My dad grew up in the hot San Fernando Valley. His stucco house looked like every other one on his street. And from his bedroom window, which was identical to his friend Jimmy’s window, he looked out at a weird plant that seemed to have eyes. It took over an hour for my father to get to the beach, and he loved the ocean. As soon as he could, he left the valley to go to UCSD. He subbed his one hour plus for a two-minute walk to the sea and never looked back. He worked his ass off so he did not have to live in the valley ever again. Today he lives in a unique house with his three kids and wife, he looks up from his desk in the living room and sees the glistening water. He can walk to the beach in less than a minute.
My dad had it all, until a large corporation (Zephyr) bought a plot of land on top of a sandstone bluff prone to collapses. The developers, in their infinite wisdom and insatiable greed, decided this unstable cliff, with its sweeping ocean views and proximity to the Del Mar Racetrack offered the perfect location to build a mega 5-star resort. The land currently zoned for 13 two story residences would require rezoning so that this four story (not counting HVAC and electrical) 286 room hotel with convention center, limited parking and a huge weighty swimming pool could come to fruition. Should this monstrosity transpire it would completely block the view my father has spent the last 25 years working so hard to attain.
Obviously, my father was not going to sit back and take this, instead he started a resistance. He became the guy in the Del Mar City Hall who made the elected officials cringe, and who always seemed on the verge of getting kicked out. In fact, twenty-three years earlier he did get kicked out, but that’s a different story. He made anti-developer T-shirts, and stickers, and a website, and an Instagram. He created multiple petitions. He spoke with local councilmen and helped campaign for candidates against the resort and against rezoning. He held endless meetings with neighbors and lawyers and the water board. He reached out to local news channels and appeared on television more than once with an image of his current view. He contacted national and international outlets. He and his fellow resistance members believed that you either stood with them or you stood against them. They saw no middle ground. It became a heated ‘us vs. them’ situation quite quickly.
I felt cheated that my father spent so much time on this. I dreaded seeing a resistance member’s name flash across his cell phone. I resented his constant meetings, I only had this year left before I went to college – didn’t he want to spend time with me? I had heard since birth that every story has two sides, a compromise would obviously offer the best solution. Couldn’t he just let it be?
Finally, fed up with my absentee father, I decided to go to a meeting at City Hall with him. We brought a table and tablecloth (I am my mother’s daughter after all) and my job was to hand out bright-red T-shirts emblazoned with “Save Our Bluff” and explain the shocking images displayed behind me of the project’s impact. I smiled at familiar faces or people who approached me wearing casual clothing and slippers, a sign of a chill local. I handed them a shirt and a brochure and asked if they wanted to know any information – I liked them. When someone approached in business attire I knew they must work for the developer and I would sneer at them. I did not even know these people, but I felt a hatred toward them.
The actual meeting began and everyone had three minutes to voice their opinions about the resort. I laughed along when the locals joked about how great of an idea it is to jack-hammer into an unstable cliff. I felt a lump in my throat when a woman shared her wedding photo from the top of the bluff and expressed her desire to show that same bluff to her children someday. I felt pride when my dad stood at the lectern and spoke passionately about preserving open space for the generations to come. When some red-faced man in designer jeans and an expensive button down spoke I stood stoically while my stomach twisted and tightened.
I took part in, and committed, the logical fallacy of a false dilemma. In a false dilemma fallacy only binary options exist, it becomes an either/or situation. I got so caught up in the moment that I could only see black and white, Save our Bluff (SOB) or Zephyr, with me or against me. I didn’t even talk to the pro-resort people and hear them out, they just had to say they wanted the development and I disliked them. Everyone on both sides probably feels some good and bad will come out of the building of the resort. This issue is too complex to just choose one side. I wish I could talk some sense into the people involved, but then again I am a person involved. Two days ago, months after this meeting, I slapped a huge sticker onto the back of my car. I am all over the Instagram and I campaign for the resistance. I know it is a logical fallacy, but I can’t help it, “SOB, SAY NO TO REZONING, SAVE OUR BLUFF.”