Real estate agent Jessica Gannon was appointed by the Laguna Beach City Council to fill a vacancy on the Design Review Board (DRB) following the former chairperson’s resignation last month.
Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow and councilmembers Peter Blake and Sue Kempf voted to appoint Gannon. Mayor Bob Whalen and councilmember Toni Iseman voted for Michael Sweeney, lead landscape architect for the Rancho Mission Viejo Co.
No councilmembers voted for incumbent Caren Liuzzi, an art teacher who has served on the board for 15 years. The council voted to replace Liuzzi with Donald Sheridan on Feb. 4.
Councilmember Peter Blake, who has vehemently advocated for diminishing the DRB’s powers over building remodels since he started campaigning for city council, viewed the vote as a win.
“DRB is … gutted,” Blake said, using an expletive, Tuesday outside the council chambers. “I’ve been waiting a year and a half for this.”
George Weiss, co-founder of the Laguna Residents First political action committee, wrote in an email that Blake’s rhetoric lowers the level of public discourse and voters will remember this when he’s up for reelection in 2022.
“What a perfect launch for April Fool’s Day!” Weiss wrote. “Peter Blake braying profanities in his starring role as the City Council’s curmudgeon.”
Blake asked Gannon, who called into Tuesday’s meeting, if the Compass agent had done anything to prepare for her candidacy for a DRB seat.
“I’m kind of sick in the head where I actually enjoy listening,” Gannon said. “I wouldn’t tune into all three hours or so of them but yes I continued to tune in and when I heard Meg was stepping down I went back and reviewed the last two meetings.”
She visited Ruby’s restaurant and properties on Bonita and Alta Vista ways that are slated for projects requiring design review, she said. Gannon added that she recently reread Laguna Beach’s design review guidelines.
In her application, Gannon wrote her Laguna home underwent a major remodel in 2019, resulting in a Laguna Beach Beautification Council Award. Gannon is affiliated with the Aaron Kirman Group of Beverly Hills.
Gannon was motivated to apply for DRB because she’s me many residents who have lost hundreds of thousands and in some cases millions of dollars due to the board’s process, she wrote in an email.
“I was saddened to hear of Meg stepping down,” Gannon said. “I thought she was a wonderful DRB member. I’m happy to dedicate my time and actively participate in helping this charming ‘village’ remain just that, charming but also be a guiding force that helps it evolve.”