

Before that he was a member of the Design Review Board and Form-Based Code and Traffic and Parking Advisory committees.

Al Corti
Al Corti

He is running for re-election to ensure the civic center complex is completed on time and within budget, create affordable housing units, find a solution for short-term rentals, add more sidewalks and develop multiple safe and legal railroad crossings.

He said a comment by one of his opponents that it is not unsafe for pedestrians to cross the tracks was “insulting and irresponsible.”

“It’s very dangerous,” Corti said. “My kids used to cross the tracks to get to the beach when they were younger and it scared me to death.”

He said short-term rentals are not a defined term in the municipal code or Community Plan.

“That’s a problem for the city because they do exist,” he said. “Based on legal input I’ve received, a ban is problematic. … I’m just trying to get all the facts before I make a decision on what’s best for the city.”

He acknowledges the relationship with the Del Mar Fairgrounds has improved, but it’s still not perfect.

“The way they handle events with the noise and traffic and security is problematic,” Corti said. “They hold events that are not community oriented. We want them to be a better neighbor.”

He opposes Measure R, but supports Measure Q and a standalone police force, a proposal he initially did not favor.

“I started out against it but it’s the only way to get what we want,” he said. “We’ve explored a lot of options. An expanded ranger program doesn’t work citywide.”

He is a bit frustrated at the slow progress of downtown revitalization, the reason he ran for council four years ago.

“We’ve made some progress with signs, parking codes and sidewalk cafes but it’s not enough,” he said. “We need to increase streetscape as a priority.”

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David Druker is a technology executive and 30-year resident of the city. From 1996 to 2008 he was on the City Council for 151 consecutive months, including three times as mayor, and is the longest continuously serving elected official in city history.

David Druker
David Druker

He said he would like to return to public office because he enjoys it “and I think I do a pretty good job.”

“My experience will be helpful in making sure residents have a direct voice,” he added. “Some decisions the council has made, they did not listen to some of the residents. But other decisions have been good.”

For example, the Shores master plan was “an excellent decision” but the civic center project is more than the city needs, especially the additional parking.

“Del Mar doesn’t have a parking problem,” he said. “It has a walking problem.”

He’s an advocate of increased technology use to ensure residents are heard, City Hall is transparent, infrastructure is maintained and the elderly can age in place.

Downtown revitalization, a project during his previous tenure, should be a priority. He said Camino del Mar should be more of a pedestrian-friendly parkway and the south end should be rezoned to include residential.

He supports a boutique hotel in concept at the Garden Del Mar site and a partnership with St. Peter’s Episcopal Church to address parking needs at the other end of town.

He said city officials need to work with the Del Mar Fairgrounds “to ensure our interests are being protected.”

Druker supports Measure Q and is the only candidate who supports Measure R, which would require voter approval for commercial projects larger than 25,000 square feet. His opponents said the initiative could be legally problematic.

He’s opposed to a standalone police department and short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods.

He said he has secured funding for transit projects in the past so he knows how to work with local, state and federal officials to find money for legal and safe railroad crossings.

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Ellen Haviland is a retired businesswoman and 18-year resident of the city. She has served on the Planning Commission since 2015.

She lived in Del Mar while attending college and currently walks to town while taking care of her two young godchildren.

Ellen Haviland
Ellen Haviland

“So I have experienced this community as a student, a businesswoman and through the eyes of children,” she said. “I see the value of our parks and library and safety. It’s given me a broad perspective on the city and opened my eyes to all the issues.”

Haviland believes short-term business rentals that exist solely for vacationers for stays less than 30 days need to be eliminated from residential neighborhoods.

“We need to be sensitive to residents who want to earn extra income by renting out their homes a few times a year,” she said. “I don’t understand why this is taking so long when it’s having such a significant impact on our neighborhoods.”

She said she believes the current council meetings are too long and “staff-driven” and the agenda could be better managed.

“I know taking public input is very valuable,” she said. “Running a city is not like business. You have to get input on the big issues.

