Enlarging the Sphere of Influence for Developers

Wednesday’s City Council meeting was a pretty mundane affair. There was one interesting moment. Councilman Mike Morasco pulled item 14, Amendment to Escondido Municipal Code Section 20.2, from the Consent Calendar. This amendment would have changed the number of members of the Planning Commission that could live outside the City limit but within the geographic area of the City’s General plan from one member to three members. Morasco asked City Attorney Jeff Epp why this would be a good idea, wouldn’t it dilute the Commission? He preferred to see residents within the City on the Commission. Epp responded something about the change being requested by two members of the Council.

Councilman John Masson said he wanted to expand the number of qualified individuals available to sit on the Commission. Mayor Sam Abed chimed in that people who lived within the Sphere of Influence (SOI) of Escondido essentially lived in Escondido. He said he would rather have a more quailed person, with experience in land use issues, who lived in the city’s SOI than a less qualified City resident. Morasco asked why go from one to three—three out of seven would dilute the commission too much. Councilman Ed Gallo observed that the numbers had varied over the years, and he had voted to change it to only one a few years back, but now he felt it would be better to change it back. Morasco said he could only support increasing the number to two.

Councilwoman Olga Diaz said that one non-resident member was plenty. Many of the decisions that were made by the Commission were not sent on to the City Council. Such decisions should be made by residents. Masson said he wanted to open the field to more professionals. Abed returned to his “most qualified” refrain. Diaz said there had certainly been no shortage of qualified applicants, and that the Council had not always chosen the most qualified. Masson then made what I believe to be the most telling comment, he agreed that there were qualified applicants, but it was important that the applicant understand what they (the Council majority) wanted to accomplish. Abed added that some candidates may have been qualified, but would not fit in with the Council’s Action Plan. Diaz said that the Council had turned down a very qualified female applicant who had served in the Army Corps who would have made an excellent member. No one could be more qualified than that, she added.

Gallo then went into one of his usual digressions, saying that he liked to see a mix on the Planning Commission—real estate people, financial types, engineers, and even one average person who worked from nine to five. With that, the amended amendment increasing the number from one to two was passed.

There is one vacancy on the Commission. The six current members are all white males. Their occupations do vary a bit, construction, architect, construction, businessman, Realtor, and businessman. I’m guessing the next appointment won’t be much different. Should be smooth sailing for developers for some time to come.

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