Incumbents Prevail on Arts, Planning Boards

Norm Grossman, who survived dissent over his re-appointment to the Planning Commission last week, tries out a smart meter, whose new features may help solve parking problems downtown. Photo by Edgar Obrand
Norm Grossman, who survived dissent over his re-appointment to the Planning Commission last week, tries out a smart meter, whose new features may help solve parking problems downtown. Photo by Edgar Obrand

Incumbents for four spots on the Arts Commission and two spots on the Planning Commission whose terms expired were re-appointed by the City Council last week.

In a surprise turn, the council voted in six members for the Arts Commission, expanding its roster to nine members with the addition of two newcomers, David Emmes, the retired founding director of Costa Mesa’s South Coast Repertory, and Suzanne Mellor, board member of the National Gallery.

The council’s vote over planning commission incumbents Norm Grossman and Linda Dietrich was divided.

Mayor Kelly Boyd and Mayor Pro Tem Elizabeth Pearson each voted only for Dietrich, while council members Toni Iseman and Steve Dicterow each cast a single vote for Grossman. Bob Whalen was the only council member to use two votes, selecting both Dietrich and Grossman.

After the vote, Whalen, a former planning commission member, pointed out the value of blending new members into city committees. In this instance, though, he said it “makes sense to keep the momentum going” by retaining incumbents because of the Planning Commission’s current projects.

Indeed, both Grossman and Dietrich cited their desire to complete initiatives as a reason for renewing their service. “It’s a very exciting time for the city and I just want to be a part of it,” Grossman said afterwards, adding that current projects “will set the stage for the next two decades of what happens in Laguna Beach.”

Other candidates included Sue Kempf, who withdrew at the 11th hour, Abby Kanarek and Dennis Myers.

Arts commissioners Ken Auster, Suzi Chauvel, Pat Kollenda and Lisa Mansour all made pleas for renewed terms, and five other candidates vied for the four openings.

Treasurer Mary Ferguson and chair Pat Kollenda both urged the council to add an alternate. “I’ve been on the commission since Adam and Eve,” said Kollenda, who noted that the commission formerly had nine members and an alternate and now consists of seven without an alternate though its portfolio is larger now than before.

Going a step further, the council agreed with member Toni Iseman’s proposal to increase the commission to nine members. They also unanimously agreed on the selection of Mellor and Emmes to fill the new spots. The other candidates included Alice Harmon, Dee Perry and Patricia Turnier.

Although Emmes said few words in favor of his bid, Whalen rectified his underselling, identifying him as South Coast Rep’s founding director, among other accomplishments.

“I’ve applied for this as a way of paying back to the city that I love,” said Mellor, on the boards of the Laguna College of Art and Design, the National Museum of Women in the Arts and the National Gallery, both in Washington, D.C. She has also done faux painting for sets at the Laguna Playhouse, where she is a former trustee.

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