Garber named to View Assessment Commission

SOLANA BEACH — With some reluctance at the Sept. 23 meeting, Councilwoman Ginger Marshall’s colleagues approved her nomination to the View Assessment Committee, two weeks after a split vote failed to name Gary Garber to the vacant position.

“I personally think that the other two people are more qualified but I’m not nominating them,” Councilman Mike Nichols said. “I don’t know that the other people got a fair shake because you were worried about not knowing them but that’s OK. This is your nomination.”

“I have the same feelings that Mr. Nichols does as well but it is your nomination,” Mayor Lesa Heebner said to Marshall before the 4-0 vote, with Councilman Peter Zahn abstaining.

Members of the VAC, as it is known, evaluate view assessment applications to find practical solutions for developments that may impair residents’ views and provide definitive decisions on projects based on the council’s adopted guidelines and tool kit.

The committee consists of seven members. Each council member appoints one. The other two are nominated by the council at large, however, all must be approved by a majority vote.

Rebecca Lawson vacated her position before her term expired in January 2016. Marshall was entitled to name someone to the post for the remaining few months.

The appointment was scheduled to be made at the Sept. 9 meeting, when applications had been received from Garber and Janet Nielson, an interior designer who addressed council to answer questions before the nominating process began.

Council members had concerns about Garber’s application because several questions were left blank and the two recommendations, Zahn said, were almost identical.

Garber was called out of town and unable to attend the meeting to provide additional information or an explanation, Marshall said.

Despite her colleagues concerns, Marshall nominated Garber, but the move resulted in no action taken following a 2-2 vote, with Nichols abstaining.

The city readvertised the position and received a more complete application from Garber that included a different recommendation and an additional application from Gayle Valentino, a real estate agent.

“Anyone who volunteers for a commission or committee in the city I commend,” Zahn said. “I think it is great to have that sense of public service.

“My concern is that the application … two weeks ago was really inadequate and really had a lot of glaring holes,” he added. “This one this time around is certainly more filled in.”

Zahn said that while he appreciates “that there was a great improvement in terms of the amount of verbiage and the fact that all the questions were filled out this time … there appears to me to be a lack of commitment.”

“I would urge council member Marshall to take that into account and really look at this situation very seriously and closely,” he said.

Garber, who attended the Sept. 23 meeting, apologized for the incompleteness of his first application. Because he was called out of town on the “spur of the moment,” he said he didn’t look at what was written by the two people who wrote recommendations.

He said after the first person filled out the form he gave it to the second person and told him that was what the first person wrote.

“If he copied it, he copied it,” Garber said, adding that he didn’t look at what either person wrote before submitting the application.

He said he applied for the position because he’s “been kind of interested in my neighborhood, what goes on there.”

He said he’s worked with the city to have a speed sign installed in one location and is trying to get utility poles undergrounded on Pacific Avenue.

He said his development experience comes from purchasing nearly 20 properties — mostly residential but a few commercial — and working with contractors to remodel many of them.

Heebner asked if he would feel comfortable telling applicants who may be his friends that they would have to change their design to comply with the view ordinance.

“I wouldn’t have a problem with that,” he said. “I wouldn’t want anybody to block my view.

“One of the main things with the View Assessment Committee is you have to balance everything,” Garber added. “You try to work things out if you can. You want both parties to be happy. That’s the hard part of being a negotiator and that’s really what you are.”

Heebner told Garber she appreciated him completing the application as it provided her with more information when voting.

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