Council appoints 12 residents to city committees, board

By SARA HALL

City Council last week made a dozen appointments to city committees and one board.

Councilmembers conducted more than 20 interviews (some applicants submitted statements or were not in attendance) on Thursday (Feb. 29) for open seats on the advisory groups.

All of the new members will serve beginning April 1. Each person will serve two years, except for those appointed to the View Restoration Committee (who will serve for one year).

Mayor Sue Kempf encouraged the residents who were not appointed to apply again in the future.

“To those of you who are not selected, don’t give up,” the council makes committee appointments throughout the year, she commented.

The Parking, Traffic, & Circulation Committee was the most popular with 10 people applying for four open seats.

The seven-member group advises council on matters pertaining to parking, traffic, circulation and traffic complaints.

The terms for four current PTC members will expire on March 31. Only two are re-applied for another term: Lauriann Meyer and Brandon Rippeon. Another eight locals applied for the committee: Lawrence Esten, Matt Hendrick, India Hynes (also applied to the Recreation Committee), Marian Keegan (also applied to the Rec Committee), Michael Rosenberg, Stewart “Andre” Shields, Mike Simmons and Simon Sproule.

During the first round, councilmembers voted unanimously for Sproule and Simmons. Meyer received three votes and was also appointed.

Following a tie between Rippeon, Hendrick and Eston, the council voted in a second round for the final seat. Rippeon received four votes and was ultimately appointed.

During his interview, Sproule mentioned his background of more than 30 years in the automotive industry and noted how things have changed since he first moved to Laguna Beach in 2001, including the rideshare market and availability of autonomous and electric vehicles.

“It was such a different world in the mobility space,” Sproule said.

There are clearly a number of challenges with the incoming and outgoing flow of traffic in Laguna Beach, he noted.

He hopes to use his experience and understanding of the wider mobility issues to help benefit the community he loves.

Simmons said he also wants to give back to the community and the PTC is where he feels he can be put to the highest and best use. His background for the past few decades has been with companies in the traffic safety industry, measuring road and driving safety, and working on making mobility safer, affordable and more sustainable.

The PTC is in his “strike zone,” Simmons said.

He wants to work on immediate issues regarding parking and traffic, and ultimately focus on longer-term efforts, like making the city more bike and pedestrian friendly with vehicles blending seamlessly into the city in a safer way.

Meyer, a long-time resident of Laguna Beach, has served on the PTC for four years. Many of the current committee members only have one year under their belt, she noted, and it’s important to have some former members to guide the new team.

“It is a committee that builds on the history and expertise of traffic laws, past solutions for neighborhood problems,” and running an effective meeting every month with a lot of citizens involved, Meyer said.

They are working on broader engagement on city parking and traffic solutions, positioning the committee as a resource with expertise, she added. The goal is to expand the PTC’s function to collaborate with the ESC and work with the city on the Complete Streets recommendation, as well as using a data-driven approach to further focus on areas of need.

The PTC is important to the lives of all residents in Laguna Beach, Rippeon noted.

“It’s a confluence of our public safety, of our local economy and our environment,” he said.

He’s worked hard to represent the interests of his fellow neighbors and the city council, Rippeon added, and is excited to serve a second term.

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File photo/Courtesy of Claudia Redfern

Claudia Redfern playing pickleball at Lang Park

The Recreation Committee also received a lot of interest from local residents, with seven people applying.

At the council’s January 19 planning workshop, there was a majority of support for a suggestion of reducing the size of the larger committees to no more than seven people.

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The Rec Committee is currently a nine-person group with two alternates. The terms of five members are expiring on March 31, so staff recommended: Filling two of the seats with the current alternates; eliminating two positions and appointing one of the applicants to the single remaining seat. This would reduce the total number of members on the committee to seven.

The applicants were: Andrew Binkley (incumbent), James Foley, India Hynes (also applied to PTC), Marian Keegan (also applied to PTC), Ryan Marx, Claudia Redfern (incumbent) and Jennifer Zeiter.

Redfern was ultimately reappointed with two votes (Binkley, Foley and Zeiter all received one vote).

Long-time resident Redfern said she became addicted to pickleball after trying the recently popular sport.

“All I want to talk about is pickleball and how can I create a positive atmosphere for those that want to play pickleball in the City of Laguna Beach,” she said.

She noted the controversy around the issue, but asked to serve another term to see a positive solution come about and more courts in the city.

“I would just like to be able to see that through and know that pickleball can continue to grow as it has over the last five or six years,” Redfern said.

The Environmental Sustainability Committee was also recommended to be reduced from nine members with one alternate to seven total members.