“But the leaders need to absorb the input, move forward and make tough decisions knowing you’re never going to please everybody,” she added. “Council needs to be more proactive.”

She supports Measure Q but believes Measure R is “well-intended but flawed.” Additionally, she said the municipal codes should be updated because “they aren’t consistent with the way people live and work today.”

Haviland supports the concept of a boutique hotel at the Garden Del Mar site and resident-serving businesses on the future expansion pads at the civic center.

“But there can’t be a significant increase in use that would result in a spillover effect in the residential areas,” she added.

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Sherryl Parks is a retired teacher and 42-year resident. She was appointed to City Council in 2012 and is currently serving as mayor, a position that rotates annually.

She was on the Design Review Board for four years and a member of the Del Mar Foundation for six, two of them as president.

Sherryl Parks
Sherryl Parks

She is running for re-election to complete some of the projects started during her tenure, including the new civic center, a public art policy and addressing short-term rentals.

She believes the latter, as a business, should not be allowed in residential neighborhoods.

“We need to change the wording to say prohibition and not ban because a ban implies something is already allowed, and it’s not,” Parks said. “We should enforce what exists. I support allowing people to rent their homes for a few weeks a year because that doesn’t change the fabric of the community.

“Right now there are no neighbors down there (in the beach colony),” she added. “You can’t even go next door and borrow a cup of sugar. And (short-term rental properties) pay no transient occupancy taxes.”

As for the future expansion pads at the civic center, Parks supports “anything that will bring people” to the south end of town.

“I’m open to the Alvarado house, mixed-use with commercial, anything that works,” she said.

Parks said she is also “open to any use” on the Garden Del Mar site, including a boutique hotel, that would “bring some energy down there and enhance that barren lot.”

She has been cognizant of lengthy council meetings but said they care hard to avoid.

“It’s a fantasy to believe doing something well can be done quickly,” she said. “Citizen involvement is time-consuming but it’s good government. We have to listen carefully and weigh the risks to protect the city.

“We are required to get business done and no amount of fantasizing is going to make that happen fast,” she added. “People who are so hard on City Council don’t know what it’s like until they take on the job.”

She supports Measure Q and opposes Measure R. She said her proudest achievement in the past four years is creating the Business Support Advisory Committee to provide businesses with direct access to the city.

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T. Patrick Stubbs, a 20-year resident, is a former marketing executive who co-owns Pacifica Del Mar. He is a member of the Del Mar Foundation and previously served on the Design Review Board.

T. Patrick Stubbs
T. Patrick Stubbs

He said he is running for council because after 20 years he “looked at the alternatives and they weren’t good enough.”

“I couldn’t sit on the sidelines anymore,” he said. “This town needs impartial leadership to enforce laws and ordinances or we’re destined for bigger problems.”

Stubbs believes a lack of leadership is the reason short-term rentals have gotten out of control and businesses and residents are overregulated.

“There’s no reason why leaders can’t analyze a situation, make a decision and move on,” he said. “We’re like the molasses capital of the world, it takes so long to get things done.”

During his eight years on the DRB he said the panel was effective and efficient.

“Not everyone was happy with every decision but we kept things moving and there was a lack of appeals so we must have made some good decisions,” he said.

To address the railroad issue he said the city should “dust off” work conducted by a committee that identified safe at-grade crossings.

He said an anti-business atmosphere is hurting the downtown area.

“When you have a positive tone you have more people who want to come along and do business in town,” he said. “As long as there is a negative tone we’re going to receive exactly what we deserve.”

Stubbs said it would be “criminal” not to add restaurant or retail to the future expansion areas at the civic center and a boutique hotel at the Garden Del Mar site could help with the vacation rental problem.

“I know I sound like the angry guy but I say these things with a smile on my face because I know how great Del Mar can be,” he added. “I’ve been involved in this community for a long time. I didn’t just fall out of the tree and decide to do something.

“I’m concerned that no one will want to live in this community any longer. The vibrancy has left us.”

Stubbs supports Measure Q and opposes Measure R.

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