Del Mar California, Where the Turf Meets the Surf
The town of Del Mar ("of the sea" or "by the sea") is located about 15 miles north of San Diego along the coast north of La Jolla and south of Solana Beach. And, as they say, where the "turf meets the surf."
Apart from the charming village and expensive over-front and view properties, Del Mar is probably best known for the Del Mar Racetrack and Fair Grounds, which means the annual San Diego County Fair and the very popular thoroughbred horse races. More on that later.
Del Mar is an affluent community of around 4,300+ residents (2014 census) with a downtown area centered along Camino Del Mar (Route 101) which is lined with upscale retailers (clothing, children's clothing, home furnishings, jewelry), art galleries, real estate offices, trendy and casual restaurants, small business services, and so much more. But be careful when parking – they are particularly watchful about the parking meters on the main road!
Another main street in Del Mar is Jimmy Durante Boulevard, named for the well-known actor who frequented the race track along with other celebrities. This road leads you to the downtown area from the east side of the fairgrounds. There is another shopping area along Via de la Valle by the fairgrounds on the north side, although technically this is Solana Beach.
Del Mar was supposedly named by Ella Loop, wife of Thomas Loop, who worked for the railroad, who built a tent city on the beach in the area in 1882 when the railroad began service from San Diego to San Bernardino.
The Stratford Hotel, on the main road, was built in the 1890s by the South Coast Land Company, which became a popular destination for Hollywood celebrities and a focal point of the town. Development really took off in the 1920s when electricity was received from SDG and E.
There are several hotels near the Del Mar downtown area, with the most upscale, L'Auberge Del Mar Resort and Spa in the heart of Del Mar, a short walk to the beaches and with some terrific views; others, such as the Hilton and The Jockey Club, are located over near the fairgrounds/race track, and a few straddle the beach just north of town.
Seagrove Park, just a block west of the main road, overlooks the beach, offering a great place to view the ocean or tow picnic. Parking is nearby as are a couple of the area’s most popular oceanfront restaurants - Jake's Del Mar and The Poseidon are located directly along the beach with great food – seafood of course – and wonderful views.
Parking in Del Mar can be a challenge in the down town area, especially in the crowded summer months, and is monitored carefully by the local parking officials. It's not hard to end up with a pricey parking ticket so pay close attention to the meters and the signage. But the downtown area and over by the beach is very walkable, and it’s worth spending some time on foot exploring if you can. The business and retail part of town is easily walkable from end to end, and bicyclists are a common sight so be on the look-out.
Like the other coastal towns, Del Mar has beautiful beaches for residents and visitors to enjoy. Dog Beach (a.k.a. North Beach) is well known for, you guessed it, dogs, and is located at the north end of town bordering Solana Beach (where the San Dieguito Lagoon meets the ocean). Be aware that parking in that area along the Coast Road is limited and not free, plus it's closely monitored. But dog lovers enjoy this beach area year round and the views are wonderful.
Dog Beach in Del Mar
There is public beach access in the Del Mar Beach colony area (perhaps the priciest area of Del Mar) as you head north from the main downtown area, and surfers parked along the public streets are a common site. But again be aware that parking can be limited within a few blocks of the beaches, especially during the summer and at race time.
Torrey Pines State Reserve and beach is just south of town (technically in La Jolla), with a gorgeous stretch of public beach and plenty of parking by the Los Penasquitos Lagoon, as well as one of the wildest areas of coastline in southern California. This area is also home to the rare Torrey Pine. And of course the famed Torrey Pines Lodge and golf course are there, too (also in La Jolla).
The Del Mar Fairgrounds and Racetrack (located on the Del Mar Fairgrounds) are popular venues, and home to a variety of events, in addition to the thoroughbred racing season that runs from July to early September. Opening Day at the races is felt by many to be the social event of the year, and they have recently added a short racing season from early November to early December. Opening Day attracts visitors from all over the area as well as celebrities from Los Angeles.
Racing season tends to cause a great deal of traffic, on the nearby I-5 freeway as well as on the local streets, so be prepared. Also, many condos and homes in the area become rentals (at a significant price) for racing season.
The San Diego County Fair takes place before racing season starts (typically from mid-June to July 4th), and there are multiple expos and trade shows throughout the year (home and garden, bridal, antiques, to name a few). There are a good number of concerts there as well, during the fair as well as stand alone events.
There are a number of residential areas that are fairly well known, including the Del Mar Beach Colony (north end of town west of the 101 along the beach), Del Mar Heights, and Olde Del Mar (the area just along the coast road on either side of the main road with some homes offering wonderful ocean views).
There are a few gated communities in town (e.g., Torrey Point). You can search for homes for sale in Del Mar by clicking on the photo above right (MLS listings updated 24/7).
The Del Mar real estate market has an expensive reputation, rivaled only by Rancho Santa Fe (perhaps the most expensive), La Jolla and Coronado (downtown) and has some of the priciest oceanfront real estate in San Diego County, especially in the Del Mar Beach Colony where oceanfront properties may sell in the $10,000,000 to $20,000,000 range.
The most expensive sale of a residential property in San Diego County took place in Del Mar (4 lots and a multi-building home directly on the ocean) in the Del Mar Beach Colony, selling for $48 million; a 6-acre oceanfront parcel with large home in need of renovation near Torrey Pines State Park was originally for sale for $76 million but as of 2018 is now priced at $49,000,000 and is pending.
You will find a range of housing styles, from traditional and craftsman to very contemporary, and many properties are oriented toward views of the ocean given their location on the hills east of the main road, which of course adds to the price and the allure. There are condos, town homes and detached single family homes in a wide range of prices, with prices accelerating dramatically as you get close to the ocean.
Lots tend to be fairly small and building codes may restrict residents from razing older homes and building McMansions on small lots in certain areas and obstructing residents' views (the size of homes is limited in some areas to a percentage of the lot square footage). It’s always wise to check with the City of Del Mar on building code issues before pursuing a purchase where you plan to remodel or even to tear down.
My understanding is that Del Mar housing projects must be reviewed and approved by the Design Review Board. Since much of the land near the ocean is already built out you will find few brand new construction homes, but there are sometimes opportunities for significant remodeling.
If I can help in any way to assit you in finding your new home in Del Mar, or to sell your Del Mar home, please call me at (760) 840-1360 so we can talk further about your particular needs and plan a strategy to either buy a Del Mar home, or sell you current property.
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