This spring, the Pacific Beach Planning Group elected Karl Rand as its new chair. A PB resident for 24 years and a San Diego tax attorney, Rand moved into the new position after serving as the group’s Development Subcommittee chair for two years. He also sits on the board of the PB Town Council.
As he told PB Monthly, it was both personal and community issues that propelled him into local government a few years ago. His twin son and daughter graduated from high school and took off for college. He and his wife Connie, who grew up in PB and is also an attorney, purchased her grandmother’s house in Mission Beach from her mother, who wanted to keep it in the family. They decided to remodel it (as a possible future retirement home) and launched into the lengthy design and permit approval process.
“I started attending the meetings of the Mission Beach Precise Planning Board and found the process fascinating,” Rand explained. “We also followed what happened with the elementary school, the dispute between the developers who wanted as many units as possible and the residents who opposed it.” Agreements were reached and construction started on the site of the former school on Mission Boulevard, near the Rand home, also under construction.
Rand said he decided to join the Pacific Beach Planning Group (members must live in the area they represent) and soon was drawn into the dynamics of several concerns. “There are so many issues. PB has a unique character,” he pointed out.
At the time, the defining issue was short-term vacation rentals. “It was very complicated,” he explained. “I had to figure it out, talk with other members, the Coastal Commission, community people. We spent hundreds of hours on it.” (The issue has still not been completely resolved, as the City reversed its original ban on STVRs.)
Rand said he sees the issue as both a general and personal nuisance — there’s a STVR next door and their proliferation is making it harder for his oldest, newly married son to buy a house.)
Before long, Rand volunteered for and was elected to chair the Development Subcommittee. Also called the Commercial/Residential/Mixed- use Subcommittee (CRMS), it is the core of the PB Planning Group, whose main purpose is to review development permits, listen to public comments and make recommendations on land-use matters. Applicants are required to go through the review process, but are not required to make recommended changes. Many do listen and comply, however. They are also required now to use PowerPoint, making building presentations easier to understand.
The Planning Group is a volunteer, advisory group, explained Rand: “We are not City employees nor a branch of the City government. We are a public forum. Some think we have more power than we do, and some think we are powerless, but we do have influence and have had good successes.”
Unlike the PB Town Council, the Planning Group must follow the Brown Act, which requires transparency. Agendas must be posted 72 hours before meetings and board members must discuss issues out in the open. (The Brown Act was authored by California Assemblymember Ralph M. Brown and passed in 1953 giving the public the right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies.)
Several other community projects currently face the Planning Group. These include 1) the Balboa Avenue Station Area Specific Plan, 2) redevelopment of Mission Bay, including DeAnza Cove and Rose Creek, 3) the Mission Boulevard Plan Update, 4) electric scooters, 5) affordable housing and 6) reviewing and updating the Community Plan. “Each project will have its own issues,” said Rand.
He added that he does not find it difficult to deal with the City. Projects go at their own pace and City planners and others have been helpful in letting the Planning Group know when they are ready for review. He attributes his patience, in part, to his occupation as a tax attorney and dealing with agencies such as the IRS and Labor Board.
Rand said he also believes in letting people speak their minds, and communicating in a solution-based manner. This, he insisted, he learned from an estate planner who advised him to not ask clients, “What if you die tomorrow?”
“That puts up a wall,” Rand explained. “It’s better to ask, ‘What if you had died last week? What would you want to be happening now?’ We could apply this to the issue of turning Rose Creek into a park. What if it already was a park? What problems do we need to fix?”
He admits that decisions are hard to make. “People wait until they are forced to decide things. We need to promote common opportunities in a strategic and balanced way and keep people’s interests aligned.”
Rand shared that he was born in Western Massachusetts and attended high school in Syracuse, New York. He earned a bachelor’s degree in labor relations at Cornell University, and worked as a union organizer for hotel employees in Rochester. He then joined the U.S. Army and was stationed in Colorado. Thinking of warmer climates, he headed for the University of San Diego, where he earned his law degree.
A month after he joined a San Diego law firm, he met Connie, who was hired as a paralegal. She then earned a law degree at UCLA and managed to have their twins just before graduating.
With their children out of the house, the Rands rent out rooms to graduate students. In his spare time, Rand said he plays tennis and oversees two chickens and beehives in their backyard.
“This is chicken paradise,” he said, offering a tour of the spacious area where the chickens roam. He then reached into the coop where they sleep at night and pulled out an egg.
ABOUT THE PB PLANNING GROUP
- Karl Rand, chair
- Jason Legros, vice chair and treasurer
- Carolyn Chase, secretary
- Marcella Bothwell, CRMS/Development chair
- Ed Gallagher, Special Events chair
- Eve Anderson, Streets and Sidewalks chair, By-Laws chair
- Steve Pruett, Election chair
- Paula Gandolfo, Community Improvement Planning chair
Residential members: Scott Chipman, Brian Delon, Jim Morrison, Henish Pulickal, Bill Zent
Commercial members: Joe Bettles, Junior Leoso
Meetings: 6:30 p.m., fourth Wednesdays (not December) at the PB Library, 4275 Cass St.