Pacific Beach Town Council voted on name change, but results delayed

the Pacific Beach welcome sign
(Elizabeth Marie Himchak)

The Pacific Beach Town Council had to delay announcing the results of a vote on whether to change its name due to its bylaws.

It was not clear if at least 10 percent of the council’s membership was present at the July 20 meeting, held in St. Brigid Catholic Church’s parish hall.

The issue was raised by member Alan Harris, who said that according to the council’s bylaws, the meeting needed to be called to order with the purpose of conducting business and a quorum — 10 percent of membership — had to be present.

Council Vice President Karl Rand said it was “razor thin” trying to establish whether they achieved the quorum, so the discussion was turned over to the governance committee. It is to report to the council’s board on Aug. 4, and then board will decide on how to proceed.

(Check for update.)

For two years, the Pacific Beach Town Council’s board has been discussing whether to change the organization’s name in the hopes of potentially increasing membership and transparency. With a 6-2-2 vote, the board decided to have the council’s members decide.

Council Secretary Susan Crowers, using the theme “Unity in community,” spoke in favor of changing the group’s name to the Pacific Beach Community Association. She said this change could help address any misperceptions by having the word “community” in the title.

“The name Pacific Beach Town Council is misleading to many people,” Crowers said. “We’re mistakenly thought of as a governmental body rather than an all-volunteer grassroots membership organization. This misunderstanding results in a frequent perception of the Pacific Beach Town Council as unresponsive and ineffective, and it results in a lack of participation and support.”

Freda Rothermel, a PB resident since the ‘80s, experienced this misunderstanding.

“I really thought this was a council,” Rothermel said. “I only got involved recently because I was trying to do sidewalks (improvement) and I thought it was a city council of elected officials.”

Although it is part of the council’s duty to help residents voice their concerns to the city, Crowers said distinguishing themselves as separate from the city establishes the first impression that they’re solely community driven.

“We need a name that is immediately understood and perceived as inclusive and welcoming,” Crowers said. “Community is an important concept to new potential members and especially among the young residents who are our future.”

But not everyone sees a name change as the solution to increasing participation. Greg Daunoras, the council’s recording secretary, spoke about the historical significance of the Pacific Beach Town Council name.

He said changing the name will not solve misconceptions about the town council’s mission and it is a direct blow to the group’s history.

“We’ve had new residents and they would sometimes question, ‘Who are you and what do you do?’ That doesn’t mean a handful of people should erase 71 years of history,” Daunoras said.

He added that a name change would not guarantee increased membership, but greater community outreach efforts from the board and members could.

Trisha Goolsby, a council director, said she agreed with Daunoras on that point.

“I agree that education and talking about PBTC and what we stand for is definitely the most important part,” Goolsby said. “But I think until we start reevaluating how Pacific Beach is as a community and what our demographics are here in Pacific Beach, we can’t necessarily say that the name change is really going to influence our community.”

Although the council meeting ended without knowing the final vote, those present left with a goal on how to move forward.

“Because we had such a robust conversation, I think we got more momentum going from the membership, not just the board, on being more active,” said President Marcella Bothwell. “We have been discussing this for two years. There’s no harm in discussing it a little bit longer because it’s a really important decision.”