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Association History

The Rio del Mar Improvement Association (RDMIA) was first conceived at a meeting of nine property owners on August 16, 1941 and the association filed Articles of Incorporation in Sacramento on October 23, 1941. The association is the second oldest neighborhood association in the State of California.

During World War II the association was shut down. It was certainly clear, there was no need for an “Improvement Association” in a community that was at war, at a time when improvements were next to impossible. Rio del Mar (RDM) was full of second homes during this era and could not be used by absentee owners. Many became rentals for construction/military personnel. The atmosphere, the appearance, and the character of RDM changed radically and property values tumbled. Many of the non-resident owners became disillusioned, lost interest, could not sell, and tended towards tax delinquency, which created problems in county government.

This community decline continued until World War II ended in 1945 with Germany and Japan’s surrender. Britain had been at war almost 6-years and the United States had been at war a little less than 4-years. The road back to any semblance of normalcy or stability in our countries and in our communities, would be much longer that 4-6 years. New norms would be radically different than the old. There is no doubt, Rio del Mar today is a far cry from the RDM of 1940, or the RDM of the future as was planned in 1940.

RDMIA has been present the whole way starting with Highway 1, much as we know it today, south to Freedom, which was completed as a freeway in 1948, and the RDM interchange which was dedicated in 1966. There were many battles with the Rio del Mar County Club over the Inn, the Beach Club, the Golf Lodge and all related grounds and facilities. RDMIA was instrumental in having the neglected yet famous Beach Club torn down and the facilities removed.

The contributions of the RDMIA have been significant over the years. The Deer Park Shopping Center was constructed with the help of RDMIA officers who under the leadership of John Bruning, President, solicited questionnaires in 1973-1974, and based on the results, encouraged the owners/developers to press on with the development plan for the shopping center.

Another development was Café Rio (Bella Union). Anxious to support any upgrading of the Esplanade, the RDMIA helped the developers through the maze of conceptual planning and approvals at the County level and with State’s Coastal Commission.

RDMIA’s involvement, along with the Aptos Beach Pines Property Owner’s Association and others was instrumental in the Rio Highlands sub-division construction to overcome local residents' concerns. This was a long and hard battle for the community over a 16-year period. A diligent collaboration proved successful. County Supervisor (Walter Symons) recognized the community’s concern, initiated action, and carried the torch successfully to the Board of Supervisors and to the State’s Coastal Commission.

The engagement of the RDMIA never ceased. Through its 77-year history of floods, earthquakes, sewage disposal, golf course concerns, incorporation efforts, the Whaley Memorial, real estate sign posting and many other issues the association represents the communities best interests. Most recently RDMIA facilitated the Rio del Mar entrance welcome sign, contributed to the development of the round-about at the Esplanade including the relocation of the Whaley sculpture, and the renewed plantings at the RDM offramp. Landscape maintenance of these locations and various meridians are ongoing commitments.

The RDMIA won the Aptos Chamber of Commerce award in 2015 and was awarded the “MOST UNIQUE” award in the July 4th 2016 parade celebrating its 75th year.

Membership support, community volunteers and donations make it possible for the association to fulfill its mission. Together, RDMIA, is committed to maintaining an improving the Rio del Mar community making it a better place. Thank you to all who participate in this rich history. If not already a member, come and be a part of our future – and join today!

For more history check out the book Rio Del Mar “A Sedate Residential Community” by Allen Collins May, 1995 available at the Aptos Chamber of Commerce and the Santa Cruz Library article “The Early Years: Rio del Mar and Aptos” also by Allen Collins.

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