ENCINITAS — The Encinitas City Council has found its man to fill the vacant seat on the council: Joseph Mosca.
The council voted 3-1 to appoint Mosca, a parks and recreation commissioner and a former councilman in Sierra Madre, to the final two years of Catherine Blakespear’s term that she vacated when she was elected mayor.
Mosca, who was appointed to the parks post in 2015, was selected from a pool of 16 applicants that included former planning commissioners, attorneys, business owners and several longtime community fixtures.
“I am just very excited and honored to be appointed to the City Council,” Mosca said. “There were so many qualified candidates who came … just to be in that group of 16 people and then to be appointed I am just humbled and excited and really looking forward to getting to work and working hard.”
After hearing from 12 of the applicants — three withdrew their names from consideration and a fourth was unable to attend the meeting — and several supporters of various candidates, the council briefly thanked the candidates and complimented them for their interest in the position and their vast wealth of collective expertise, which would make their decision a difficult one.
Councilman Tony Kranz briefly suggested postponing a decision until next week to give the council the chance to deliberate on the interviews, and Mark Muir, picking up on Kranz’s suggestion, said the council should narrow the field to one or two finalists if they chose to hold off on making a decision.
After Councilwoman Tasha Boerner Horvath expressed concern that delaying the decision would lead to further lobbying by supporters of the various candidates that could potentially compromise the decision, Mayor Catherine Blakespear quickly nominated Mosca, citing his experience on the parks commission and his previous experience in the San Gabriel Valley city.
“I feel like I want to set the council up for success, and I want to work with someone that seems to be collaborative, whose colleagues speak highly about him, who doesn’t come with a one-issue candidacy or preconceived political position in any way,” Blakespear said. “It is very difficult to make that selection, but when it comes down to whole combination of things, I am going to move to nominate Joe Mosca to the position.”
Muir countered with a motion to nominate Tony Brandenburg, a former judge and current planning commissioner who ran unsuccessfully for council last fall, finishing fifth among the five candidates.
“He also had 11,000 votes, and to me that meant something,” Muir said.
After Muir’s motion failed to receive a second, the council voted for Mosca’s appointment.
Mosca, an attorney by trade and a manager of major projects at San Diego Gas & Electric, was first elected to the Sierra Madre City Council in 2006 on a platform of slow growth, according to published reports. He was re-elected in 2010 and was picked by the City Council to serve as the city’s mayor, which he did until the spring of 2011.
He was believed to be the San Gabriel Valley’s first openly gay mayor when he was appointed the ceremonial title in 2010. He resigned from the council in 2011 after he and his partner and children moved to London.
He lived briefly in San Diego after law school.
Mosca pushed for a city park in Sierra Madre, the first of its kind built since the 1970s, hillside zoning restrictions on development and considerable improvement to the water system, which he touted in his candidate statement.
But he also had his detractors, including some who criticized him for voting against putting a draft downtown development plan — which some residents believed could have altered the small-town charm of Sierra Madre — to a vote of the people.
This spawned a voter initiative, Measure V, that was very similar to Encinitas’ Proposition A, which limited building heights to 30 feet and permitted a maximum of 13 dwellings per acre in the city’s downtown core. Measure V narrowly passed in 2007.
According to previous news reports, Mosca also garnered complaints from some community members who were not happy with increases to the city’s water rates to help finance the bonds used to pay for the water system upgrades.
Three years after Measure V passed, despite the criticism, voters overwhelmingly reelected Mosca.
On Wednesday, he was one of several candidates who fielded additional questions from the council following their three-minute statements.
Muir questioned Mosca about several videos that emerged on local message boards that appeared to show Mosca getting into contentious arguments with colleagues on the Sierra Madre Council, as well as a failed recall attempt against him.
Kranz also asked Mosca if his employment with SDG&E would affect any position he would take on the city’s push for community choice energy, which his employer opposes.
Mosca said that if he were chosen to serve on the council, he would be representing residents, not his employers, but did say he would recuse himself if there were any appearance of a conflict of interest.
Several speakers also spoke in support of Mosca, including Kris Powell, who said that mutual friends of she and Mosca in Sierra Madre had said that the videos that had surfaced of Mosca were taken out of context, and vouched for his character.
Mosca also received a vocal endorsement from Bob Nichols, chairman and founder of the Surfing Madonna Oceans Project, and Marge Kohl, who served with him on the parks commission.
Following his selection, Mosca said he was gratified the council majority was able to look past the criticism.
“I think that they were able to look past it and look at the record of accomplishment,” Mosca said. “And know that they really want a council that is working on tackling the challenges that are facing the city, and that is most important thing, and who is the person who can get things done and move the city forward, and I believe that’s why they chose me.”
Mosca, whose term begins Jan. 12, lives in Olivenhain with his longtime spouse, Matt, and their two adopted children, ages 9 and 6.
Among those who also were up for the position included Brandenburg, Bruce Ehlers, the chairman of the “No on Measure T” campaign; William Morrison, longtime member and past president of Leucadia 101 Main Street Association; Greg Post, a former MiraCosta College trustee and Lisa Nava, a longtime Encinitas Union School District staff member.