LCP committee member calls process tainted
Editor’s note: Corrections have been made to this story since the original was posted.
Payments to two consultants who worked on the Solana Beach Local Coastal Plan have tainted the process, says Jim Jaffee, a member of the volunteer citizens committee working to find a compromise.
But one person he suggested contributed to the situation fired back, saying Jaffee himself had violated the “good faith” of the group working to establish guidelines development in the coastal zone and to give direction on bluff erosion and sea wall.
At their Oct. 9 meeting, Jaffee told City Council members the plan they approved in September is “a result of property owners secretly injecting $15,000 to $20,000″ in payment to attorney Jon Corn and economist Dr. Stephen Conroy.
“The Coastal Commission thought it was a volunteer process, all our side thought it was a volunteer process, and I believe all of you did,” Jaffee told the council.
Jaffee said committee member David Winkler brought Conroy in under the guise that he was an unpaid acquaintance from his alma mater, the University of San Diego.
Conroy is an economics professor who initially volunteered to help the committee. He was later paid by the Beach Bluff Conservancy to attend a workshop and report on city beach surveys, which was fully disclosed in all material submitted to the city.
But unbeknownst to Jaffee and then-committee member Dwight Worden, Conroy was not only being paid for his input, he also was a consultant representing Las Brisas, one of Solana Beach’s bluff-side condominium associations with a vested interest in the outcome of the coastal plan.
Jaffee wrote in a letter to the council that “Mr. Winkler clearly knew that Dr. Conroy was the consultant … opposing the mitigation fees imposed by the Coastal Commission while our side was not aware of Dr. Conroy’s conflict.”
Corn, who started as a volunteer consultant to the committee, said he put in over 500 hours of volunteer time before losing his job early this year. Without regular income, he said, he could not continue to volunteer and was only then offered compensation to continue.
“I was always there to represent the interests of the blufftop homeowners … I was never a neutral party,” he said.
He told the council, “We strongly believe the process we went through over the course of five years was a solid process with a lot of integrity.”
He also said, “The agreement got more attractive from an anti-seawall prospective and less attractive from a homeowners prospective because most all of the Coastal Commission comments were in favor of the people who have a view against seawalls.”
He also noted that they were all approved by Jaffee while they were working on the document in March.
Winkler in an e-mail to the Sun, “The fact that the group Jon represented paid him for a small portion of his total time at the end of the process did not create a conflict or affect the outcome of the joint process.”
He also wrote: “The incorporation into the document (draft LUP) of the Coastal Commission’s suggested changes, being far more in line with the Jim (Jaffee)’s views than with the bluff top homeowners, resulted in a final document that was more beneficial to seawall opponents, and less beneficial to blufftop homeowners.
He was never asked to comment on Conroy’s role.
Jaffee was one of the authors of a compromise plan accepted by the council in September.
No other environmentalists or blufftop homeowners other than Jaffee raised questions about potential conflicts of interest at the September city hearing. Seawall opponents did raise question regarding the process the city followed.
Some claimed that the payments and an under-representation in a homeowner-driven citizen’s committee caused them to pull out of the process.
Winkler went on to suggest that Jaffee also was not free from some influence in his decisions while on the committee.
“Not only did Jim lambaste the agreement he co-authored and approved, but he also admitted to us in 2009 that he personally funded the costs for the Surfrider litigation against the city. He funded these efforts while he served on the committee and while we were negotiating the compromise. His decision not to disclose to us that he was enabling the very type of litigation that the compromise was intended to end is a significant breach of good faith.”
Jim made it clear he would like to go on record saying he did not personally finance the litigation, but that he did support it as a board member of Cal-Beach.
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