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Del Mar design review board appointment unresolved

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Del Mar City Hall.
(Jon Clark)

Del Mar officials will reopen the process of seeking applicants to fill a position on one of its most powerful panels after the City Council failed to pick a candidate Monday, April 15.

Five residents, including incumbent Tim Haviland, applied for appointment to the design review board, as Haviland’s four-year term expired earlier this month.

The board reviews development projects for architectural features, landscaping and other details with the goal of protecting the environment, scenic views, community character and property values.

After hearing statements from each candidate, asking them questions and taking public testimony from about 20 speakers, council members Sherryl Parks and Dwight Worden voted for Haviland, while Mayor David Druker and Councilwoman Terry Gaasterland voted for Karen Lare.

Councilwoman Ellie Haviland abstained from the discussion and vote. She is married to Tim Haviland, the review board’s chairman.

Her decision was voluntary. City Attorney Leslie Delaney advised that there was no legal conflict of interest for her and her husband to be serving on two different bodies within the city.

“The reason I am recusing myself is that I want to make sure there is no public perception of bias on the selection process for members of that committee,” Haviland said.

The specter of an interest conflict was broached by Druker and Gaasterland at the council’s March 4 meeting. They questioned whether two people involved in romantic relationships should be allowed to serve simultaneously on the city’s ruling bodies — the council, design review board and planning commission.

The council in 2015 appointed Tim Haviland to the nine-member board. Del Mar voters elected Ellie Haviland to the council in November 2016.

City Hall observers say having spouses serving at the same time is unprecedented and violates a long-standing, but unwritten policy.

Some residents suggested the city should consider enacting a policy banning the practice. Devaney said there is no law prohibiting spouses from serving on different boards, and that potential conflicts on decisions would be considered case by case.

In last Monday’s session, the council heard an outpouring of support for keeping Tim Haviland on the review board.

“You don’t have to be a human resources executive to see that he is clearly the most qualified candidate,” John Graybill said. “If you look at his performance and his experience, it is clear he is the most qualified. He’s a proven commodity and that has value.”

While the city received several letters protesting Haviland’s reappointment based on the conflict allegation, only Laura DeMarco appeared before the council to voice that position.

“No relative of a serving council member has ever been appointed concurrently to the DRB or the planning commission in Del Mar,” DeMarco said.

While not codified, DeMarco said the tradition serves to avert the “hard feelings” that could arise from the appearance of conflicts, she said.

“Nepotism has been so repugnant and such an anathema to fairness, due process and good government in Del Mar that it has been effectively banned in practice,” she said.

In keeping with protocol, the council voted on the design review board appointment without discussion or debate.

As a result of the split vote, the council directed the city’s staff to reopen the application process while allowing Haviland to continue to retain his post over the next few months.

Lare, the candidate favored by Druker and Gaasterland, is a semi-retired financial services industry executive who has lived in the city since 1977, aside from intervals when professional assignments took her elsewhere.

The other candidates were Gala Yayla, Tina Thomas, and Terry Pavelko.


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