There are four terms that will soon expire so staff suggested: One seat be filled by the current alternate; two seats be filled by existing members of the committee whose terms aren’t yet up and council appoint one applicant to the last spot.

ESC received seven applications from residents: Steve Chadima (incumbent), Deborah Perlman Deem, Alexander Graebe, Paul Manina, Ramin Pejan, Ted Reckas and David Womack.

Chadima was unanimously re-appointed.

The ESC is comprised of amazing people with tremendous backgrounds, each bringing a different area of focus and perspective to the table, Chadima commented, with his own being energy and public policy.

“It’s a terrific honor to serve with that group,” he praised.

He also serves on the ESC joint ad hoc committee with the Emergency & Disaster Preparedness Committee that is tasked with developing the city’s Climate Action and Adaptation Plan. He’s interested in continuing that work through to its completion and initial stages of implementation, Chadima said during his interview.

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Jessica Gannon was reappointed to the DRB for a third term

Council also interviewed four applicants and appointed two residents to the Board of Adjustment/Design Review Board.

The applicants were: Imer Bauta, Mary Jo “MJ” Coveny, Jessica Gannon (incumbent) and Robb Mitchell.

Coveny received unanimous support for a seat on the board. Gannon earned four votes and was also appointed.

Her experience in global event production, design work and having acted as her own general contractor for her own renovation are all strong, transferrable skills to the DRB, Coveny said. She also mentioned her ability to reason, her fair thinking and her heartfelt wish to keep Laguna unique as reasons why she will be a positive addition to the board.

She recently shadowed several current DRB members on site visits to see their individual style and perspective.

“I wanted to make sure that this role felt like the right fit for me to volunteer and to put in the time and support required,” Coveny said. “We have some lovely homes in this town, amazing homeowners and visionary architects. It was great to get up close and personal with them and it was eye-opening on many levels.”

Laguna is unique in its roots and with its recent growth, Coveny noted, and she wants to keep that balance going. She also wants to collaborate and manage growth with respect to the existing design integrity of the town, she added.

She’s been in front of the DRB as both an applicant and a neighbor impacted by a building project.

“I understand the balance and finesse that must be maintained when parties may not see eye-to-eye,” she said.

Coveny also hopes to help the board refine the DRB criteria, that is an imperative process for evaluating each project.

DRB is not an easy job, but it’s essential to the community, she concluded.

It’s been a great experience so far, noted Gannon, the current chair pro tem for the board.

She likened her previous service on DRB to educational phases: Her first term was like getting an undergrad degree on the subject matter and her second term was similar to wrapping up a master’s degree.

“Now I’d like a third term to get my Ph.D. in all things Laguna,” she said.

As this is her final term, she also commented that the other candidates would be good appointments to continue the board’s work in the future.

The Heritage Committee also received four applicants for two open seats.

Councilmember Bob Whalen recused himself from the discussion and vote due to a source of personal income from one of the applicants (he explained that the person previously purchased a piece of art from Whalen’s wife).

The terms of two current members are expiring and both re-applied, Linda Morgenlander and Scott Summer. Along with two new applicants, Liz Jurkowski and Jon Stordahl.

Council unanimously appointed Morgenlander and Stordahl.

Considering her time on the Heritage Committee, in addition to her experience as an architect and former DRB member, Morgenlander said she can make a significant contribution to the committee’s work. She has also processed a number of projects through the city, which is useful knowledge when the group deals with complex building issues.

“I believe I bring a depth of knowledge and experience that are important,” she said.

Retired history teacher Stordahl has an interest in helping homeowners navigate the process of voluntary preservation, he said. Stordahl has personal experience on the topic, as he and his husband restored their older Laguna Beach home in 2022 and then recently formalized that restoration into preservation by seeking placement on the city’s historic register and applied for the Mills Act Program.

“That gave me experience with the application process, with the criteria for historicity of a property, and also with working with the Heritage,” he said.

“I think my background and my experience would be an asset to the Heritage Committee and to residents seeking to preserve their properties,” Stordahl added.

Council also considered the two applicants and appointed both residents to the View Restoration Committee: Incumbent Kelly Brochu and Walter Stender.

Mayor Pro Tem Alex Rounaghi proposed a one-year term instead of two years. There have only seven meetings over the past three years for this committee, he pointed out.

Over the next year, council can consider transferring the purview of the View Restoration Committee to the DRB or Planning Commission, he added.

“I would prefer that instead of having a lot of extra committees that are not necessary,” Rounaghi said.

Councilmembers voted 5-0 to appoint both Brochu and Stender for terms starting on April 1 and running through March 31, 2025.

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Sara Hall covers City Hall and is a regular contributor to Stu News Laguna.


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