CPA Avoids Decertification

The La Jolla Community Planning Association retained its city certification as a planning group by agreeing to suspend implementation of certain aspects of its new bylaws.

The San Diego City Council voted April 24 not to decertify the planning group, as had been requested by the mayor’s office. The mayor asked the council to decertify the Community Planning Association after the group voted to approve new bylaws that contained deviations from the council policy that governs planning groups, as well as a provision that made the bylaws effective immediately.

The meeting began with Jim Waring, the mayor’s deputy on land use and economic development, asking the council to decertify the Planning Association effective June 8. That timeline, he said, would give the group a final chance to avoid decertification by voting to return to its old bylaws. In addition, he said the mayor’s office would allow the Planning Association to retain two of the most critical aspects of the new bylaws: more accessible membership requirements and the elections conducted under them in March.

Council member Jim Madaffer made a motion to that effect, noting that the council policy governing planning groups expressly states that new bylaws must be approved by the city and that the punishment for non-compliance is decertification.

“We’ve got to put our money where our mouth is,” Madaffer said.

Planning Association chair Tim Golba addressed the council and said that he believed the association’s membership had voted to make the bylaws effective immediately out of frustration with the city’s handling of the matter. Originally, the city had asked all 42 community planning groups to submit new bylaws by April 17. The city then asked the groups to hold off until May 1, when the city will have a new shell bylaw document and will be ready to hear arguments for deviations from the shell by individual planning groups. However, it never officially moved the deadline.

“The bottom line is (the membership) sent a message that they’re frustrated with the process, or with the city, or with any number of other things,” Golba said.

Waring appeared to agree that the La Jolla Community Planning Association intended to send a message by voting to immediately adopt new bylaws. The group took the action “to see what the city would do about it,” Waring said.

Rob Whittemore, a Planning Association trustee and one of the chief authors of the new bylaws, asked the council for a continuance of the decertification hearing. He asked that the Planning Association be allowed to discuss the aspects of its bylaws that differentiate from council policy with the council’s land use and housing committee and with the city-wide community planning committee. In the meantime, he said, the Planning Association would be willing to operate without those aspects of the bylaws.

City Council President Scott Peters suggested that setting aside the deviations would result in a set of bylaws that, in effect, would be the same as the old bylaws the Planning Association has refused to re-adopt.

“How is that different from Mr. Waring’s proposal?” Peters asked.

Councilmember Kevin Faulconer also seemed confused by the debate.

“I’m not quite sure what we’re arguing about at the end of the day,” he said.

Waring and Peters both expressed dismay that the La Jolla Community Planning Association was demanding so much attention from city staff rather than waiting to be heard along with the other 41 community planning groups in May.

A motion made by Brian Mainschein to continue the matter failed as Peters questioned whether the Planning Association would be indemnified from lawsuits during the continuance.

Planning Association trustee Sherri Lightner addressed the council and said the association was prompted to adopt new bylaws immediately without city approval because the city has been so deaf to issues about the Planning Association in the past. She said the association had tried to amend its bylaws twice before and that several grievances against the Planning Association had been filed with the city throughout the years, but that the city had done nothing in each case.

“We decided that with our past “black-hole” experience with the city that the bylaws should be effective immediately,” Lightner said.

Sally Fuller, one of the litigants in a lawsuit filed against the Planning Association last year alleging conflicts of interest and other misconduct, said that the suit was dropped on the main condition that the Planning Association’s new bylaws would receive expedited review. Steve Haskins, the attorney who filed the lawsuit, said he would be forced to re-file the suit if the Planning Association was decertified.

After further discussion mainly between the council and Whittemore, a motion was crafted that would allow the Planning Association to operate under their new bylaws but without the aspects that deviated from council policy, including provisions to recall elected trustees, granting voting rights to ex-oficio trustees representing other La Jolla groups such as the Bird Rock Community Council and La Jolla Shores Association, and a shorter, six-year term limit.

Before a vote was taken on the motion, councilmember Donna Frye took time to chastise Waring. She agreed with the Planning Association in their assertion that the city had handled the matter poorly and that the Planning Association was trying to abide by a deadline for new bylaws that was never officially moved.

“Their punishment is because they actually tried to follow council policy,” Frye said to Waring. “We’re sitting here because you got angry.”

The motion passed unanimously. The next meeting of the La Jolla Community Planning Association will be held Thursday, May 3 at 6 p.m. at La Jolla Recreation Center, 615 Prospect Street.