By Ken Williams | Editor
Uptown Planners were caught by surprise at the annual election March 1, when a record number of voters showed up. Hundreds of people crowded into Joyce Beers Community Center, and the line of voters continued out of the building and down the street in the HUB shopping center.
Unprepared for a turnout of 540 voters — more than double the old record — officials ran out of ballots and had to hastily print out more. The temperature inside the room quickly heated up, making it feel like a sauna. The noisy crowd made it nearly impossible to properly conduct a forum during which the 16 candidates were given three minutes to state their case to be elected. With no microphone, many of the candidates could not be heard beyond the first few rows of seats.
Chair J. Demetrois “Jim” Mellos III, who doesn’t have a very loud voice, kept asking for quiet from the voters, who had to line up in three rows as they awaited their turn to show identification to prove that they lived in the Uptown area or owned a business there. If qualified, they got a ballot.
Two slates — each comprised of seven candidates — spoke along with two independent candidates.
One slate was promoted by Uptown Planners member Tom Mullaney, who is outspoken in his opposition to density. Those candidates were Uptown Planners member Roy Dahl, Bill Ellig, Tim Gahagan, Amie Hayes, Stuart McGraw, Cindy Thorsen and Leo Wilson. Some audience members were observed holding a flier that Mullaney had circulated and they voted accordingly.
The opposing slate, a loose coalition of candidates who share similar goals and decided to help each other during the campaign, was Josh Clark, Soheil Nakhshab, Eddie Reynoso, Elizabeth Robinson, Maya Rosas, Judi Tentor and Uptown Planners member Matt Winter.
The others seeking election were Uptown Planners vice chair Thomas Fox and Robert Efrid, who was out of town and had his speech read by an associate.
Three hours after the meeting began, the votes were finally tabulated and the results announced. Those elected, along with their campaign promises, were:
- Roy Dahl of Hillcrest (305 votes) — Current treasurer of Uptown Planners after being appointed in September 2015. Member of Uptown Community Parking District and active in Hillcrest Town Council. Said he was focused on transportation, parks and urban design, and seeks a walkable community and balanced residential and business interests.
- William “Bill” Ellig of University Heights (268) — Member of SANDAG Community Advisory Group for the Uptown Bicycle Corridor. Supports “complete streets” safe for cars, bikes and pedestrians. Supports “proper” growth.
- Cindy Thorsen of University Heights (257) — Community activist with previous planning group experience, including design review and zoning issues. Supports responsible development that is sensitive to existing neighborhoods.
- Soheil Nakhshab of Bankers Hill (250) — 18 years in the building industry. Believes in building elegant spaces to human scale while maintaining environmentally conscious standards to make our urban neighborhoods thrive. “I walk the walk,” he said. “I want to bring more light to the community.”
- Amie Hayes of Hillcrest (248) — Works as a historic resources specialist with Save Our Heritage Organisation. Experienced in planning, zoning and urban design issues. Supports smart growth as long as it comes with needed infrastructure.
- Maya Rosas of Mission Hills (247) — A city planner by trade who calls herself an urbanist at heart. Wants Uptown revitalized with complete and safe streets for all, to create affordable housing, and help businesses thrive in our commercial centers. Seeks “complete streets” for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists. Formerly with Circulate San Diego.
- Timothy Gahagan of Hillcrest (241) — Vice president of Uptown Community Parking District and active in Hillcrest Town Council. Supports “positive” development that enhances our communities’ character.
The seven newly elected members of the Uptown Planners will be seated at the next monthly meeting, which will be on Tuesday, April 5. Officers will be elected, including the positions of chair and vice chair.
In somewhat of a surprise, incumbents Thomas Fox and Matt Winter were not re-elected.
Leaving the board are Mellos, Fox and Winter along with Ernestine “Ernie” Bonn, Beth Jaworski and Chris Ward, who is running for City Council in District 3.
Returning members are secretary Michael Brennan, Gary Bonner, Bob Daniel, Dana Hook, Tom Mullaney, Jay Newington, Jennifer Pesqueira, Ken Tablang and Mat Wahstrom.
Mellos, the termed-out chair, announced that Uptown Planners member Kyle Heiskala resigned after the ballot was finalized. A few days later, Heiskala announced that he was running for the District 1 City Council seat. Heiskala’s resignation means that the new board will be charged with appointing someone to fill his term, which expires in March 2019.
—Ken Williams is editor of Uptown News and Mission Valley News and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 619-961-1952. Follow him on Twitter at KenSanDiego, Instagram account at KenSD or Facebook at KenWilliamsSanDiego.