Members appointed to revamped committee

What a difference a few months make.

Last year, there were no applicants to serve on the Environmental Committee. On Tuesday, there were 11. Seven were appointed.

The council selected Michelle Availlone-Noailles, Scott Epstein, Kristen Martin, Katy Moss, Stephen O'Neil, Eric M. Sargeant and Martin Taylor from a bumper crop of applicants for the repurposed and renamed Environmental Sustainability Committee.

The committee will research, review and aid the council on items related to protecting the environment and improving the community's sustainability, but with more oversight by the council.

"I was so impressed to see so many new faces with impressive résumés," said veteran Planning Commissioner Anne Johnson.

Availlone-Noailles was an evolution anthropologist who studied wildlife behavior before earning a law degree.

"My experience would hopefully benefit the committee," she said.

Epstein is an air quality researcher at UC Irvine, and his doctoral thesis research focused on the chemistry of atmospheric pollution.

"I believe we still have a long way to go as we strive toward sustainability in Laguna Beach," Epstein said. "It is important for us to be stewards of the environment, especially in this fragile marine ecosystem."

Sargeant is a planner for WATG, a hospitality design firm, and an accredited Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) construction professional.

"I bring to the table an artistic nature," said Sargeant, who wants to see young people involved in some of the city's complex problems.

All three have lived in Laguna for just one year.

O'Neil, a resident for three years, holds degrees in anthropology, with 30 years of experience in California, a second career in ornamental horticulture and numerous publications to his credit.

"I bring a generalist's background to this," O'Neil said.

Taylor is an attorney who specializes in real estate finance and bankruptcy. He and his wife have lived in Laguna for more than five years.

"I love living in Laguna, and I firmly believe in the need for a practical, achievable environmental sustainability plan to preserve such an incredible and unique community," Taylor said.

He is an avid cyclist and longs to see Laguna become more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly.

Martin, an attorney and Whittier law professor, is completing her master's degree in sustainability and environmental management.

"I am teaching environmental justice, and I understand competing interests," the 15-year Laguna resident said.

Moss, a property manager, is a member of Earthworks Oil and Gas Accountability Project and the San Juan Citizens Alliance, a Colorado-based environmental group. She has lived in Laguna the longest of any of the appointees: 32 years.

"What I don't know, I am willing to learn," Moss said.

The 11 applicants were the largest group to apply for any city committee in recent memory.

Four of the newly appointed committee members will serve two-year terms to March 31, 2014, and three will serve one-year terms. Terms will be decided by the committee at its first meeting.

The committee was reinvigorated after undergoing a near-death experience in July when five members either declined to reapply for appointment or resigned, and no new applications were submitted.

A council subcommittee determined that more direction was needed, and the new committee will be assigned specific tasks by the council.

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