Due to COVID-19 social-distancing requirements, members of the Signal Hill City Council met virtually by video conference for their regularly scheduled April 14 meeting. Among other agenda items, the council filled a vacant seat on the Planning Commission after considering five qualified applicants.
However, because the council selected candidate Perica Bell, and she is already on the Planning Commission, the City will now need to find a replacement to fill her previous seat.
The City will open recruitment for that position for 10 days. Any new applicants will be considered along with the candidates the council interviewed Tuesday with the goal of selecting a new planning commissioner during the council’s May 12 meeting at the earliest.
With that selection, the Planning Commission will have a full cohort of five, though it can continue operating with four. That commission is one of three in the city, along with the Civil Service Commission and Parks and Recreation Commission.
The Planning Commission seat had become vacant earlier this year after one member, Tom Benson, informed the council that he was moving out of the city and, as a nonresident, could no longer serve.
Bell will serve out the remainder of Benson’s term, which expires May 31, 2023. Her previous seat, which now needs to be filled, expires May 31, 2021. The council had appointed Bell last year to complete the remaining term of Carmen Brooks, who was elected city clerk in March 2019, as reported in the Signal Tribune.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Robert Copeland presided over the commissioner-selection process, beginning by allowing candidates to speak about their qualifications and interests for three minutes. Council members then asked questions of each.
Candidates Bell, Jewel Cowart, Armando Lopez and Randy Shipp were present to be interviewed. One applicant had to drop out of the virtual meeting and will be invited back for the next selection process in May.
Copeland then took nominations from council members. While both Bell and Lopez received nominations, the council voted unanimously to select Bell.
City Attorney Dave Aleshire said that because appointing two candidates was not on the agenda, doing so at this meeting might invite a challenge to the decision.
The council agreed to open up a new recruitment but allow the remaining existing candidates to automatically be part of that pool.
“If we get more applications, we would conduct more interviews, and if we don’t, we would use these interviews to make a determination,” Councilmember Edward Wilson said.
To potentially avoid having to open a new recruitment, Councilmember Keir Jones had suggested that Bell could reapply during the commissioner appointments next year rather than create a new vacancy this year. However, Wilson said that since the council valued Bell’s expertise on the commission, it should ensure a longer appointment term for her now.
During her interview, Bell said she has worked on numerous development projects in the city in her year of service on the commission and hopes to continue to addressing issues like the need for housing.
“I hope to keep bringing that expertise,” she said. “I really want to be part of the city’s post-pandemic challenges.”
Cowart said during her interview that she recently retired from the aerospace industry and would bring 29 years of experience in project management, information technology, and quality management to the commission. One idea she had for the city was adding parking meters to generate revenue and prevent overnight parking.
Lopez, who had also applied for the Planning Commission last year, said he works for SpaceX in design, construction and planning and is a proponent of increasing housing with accessory-dwelling units and multifamily complexes.
He added that he created a community group in West Long Beach when he lived there and wants to bring that same connectivity to Signal Hill by expanding the trail system, adding more sidewalks and connecting businesses to neighborhoods.
“I enjoy this type of work– plan reviewing and looking at layouts and dealing with problems it creates and finding the solutions for it,” Lopez said.
Shipp, the final candidate interviewed who will be invited back in May, said he would bring 15 years of project management proficiency in aerospace, along with military experience and graduate coursework. He also completed the Signal Hill Police Department’s Citizens’ Police Academy course.
“My favorite thing about Signal Hill is probably the small-town feel,” he said.
The next Signal Hill City Council meeting will take place virtually on Tuesday, April 28 at 7pm. For information on accessing and participating in the meeting, visit the council’s webpage at http://www.cityofsignalhill.org/79/City-Council.