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By Collin Breaux| Email: cbreaux@picketfencemedia.com | Twitter: @collin_breaux

The San Juan Capistrano City Council could not reach a consensus when considering potential changes to the appointment process for planning commissioners during a council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 6.

Two separate motions failed after a tie: one to use a prior method with a subcommittee of two councilmembers appointed by the mayor who make recommendations to the entire council; and the other a hybrid model in which the mayor appoints a subcommittee that reviews applications and conducts interviews and then provides the city clerk with at least two recommendations for each vacancy, with appointments made by a ballot process during an open session meeting.

Councilmember Sergio Farias and Mayor Troy Bourne voted yes, and Councilmember Brian Maryott and Mayor Pro Tem John Taylor voted no, for the prior method. Maryott and Taylor voted yes, and Bourne and Farias no, on the hybrid model option. The issue was tabled until the next meeting on Oct. 20. Councilmember Derek Reeve was not at the Oct. 6 meeting.

Councilmembers directed city staff in March 2019 to research different options. Planning commission interviews and appointments currently take place in city council meeting open sessions. Interviews with prospective planning commissioners were conducted by a subcommittee of two councilmembers appointed by the mayor prior to 2013, with the subcommittee’s recommendation presented to the full council for consideration at an open session public meeting. That subcommittee and interview system is used for the city’s other commissions and committees.

City staff has consulted with other South Orange County cities on how they appoint planning commissioners. Some people have avoided applying for the planning commission under the current policy because the process is during public meetings, during which councilmembers may not ask many questions or be candid with applicants, Farias said.

“It seems like (the existing policy) would be more transparent. I think that’s why previous councils took us in that direction,” Farias said. “But with the rest of the commissions, we do interviews like you would anywhere else. I think you get a lot more out of people with those interviews, personally.”

Maryott said he is happy to support the existing process, and the hybrid model “might be one step up in adding two rounds that would be helpful.” “Planning commissions, in every city, are really quite important in the scheme of things,” Maryott said. “It’s also something there’s more competition for. It feels like where we’re starting to go here is, let’s just make it the same as the others

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