La Jolla Planners members and trustees approve bylaw, recusal change

After some debate, the general membership of the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) approved a change in the bylaws and recusal policy during the March 7 meeting at La Jolla Rec Center. Under the former policy, project applicants who are also LJCPA trustees (and therefore have a financial interest in getting their project passed) must recuse themselves as a trustee, leave the room once their presentation is complete, and not participate in voting.

The new proposed policy reads: “… In the event of a recusal, the individual must disclose the direct economic interest, recuse before the item is discussed and physically leave the community planning group or committee seating area. It must be made clear to the audience that the member is not acting in any capacity as a trustee or committee member. The presence of the recusing member in the room in which the meeting occurs does not count toward a quorum for that item for which the member recused.”

The vote required two-thirds of the general membership to pass, and LJCPA trustees sat with the audience for the discussion and vote.

LJCPA trustee Dave Gordon, who recommended the change, explained: “City Council policy does not require (applicant/trustees to leave the room), it only requires the applicant to leave the planning group area. Oftentimes, there is a board member who is giving the presentation, we want those people to be involved, but they are at a disadvantage because they have to leave the room and cannot help their client. Making them leave the room is an extra effort that doesn’t help. I also checked all the other planning groups in the City and we are the only one that requires this.”

LJCPA trustee Ray Weiss added: “People who do public service (by sitting on LJCPA) shouldn’t be put at a professional disadvantage by needing to leave the room and not fully participate in the process.”

Conversely, one member said if trustees stay in the room, there is an “implied conflict of interest” and that it was better for trustees to not be in the room.

David Little, speaking from the audience, also opposed the recommended change. “It doesn’t matter what the other planning groups do or even the City Council does,” he said. “When the person stays in the room, supposedly to answer technical questions, they keep lobbying for the project.”

Member Joe LaCava added: “The most important thing for this group is to build confidence in the audience and (make it known that) everything is above board. The current policy has worked well. I think it is something special and unique to La Jolla.”

At the last minute, LJCPA trustee John Shannon added a stipulation to pass the bylaw amendment on the condition that those who recuse themselves can stay in the room for discussion and questions, but must leave the room for voting and have no eye contact with trustees.

The motion to change the LJCPA bylaws with the amended revision passed 35-10-2.

Now that the new recusal policy is in effect, it will apply to sub-committees such as La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee (PRC), who similarly have board members that occasionally double as applicants.

In other LJCPA news

Election results unclear: Although 68 people voted in the LJCPA election, for the first time in recent memory — if ever — there were “several ties” and the LJCPA does not have a tie-breaking mechanism in its bylaws to address them. The voting results will proceed to the City Attorney’s office.

San Diego Community Planner Marlon Pangilinan explained: “The current bylaws are silent on tie-breaking procedures. So we cannot make a determination based on what we have. We typically approach the City Attorney’s office with that question … and hopefully, we can expedite that.”

As this issue went to press, a meeting between the City Attorney’s office and some LJCPA trustees was taking place. The outcome will be reported in a future issue.

In the election, 14 candidates ran for 10 seats. They are: Eamon Callahan, Michael Costello, Dan Courtney, Tony Crisafi, Dolores (Dede) Donovan, Jim Fitzgerald, John Fremding, Ted Haas, Cindy Hazuka, Dave Ish, Greg Jackson, Nancy Manno, Kathleen Neil, Glen Rasmussen.

Herschfield Residence denied: For reasons similar to the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee, the LJCPA voted that findings cannot be made for the Herschfield Residence project at 8230 Prestwick Drive in La Jolla Shores.

The project calls for a Coastal Development Permit and Site Development Permit to demolish an existing 4,067-square-foot single-family residence constructed in 1985 and construct a one-story single-family residence with basement, decks, garage, mechanical room and backyard swimming pool totaling 12,092 square-feet.

The houses in the area are mostly one- story, and range between 4,000 and 5,000 square feet. As such, several trustees were apprehensive to approve the project given it would be double or triple the size of surrounding homes. Trustees also said the project looked “like a fortress” and different in design from other residences in the area.

Trustee Dan Courtney acknowledged that the La Jolla Shores area does not have a maximum Floor Area Ratio (FAR) to which projects must meet, but said “there is such thing as FAR creep” and this project is a “FAR leap” from what is currently in the neighborhood.

A motion that findings cannot be made for the project passed 14-1-1.

Shores PRC bylaws reviewed again: After months of back-and-forth, LJCPA approved the La Jolla Shores Permit Review Committee (PRC) charter establishment and new bylaws. PRC is a joint sub-committee between LJCPA and La Jolla Shores Association (LJSA).

In February, LJSA approved the separation of the current PRC charter into two documents: a formal charter that would serve as an establishing document and a set of bylaws that outlines policies and procedures. By separating the documents, changes could be made as needed to the bylaws while preserving the charter.

Broken into two votes, LJCPA voted to approve the charter draft and return to LJSA for concurrence, passed 12-1-2; and a second vote to approve the bylaws passed 9-2-4.

La Jolla Community Planning Association next meets 6 p.m. Thursday, April 4 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. lajollacpa.org

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