Three reappointed to Design Review Board

The City Council reappointed three of the four Design Review Board incumbents at the Oct. 19 meeting.

Ken Sadler, Robin Zur Schmiede and Ilse Lenschow were appointed to terms ending Jan. 30, 2013. The council also approved a resolution dropping the board's alternate position, deemed no longer necessary since the reduction of weekly meetings to twice monthly, as agreed to by the board at a joint meeting with the council in May.

"We knew when we made the recommendation that one of the incumbents would not be reappointed," said Lenschow, who will have served on the board for 16 years at the conclusion of the new term.

Ramon Navarro, husband of incumbent Leslie LeBon, who was not reappointed, has asked the council to nullify the appointments and reconsider the elimination of the alternate position.

Navarro said Councilwoman Verna Rollinger erred in voting for only two applicants for the three open seats.

In fact, council members are not required by city code or resolutions to vote for any applicants. However, they cannot vote for more applicants than seats are open.

Navarro also claimed that the council had discussed the elimination of the alternate position prior to soliciting public opinion. The discussion held at the joint meeting in May was open to and attended by members of the public and the media.

Earlier this year, the board elected then-alternate Sadler as its chairman, an unprecedented move also criticized by Navarro.

As alternate, Sadler was only able to vote on projects if a regular member was absent or excused from participating in discussions or voting on a project due to conflicts. The same rules applied to his role as chairman when he would alternate with the chair pro tem, when appropriate.

Lenschow described the arrangement at the time as more like a co-chairmanship. She said she feared Sadler would resign from the board if not given the chairmanship.

"He brings something to the board that no one else does." Lenschow said. "He is very analytical, and he is an engineer."

The board voted 3 to 2 for Sadler's chairmanship, LeBon and Michael Wilkes dissenting.

Community Development Director John Montgery did not favor the election of an alternate as chair and informed board members of his opinion that it would prove unwieldy.

Sadler had been appointed alternate by the council in October 2009. He was the chairman pro tem at the time, with the expectation of being elected chairman by the board for the next term under usual procedures.

However, he received the least votes of the three incumbents — himself, Wilkes and Caren Luizzi — who re-applied for the committee. Wilkes, who was the board alternate at the time, received four votes, followed by Luizzi and both were reappointed as regular members.

Lenschow said she and Luizzi had encouraged Sadler to seek reappointment.

"We more or less twisted his arm and a majority of us felt bad about the demotion," Lenschow said. "It was kind of an insult. And he said he would resign under the circumstances."

Sadler was unavailable for comment at the time.

City Atty. Philip Kohn advised city staff that there was no legal barrier to the election, but opined that it could create an appearance of musical chairs and might be unsettling,

A violation of the Brown Act, which prohibits public business conducted outside public scrutiny, was also rumored at the time of the election, intimating collusion on the part of some board members to ensure Sadler's election.

Lenschow denied any violations.

"Our bylaws require us to have a meeting at least two weeks before our election at which members declare their candidacy," Lenschow said. "We had an open discussion at that time.

"We don't need to have a discussion outside of a meeting because we all know who the candidates are."

LeBon, a local architect, has served on the board for five years, one as an alternate, and is a member of the group which developed the Residential Design Guidelines under consideration for implementation.

She also was a member of the Design Review Task Force from 2004 to 2009 and a member of the Open Space Committee from 2001 to 2004.

Sadler lists under his community and civic involvement participation in school and youth sports activities, his position as a deacon of the Laguna Presbyterian Church, and experience in disaster service and safety assessment.

Zur Schmiede is a retired city attorney (not for Laguna), and a member of the Laguna Beach High School Performing Arts Boosters and the Laguna Beach Woman's Club.

Lenschow is a retired Realtor, who also served on the Design Review Task Force. She was president of Laguna North neighborhood association and the Coalition of Neighborhoods Assn., treasurer of the Newport Coast Dive Defense Fund Assn. and a member of the Greater Laguna Fire Save Council.

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