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Public ire causes Del Mar Council to consider committee membership

After hearing community concerns about the formation of a new committee, the Del Mar City Council decided it will consider whether to make any changes to the committee’s makeup or membership.

“We want this topic placed on an upcoming City Council agenda,” resident Greg Rothnem said during the oral communications portion of the July 20 meeting. He applied to the committee but wasn’t appointed. “The residents are frustrated with how this was handled.”

Acknowledging the community’s concerns about the city’s design review process, the council on June 15 appointed a nine-person committee to provide input on the process, which is intended to preserve and protect the community character. The city received 28 applications for the committee.

Most of the applicants attended the June 15 meeting expecting to be interviewed for the committee, but the council only asked to briefly hear the backgrounds of the three applicants who were professional architects or land use planners. Concerned about the selection process, 25 community members submitted speaker slips on the topic during the July 6 meeting, with 14 members of the public choosing to talk.

Although the speakers requested the council to rescind its appointments, the council stood by its decisions. After the meeting, on July 14, residents upset with the committee selection process submitted a letter with 110 signatures to the city, requesting the council rescind its appointments and redo the selection process.

The signatures were gathered within 36 hours, Rothnem noted, adding that an additional 19 signatures in support of the letter were submitted two days later.

Still, the issue was not on the July 20 agenda.

“Your actions, to this point, have felt very dismissive of us,” said resident Terri Pavelko, who also applied to the committee but wasn’t appointed. “How do we get your ear? So far, all of our attempts have fallen on deaf ears.”

Pavelko added that the group is “not going away.”

“There is a huge contingency of this community that is passionate about actually helping make Del Mar the beautiful, unique village that everybody refers to,” she said. “We’re here to stay, we’re going to keep showing up and we’re going to keep asking for you to allow us to participate.”

Resident Tina Thomas, who also applied but wasn’t appointed, said council members should have interviewed the applicants before they made their appointments.

“I want you to hear my story,” Thomas said. “I wish you made an effort to actually learn more about me.”

Thomas said she has been through the design review process and watches the design review board meetings. She would bring “an informed and very reasonable, logical voice to the process,” she added.

“But I don’t feel like anyone even cared about that,” she said.

The committee consists of five residents familiar with the city’s design review process and land use regulations; a former design review board member; a former planning commission member; a Del Mar property owner who recently processed a design review application, including a Citizens Participation Program; and a professional architect or land use planner who recently represented an applicant through the design review and CPP processes.

The members are Nancy Doyle, Anne Farrell, Harold Feder, John Giebink, John Graybill, Richard Jamison, Kelly Kaplan, Dean Meredith and Art Olson.

The committee met for the first time at 4 p.m. on July 8. After hearing from concerned citizens on July 6, the council suggested the committee change its format and time to be more inviting to the public. The second meeting on July 21 started at 6 p.m. and featured a workshop format.

After listening to speakers again on July 20, however, the council decided to place the issue on the agenda of its next meeting on Sept. 8. At that time, the council will consider whether to make any changes to the committee makeup or augment the committee membership.

Deputy Mayor Sherryl Parks apologized for the way the council handled the selection process.

“I understand that you came to be interviewed and expected to be interviewed,” she said. “I’m sorry that we were unable to do that. We rushed to the decision.”

Councilman Terry Sinnott said he was “disappointed” the issue was not on the agenda. He did note, however, that it was probably because of the council’s packed agenda — the July 20 meeting ran nearly eight hours.

“It is apparent to me that we do need to slow down the process, regroup and come forward on another agenda item with a more robust plan that includes incorporating and bringing on board more people onto the advisory function, more interviews, more workshops, and really make sure that we try the best we can to be as inclusive as we can with all points of view on a subject matter that is incredibly important to our community,” Sinnott said.

Councilman Dwight Worden also said he assumed the matter would have been on the agenda.

“I’m very open to looking at things,” he said. “I’m ready to have a discussion about how we can do it better, if there’s a good way to do that.”

In the meantime, Sinnott asked Councilmen Don Mosier and Dwight Worden, who serve as liaisons to the committee, to consider a revised process that would expand membership and possibly slow down the process so that more people could be included.

Mayor Al Corti suggested suspending the committee meetings until the matter comes before the council again, but that decision wasn’t made.

“Let’s not split the community up into two factions like it’s been in the history, in the past,” Sinnott said. “We’ve all seen that. It doesn’t help at all. We can, I think, have varying degrees of opinions on things and still solve the problem.”


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