Commission nomination fails, vacancies remain on three boards

SOLANA BEACH — Appointments to the city’s advisory committees are generally a slam dunk, with council members historically supporting applicants nominated by their colleagues.

Such was not the case at the Sept. 9 meeting when they were considering two residents for one vacancy on the View Assessment Commission, commonly referred to as the VAC.

Members are tasked with reviewing feasible solutions for development on view assessment applications to provide definitive decisions on projects based on the council’s adopted guidelines and tool kit.

The city’s municipal code governs how appointments are made — either by individual council members or the council at large. The VAC consists of seven members. Each council member appoints one resident. The other two are nominated by the council at large, however, all must be approved by a majority vote.

Rebecca Lawson was appointed in 2012 by Tom Campbell, who retired last year, so his nominee went to Ginger Marshall.

With the early departure of Lawson, whose term would have expired in January 2016, Marshall was entitled to name someone to the post for the remaining few months.

Applications were submitted by longtime residents Gary Garber, who was out of town on business Sept. 9, and Janet Nielson, who attended the meeting and addressed council before the nominating process began.

As an interior designer for 10 years, Nielson said she can read architectural plans and would not have difficulty telling homeowners they would have to change their proposed building plans if they would block someone’s view.

“We do that all the time,” Nielson said. “From a personal point of view, as designers we’re half diplomats, half designers. I wouldn’t have any problems with that. I would hope we would be able to strike a balance between the builder and the claimant. … Everybody has to compromise.”

Before Marshall was asked to make her nomination, Councilman Peter Zahn said that based on Garber’s application “it looked like he didn’t have that level of experience.”

Zahn said Garber left blank some of the supplemental questions, such as how the applicant feels the role of a commissioner relates to the community, city staff and City Council.

Zahn noted Garber stated he would use common sense to make decisions on controversial issues.

“Common sense, of course, seems by definition something that we all share, but it can be defined different ways for different people,” Zahn said, adding that he wanted to “point those glaring differences out” before Marshall made her nomination.

“I do personally know him (Garber) and have spoken with him and he’s the one that I’d like to appoint,” Marshall said.

Councilman Dave Zito said during his three years on the council he’s seen hundreds of applications for city commissions.

“This is certainly the most poorly written application that’s been submitted to us in that entire time,” he said. “I personally am quite conflicted here because this application really does stink. I would like to respect the decision of my colleague.”

Zito said he was considering Garber for the position only because it expires in about three months.

When asked by Mayor Lesa Heebner why she believes Garber, who owns Super Vent Packaging, is more qualified than Nielson, Marshall said he is a successful business owner.

“I don’t see how that relates to the skills that are necessary for the View Assessment Commission,” Heebner said.

The nomination resulted in no action taken following a 2-2-1 vote, with Mike Nichols abstaining.

“I don’t know either one of them,” Nichols said. “I’m reading this (application) and it doesn’t look like this guy has the qualifications to do the job, and I’m not going to give that an affirmative from my perspective.”

Marshall could have nominated Nielson after the failed vote but chose not to.

The last time council could not reach consensus on a committee appointment was in 2010 when then-City Councilman Joe Kellejian was entitled to make a nomination to the VAC.

After not supporting his choice, Paul Bishop, council did not follow proper procedure and appointed someone else. Two weeks later they acknowledged the mistake and Kellejian was allowed to name Bishop, who was reappointed last year by Zito, who took over Kellejian’s nomination after he retired from council.

The city is also trying to fill one position each on the Parks and Recreation and Public Arts commissions. No applications were received for either during a recent recruitment. The city will readvertise all three vacancies.

Visit the city website for information or to apply.

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