Laguna Beach’s design review board updates bylaws

Laguna Beach City Hall.
Community members on the city’s design review board will now be able to serve up to four consecutive two-year terms before they must take a two-year break.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The Laguna Beach City Council unanimously approved amendments to the bylaws concerning the design review board Tuesday, the most notable of which addressed a limit on the number of consecutive terms that can be served by its members.

The changes required a vote by the panel because the board is appointed by the council.

Community members on the design review board will now be able to serve up to four consecutive two-year terms before they must take a two-year break. A board member who terms out can be reappointed after fulfilling that required hiatus.

“I’m fine with these term limits,” Councilman George Weiss said. “They’re kind of self-imposed by the [design review board], so they agree with it. We can always change it down the road if it doesn’t work. Exceptions can be made by the council.”

By imposing the mandatory break, it could allow for participation from more community members.

During the discussion, Mayor Bob Whalen, Mayor Pro Tem Sue Kempf and Councilwoman Toni Iseman all indicated that they were not in favor of term limits.

Kempf said she felt there is a steep learning curve involved with serving on discretionary boards such as the design review board, adding, “Once you get a good [design review board], you want to keep that [board] intact.”

Iseman found giving board members with experience the opportunity for reappointment after the mandatory break to be critical to her decision.

“I wouldn’t want to eliminate people who served their terms and want to come back,” Iseman said. “You take a look at the current planning commission. There’s so much talent on that board. I would hate to think that we would push people off and not allow them to come back.”

While the council granted the term limits amendment for the design review board, resident Judie Mancuso wondered aloud if all the city’s committees should be subject to the same rules regarding service time.

“It may be better to just standardize all committees and boards to have one term limit, whether it’s four years, eight years, whatever … and then that’s it,” she said.

The council directed City Manager Shohreh Dupuis to bring an agenda item to a future meeting to address the possible standardization of term limits for the remaining city committees.

In addition to the term limits, the design review board also submitted updates to its bylaws pertaining to practices that have taken place since the COVID-19 pandemic. The bylaws now state the design review board generally will have its regular meetings at 5 p.m., as opposed to 6 p.m., on the second and fourth Thursday of the month. The section concerning location has been updated to state that meetings may be held virtually.

The bylaws were also updated to reflect procedure for review of projects at public hearings. Louis Weil, chairman of the design review board, said that the amendments were made to provide clarity as to how meetings should be run, while also emphasizing fairness to both parties.

“The board felt this was important to document these procedures because it ensures a more orderly process [and] more equal opportunity for the individual board members to participate in the meeting,” Community Development Director Marc Wiener said. “So that’s why they took it upon themselves to update the document and to establish the procedures.”

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