La Jolla planners reject city’s election advice

Planners also approve patio expansion for George’s at the Cove, new Eddie V’s valet hours

During its September meeting, La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) trustees spent more than an hour crafting a response to city officials regarding challenges to the group’s March election, which were filed with the city by several individuals.

In August, the city issued the group a strong admonition that failure to follow its advice by seating March candidate and architect Michael Morton could result in a loss of the group’s certification as one of the city’s 42 recognized planning groups, and well as its legal indemnification.

Several LJCPA trustees elected in March or July recused themselves from voting on the election challenge, including Michael Costello, board president Joe LaCava and board vice president Bob Steck.

Trustees grappled with a difference in how they and city officials are interpreting the LJCPA’s bylaws, San Diego City Council Policy 600-24 (which governs city planning groups, including the LJCPA) and administrative guidelines for 600-24 drafted by the city attorney’s office.

Although Morton received the fewest votes of any candidate in the March election, per Policy 600-24 new candidates who receive even one vote should get priority over those who have exceeded term limits and are vying for another term, as was LaCava.

Termed-out candidates are allowed to run for an additional two-year term, as long as they receive two-thirds of the vote and there are not enough qualified candidates to fill the available seats, per Policy 600-24.

Like LaCava, former LJCPA treasurer Jim Fitzgerald was termed-out, yet ran again in March because there were initially not enough candidates to fill available seats. The 11th-hour addition of three write-in candidates changed that.

“The problem goes back to, not the way the election was handled, but the interpretation of Policy 600-24,” said Fitzgerald, who resigned despite receiving a required two-thirds of the vote.

Fitzgerald noted that during the March election nine candidates received votes — “four on the original ballot, three write-ins and two termed-out candidates,” himself and LaCava, he explained.

“In my opinion,” Fitzgerald said, “even though I received a large number of votes, the termed-out candidates should not have been seated (or) declared the winners.”

Another election was held July, at which point two available seats were filled by top vote-getters Costello and Cindy Greatrex.

LaCava said that though the city advised him not to proceed with the July election, he did so based on the “passion of the trustees at our April meeting” and to “make the best of the awkward situation we were in.”

“There has not been any challenge to the mechanical aspects of how the March election was conducted,” LaCava said. “There were several complaints about (our) planning group’s operations, and the city dismissed every one, except one.”

Senior City Planner Lesley Henegar, who was in attendance, drafted the city’s final recommendation letter for recently departed City Planning Director Bill Fulton. Henegar maintained the city’s recommendation that Morton be seated complies with both council Policy 600-24 and the LJCPA’s bylaws.

The city’s recommendation letter states that the ballot should have informed people that new candidates receive priority over those who are termed-out. However, it was noted during the LJCPA’s August meeting that Henegar was present during the March election, reviewed the ballot and was alerted to the “unusual situation,” though Henegar maintains this did not equate to her tacit approval.

“Community planning groups are self-governing,” Henegar said. “I don’t get involved in every election. … Please, folks, resist the temptation to put words in my mouth or actions that I did not take. It is offensive.”

Trustee Rob Whittemore said the responsibility for the election quandary falls on “multiple parties,” adding he believes the city is engaging in fear-mongering and should hold another election instead of seating someone who received so few votes.

Trustee Ray Weiss suggested the best solution would be for the city to accept the results and work to prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future.

To seat Morton, Weiss said the group would likely have to unseat president LaCava. “That’s not acceptable because it undoes five months of things that we have done,” Weiss said. “It doesn’t work.”

Morton — who was in attendance — reminded trustees to consider how the election was handled, and not his “politics” or the way in which he has voted on development-related issues as a member of other committees.

Trustee Patrick Ahern suggested that to maintain the LJCPA’s credibility and standing, trustees should seat Morton and put the election challenge behind them.

“I kind of like Mr. Morton here,” Ahern said, to the grumbling of many in attendance. Ahern said that while Morton may not agree with trustees on every issue, he might add “creative abrasion” and “different points of view.”

One audience member likened the severity of the city’s proposed consequences to “extortion.”

“I just don’t understand why the city has invested so much in this?” she questioned. “Why are they so interested in this? I think the answers might explain a lot of the inconsistencies.”

In the end, Whittemore made the following motion: “Having considered the city’s recommendations as detailed in their letter of Aug. 27, 2014 we affirm the elections of March and July and respectfully reject the city’s advice.”

The motion passed 9-1-4, with LaCava, Costello, Steck and secretary Helen Boyden abstaining, and Ahern in opposition.

Boyden suggested during next month’s meeting the group discuss sending a LJCPA representative to a city council meeting in October, when the council is expected to consider a proposed amendment to Policy 600-24. “The LJCPA should let the city council know how the staff management interpretation of our bylaws have an affect on the community,” Boyden said.

In other LJCPA news

Valet parking approved: LJCPA trustees approved an amendment to Eddie V’s valet parking permit that extends its operations to coincide with the Prospect Street restaurant’s new weekend lunch service. New valet hours are 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.

The request was approved unanimously in July by the LJCPA’s Traffic and Transportation (T&T) subcommittee, then pulled from the LJCPA’s consent agenda last month for further discussion.

Husband and wife Claude-Anthony and Deborah Marengo are representing the Prospect Street steakhouse pro bono. Claude-Anthony Marengo is president of the La Jolla Village Merchants Association and a partner with Michael Morton in La Jolla-based Marengo Morton Architects.

Deborah Marengo noted that the T&T’s approval was contingent upon Eddie V’s adding the words “public welcome” to its valet signage to let people know they do not have to patronize Eddie V’s to use the valet service, which she said the owner has done (though it is not required per San Diego Municipal Code).

“One board member said there were some allegations that they were illegally parking cars on the street and not using the garage that’s designated for the valet parking,” Deborah Marengo added, assuring that all Eddie V’s employees are now required to sign a statement agreeing to only park cars in the establishment’s designated garage spaces.

Trustee Dan Courtney said there are potentially more valet parking spaces on Prospect Street than public spaces, bemoaning the loss of such public spaces to benefit private businesses.

“Several years ago we were going to have a moratorium on the valet increase until we had a comprehensive study on the impacts of valet parking and find out if it really helps or hurts,” Courtney said. “That hasn’t really happened and I think we should continue to have that freeze on these until that study is done.”

A motion to approve the valet extension passed, with opposition from Courtney and trustee Fran Zimmerman (who felt the sign should be uniform with other Village valet signage).

George’s expansion approved: Trustees were in accord with the LJCPA’s Development Permit Review (DPR) subcommittee in approving the proposed expansion of the outdoor patio area at George’s at the Cove restaurant.

Restaurateur George Hauer is seeking to relocate and expand the bar and reception area of his Prospect Street establishment by 800 square feet.

The DPR’s approval was contingent upon Hauer agreeing “to either install or cause to have installed screening to conceal from view the existing and new mechanical equipment on the roof of the building.”

Tour buss nuissance: Sally Miller reported that tour busses are parking and leaving their motors idling for extended periods in La Jolla Shores, impacting patrons at outdoor cafes with noise and exhaust fumes. LaCava said he believes this activity violates San Diego’s vehicle code.

La Jolla Community Planning Association: Considers city infrastructure and private development projects in La Jolla and makes land-use recommendations to the City of San Diego and other government organizations.

—The LJCPA next meets 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.