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Two new planning commissioners took their seats amid a swirl of drama last week and not long after, a leader in the city’s Development Services Department lost her job.

Hours after Mayor Bob Filner named a new planning chief, Theresa Quiroz and Anthony Wagner were sworn in at Tuesday’s City Council meeting. Filner recommended both new members as replacements for termed-out commissioners.

By Friday, Cecilia Gallardo, deputy director of Development Services, no longer worked for the city, either because she was fired or asked to resign. The changes marked the end of a wild week in city planning and land-use circles.

It went like this.

Quiroz was put forward to replace Mary Lydon, who is executive director of the local chapter of the Urban Land Institute, a nonprofit research and education organization on real estate and development issues.

Quiroz is a National Police Officers Association member, and is on the board of the City Heights  Community Development Corporation.

Wagner works for the Institute for Public Strategies and is president of the Allied Gardens Community Council and chairman of the Navajo Community Planners.

He’s replacing Robert Griswold, president of Griswold Real Estate Management.

Even though they were sworn in by the City Council on Tuesday, Quiroz and Wagner weren’t immediately installed as members of the Planning Commission.

So at Thursday’s meeting, the outgoing commissioners were still at the dais, and the new commissioners were nowhere to be found.

That turned out to be an issue.

The big question on the Planning Commission’s docket was an appeal of a project in La Jolla.

It was the proposed demolition of two single-family homes on Playa del Sur Street in the La Jolla Planning Area to make way for the construction of a residential duplex on the same property.

The city’s Development Services Department determined the 1920s-era beach cottages weren’t historic, and therefore could be torn down. Opponents have questioned that determination.

A neighbor of the property, the La Jolla Community Planning Association, and the La Jolla Historical Society appealed the city’s determination.

Because of the type of project in question, the Planning Commission’s ruling on the appeal is the final decision. Appealing to the City Council isn’t an option.

But at the Planning Commission meeting, Filner’s deputy chief of staff, Allen Jones, asked that the item be continued until a later meeting.

He said Filner felt there were concerns regarding the property’s historic status that hadn’t been properly addressed.  Filner wanted the historical resources board to consider the properties’ historic value before the commission made its decision.

“It is the mayor’s request that the application be trailed to an August date to allow the historical resources board to consider the matter,” he said.

The Planning Commission voted against the request for continuance.

But then Jones returned to the lectern, and said it was the mayor’s opinion that the meeting was being inappropriately conducted. The term of one of the commissioners who was allowed to vote had already ended.

So Jones said the commission’s actions that day should be voided, and the rest of the docket should be deferred until the new members could be seated.

Following a lengthy recess, Eric Naslund, chairman of the commission, said the mayor’s concerns were valid. The day’s decisions were voided, and the rest of the meeting was delayed until next week, when Wagner and Quiroz could be seated.

Griswold said the decision took him by surprise, but wanted to clarify that he had been told to attend the meeting.

“I was in contact with city staff the last couple of days. I was asked to be here,” he said. “I was asked to prepare.”

On Friday morning, members of the city’s planning and development staff learned Gallardo, a high-level official at Development Services, was no longer working for the city.

Andrew Keatts

I'm Andrew Keatts, a managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org...

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