Matt Gaffney walks with the VFW Serra Post 3801 during the 2017 Swallows Day Parade. Gaffney is a two-time past commander of the American Legion Post in town and a life member of VFW Post 3801. Photo: Allison Jarrell
Matt Gaffney walks with the VFW Serra Post 3801 during the 2017 Swallows Day Parade. Gaffney is a two-time past commander of the American Legion Post in town and a life member of VFW Post 3801. Photo: Allison Jarrell

By Allison Jarrell

On Dec. 13, the San Juan Capistrano City Council appointed lifelong resident and former city commissioner Matt Gaffney to a vacated seat on the city’s Planning Commission.

Gaffney has lived in San Juan for 62 years and currently serves as the vice president of the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society and as a board member of the San Juan Capistrano Open Space Foundation.

The city accepted applications for the position through Dec. 1 and heard back from five interested residents: Lisa Fenning, Susan Hardwegg, Kemmer Matteson, Harrison Taylor and Gaffney. The Council conducted candidate interviews at its Dec. 13 meeting and selected Gaffney in a 3-2 vote after hearing from all candidates except for Matteson, who was not present. The two votes against Gaffney’s appointment came from Council members Pam Patterson and Kerry Ferguson, who both voted for Fenning, a retired federal bankruptcy judge.

Gaffney and his family have a long history of civic service. Gaffney said his father was one of the city’s founding fathers and served on the city’s first Planning Commission from 1964 to 1973. His father was also involved with writing the city’s first General Plan in the late 60s and early 70s.

Following in his dad’s footsteps, Gaffney joined the city’s Traffic and Transportation Commission in 1986 and served off and on for 17 years until the commission was disbanded by the City Council in 2013. Gaffney also sat on a committee to rewrite the city’s General Plan in the late 1990s and served on the Open Space Committee for about six years. As president of the Capistrano Animal Rescue Effort (CARE), Gaffney said the group funded the majority of the Dr. Joe Cortese Dog Park with a donation of over $111,000.

Gaffney is also a two-time past commander of the American Legion Post in town and a life member of the VFW Serra Post 3801.

Gaffney told the Council that he’s seen San Juan grow from 600 people to 35,000, and he feels the city needs to take a more business friendly approach to growing its economy.

“This city needs to get back to what we wanted to do, and we need commerce here. We need the sales tax revenue,” Gaffney said. “We need to get these projects through and get them going without having them be hung up so long at the commission level.”

Gaffney will serve on the commission through March 31, 2019.

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