CPA faces decertification by city over bylaws

The La Jolla Community Planning Association decided April 5 to ignore a recommendation by the mayor’s office to avoid decertification as a city-recognized planning group by reverting to its old bylaws. The group’s fate as a city-recognized planning organization is now in the hands of the City Council, which will consider decertifying it at a hearing on April 24.

La Jolla Community Planning Association chair Tim Golba called the special meeting April 5 after receiving a letter from James Waring, deputy chief of land use and economic development for the mayor’s office. Waring urged the Planning Association to vote to operate in accordance with the bylaws that were in existence before the association approved new bylaws in January. He said such a vote was the only way to avoid having its certification taken away by the city, a move that Waring wrote would be “an unprecedented action.”

The Planning Association voted down a motion to return to the old bylaws. They instead chose to retain the new bylaws, which are the rules that govern every aspect of the group’s conduct, that were approved at a special meeting on Jan. 18. The new bylaws stated that they were to become effective immediately.

The city asked all of the more than 40 community planning groups in the city to update their bylaws in October 2005, setting an 18-month deadline that will come up on April 18. The city Planning Department created a “shell” for all the planning groups that allowed for some customization in individual communities. But the shell became void when the City Attorney’s office declared that the shell would have to conform to Brown Act requirements regarding noticing for public meetings.

The City Council will consider a new shell document May 1, and asked that the La Jolla CPA return then to discuss deviations from the shell document. The La Jolla bylaws contain several deviations, including an expansion of the board of trustees from 18 to 22 and limiting trustee terms to six years, rather than nine. The deviations must be approved by City Council.

Instead, the council will decide whether to decertify the Planning Association on April 24. Without certification, the Planning Association would no longer have the authority to require developers to come before them prior to taking projects before city planners. The advisory votes taken by the Planning Association would no longer be included in staff reports given to city planners.

City Council President Scott Peters said he feared the Planning Association would lose its certification.

“I don’t think it’s going to go very well,” Peters said. “I don’t understand all the reasons, but they will be arguing that they are different from the other 42 planning groups in the city. That’s difficult for me to accept.”

Planning Association trustee Rob Whittemore was one of the main advocates for maintaining the new bylaws. He said the Planning Association, along with City Attorney Michael Aguirre, asked the council to docket the new bylaws for review immediately after they were adopted, but that Waring blocked the issue from reaching the council docket. Several meeting attendees expressed outrage that the bylaws could not make the City Council docket, but the decertification hearing could.

Peters’ La Jolla representative, Keeley Sweeney, said it would not have mattered if the bylaws were docketed at the City Council quickly after the Planning Association approved them.

“They were in violation as soon as they voted them in,” Sweeney said.

In addition, Peters said hearing the Planning Association’s bylaws early could have led to a scheduling nightmare for the City Council.

“Decertification is one docket slot,” Peters said. “If we heard La Jolla’s bylaws we could have 41 other planning groups saying they want to be on the docket to talk about the shell.”

Whittemore argued at the meeting that the Planning Association should show strength on the bylaws issue.

“We cannot be a puppet. A puppet’s voice has no value,” Whittemore said.

Others argued that since the City Council had never officially extended the April deadline for new bylaws, the La Jolla Community Planning Association was actually acting in compliance when it asked to have the new bylaws heard.

“What they’re saying is, ‘We’re not going to deal with you, we’re going to change the law and then deal with you,’ ” trustee Ray Weiss said.

Trustee Michael Morton urged the group to go along with the city’s request to revert to the old bylaws until the new shell is considered on May 1.

“As unpopular as our City Council is at times, we still work under the framework of the city,” Morton said. “I don’t think (May 1) is a long time to wait.”

Trustee Phil Merten made a motion to revert to the old bylaws, as requested by the mayor’s office. The trustees were nearly equally divided, but the special meeting required a vote of all of the 116 Planning Association members in attendance. The motion was voted down by a large margin.