Last November’s election remade one-third of the nine-member City Council, but it is only starting to impact Berkeley’s 45 council-appointed citizen boards and commissions.
The three new city councilmembers, Darryl Moore, Laurie Capitelli and Max Anderson, have moved quickly to either retain or replace their predecessor’s appointees to the most influential commissions—Planning, Police Review, Landmarks Preservation and the Zoning Adjustment Board—while most vacancies in other commissions remain unfilled.
Councilmember Anderson has the toughest task ahead. After appointing Transportation Commission Chair Rob Wrenn to the Planning Commission, Paralegal Jonathan Wafer to the Police Review Commission (PRC), and local business owner Sam Dykes to the Loan Administration Board, Anderson still faces 12 vacant commission seats, many of which were left unfilled by his predecessor Maudelle Shirek.
Moore has seven vacancies to fill after appointing Raudel Wilson, a Mechanics Bank executive and the President of the Downtown Berkeley Association, to the ZAB; Sara Shumer, a retired professor of political theory to Planning; Sharon Kidd, his former opponent for his City Council seat, to Police Review; and Deborah Spaulding to the Citizen’s Budget Commission.
Laurie Capitelli, who was left with a nearly full roster of commissioners from his predecessor Miriam Hawley, has four commission vacancies to fill after appointing Sherry Smith, president of the Berkeley League of Women Voters, to Police Review and Rick Judd, a land use attorney, to fill his former seat on the ZAB.
In all, 73 commission seats remain vacant, according to the most recent tally from the city clerk’s office released this month.
Vacant commission seats can hamper oversight of public money. The Energy Commission, for instance, which is listed in the city clerk’s roster as having only five of its nine seats filled, manages $338,000 in federal grants for home safety and repair.
Other commissions with numerous seats to be filled include the Fire Safety Commission and the Commission On Labor, which have four vacancies and the Commission on Disabilities and the Homeless Commission which have three vacancies.
The new councilmembers reported receiving many applications for possible appointments to the ZAB, but no interest for several other commissions.
“We’re just going to have to beat the bushes,” said Councilmember Anderson who plans to fill his commission vacancies within the next few weeks.
For the Planning Commission, which studies and advises the council on land use issues, Anderson tabbed Rob Wrenn, who he said would restore balance to the commission and give greater weight to neighborhood concerns.
Wrenn, who resigned from the Planning Commission last summer to avoid serving his full eight-year term and being precluded from returning, said he would focus on completing a land use plan for the neighborhoods directly south of the UC Berkeley campus.
Anderson also picked Jonathan Wafer, who he said was the grandson of Berkeley’s first African American Police Officer, to serve as his PRC commissioner. Wafer replaces Jackie DeBose, who resigned after the election. Anderson said he expected Wafer would, “defend the rights of citizens to be free of police excess while being fair to the police.”
Anderson also said he planned to retain Jesse Anthony as his ZAB Commissioner. Anthony, like DeBose was a close friend of former councilmember Maudelle Shirek, whom Anderson defeated in November. He said Anthony, who usually votes to approve use permits for new buildings, had done a credible job, and praised the work of the commission and staff.
Capitelli, a former ZAB member, selected Rick Judd, a land use lawyer from the Oakland firm Goldfarb & Lipman, from a pool of viable candidates. Judd’s legal background appealed to Capitelli, who hoped his appointment could help the ZAB better understand legal scenarios in which state laws conflict with city laws.
Asked about how Judd might vote on controversial projects, Capitelli, who more often than not supported new construction, replied that Judd, “seemed like someone who would approach things in an even-handed way.”
Capitelli had similar praise for Sherry Smith, who replaces outgoing Lucienne Sanchez-Resnik at the Police Review Commission. Noting the commission’s traditionally contentious relationship with the police department, Capitelli said he hoped Smith, a newcomer to police issues, could ease tensions.
Capitelli also said he planned to retain Landmarks Preservation Commissioner James Samuels and that Planning Commissioner David Tabb would determine this spring if he wished to remain on the commission.
Councilmember Moore said he picked Sara Shumer for the Planning Commission because she was “analytical and not ideological.”
Moore said he became acquainted with his ZAB appointment Raudel Wilson from Rotary Club activities. “I find him to be very conscientious and easy to work with,” said Moore who added that Wilson’s Latino heritage also appealed to him.
Wilson, in an interview last week, said that he likes most of the new buildings constructed over the past decade and he agrees with most ZAB decisions, including its approval for the nine-story Seagate Building slated to rise on Center Street.
Moore also replaced former Police Review Commission Chair Jon Sternberg, one of the commission’s more activist members, with his Election Day opponent Sharon Kidd. Kidd has volunteer as the Youth Intervention Specialist for the Oakland Police Department for the past nine years.
Moore complimented Sternberg, but said he opted for Kidd because she resides in his district and would increase minority membership on the commission›