Another San Jose planning commissioner resigns

Months after a fierce showdown over political representation on San Jose’s Planning Commission unfolded, another commissioner announced on Wednesday that he’s resigning, opening up an extra vacancy on the powerful panel.

The lengthy and drawn out battle over a seat on the 7-member commission began months ago, after some community leaders denounced the appointment of former Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio, a white male from affluent District 6 instead of the two Latino candidates from East San Jose and downtown, a contentious move considering four other members were previously from District 6. After Oliviero’s appointment, former Commissioner Namrata Vora resigned, opening up the appointment  process again.

Now, another member, Commissioner John Leyba, has also submitted his resignation, citing familial responsibilities. Leyba is also running for Santa Clara County Supervisor to succeed Dave Cortese.

“Serving on our city’s planning commission has been one of the greatest honors of my life. Thank you for the opportunity,” Leyba wrote in his resignation letter to the City Council. “Regrettably, I hereby resign from the planning commission.”

Leyba, who works at Pacific Gas and Electric Company as a business analyst, said he was “recently promoted with increased responsibilities.” His new role, he said, “must be balanced” with family commitments to his wife and kids.

“A couple of weeks ago I was promoted to lead our Portfolio Management team in electric business operations at PG&E,” Leyba added in an interview with San Jose Spotlight on Friday. “The new job comes with increased responsibility and workload, and most of the team is based in San Ramon. Since cutting back family time is not negotiable, the Planning Commission role was the obvious place to scale back.”

Intense public scrutiny prompted Mayor Sam Liccardo and other city leaders to propose sweeping political reforms to enact new changes to the Planning Commission appointment process after Oliviero’s contentious win. If adopted, the new process will prohibit more than two people from the same district from serving, ban applicants who were lobbyists in the last two years and ask voters to expand the size of the commission to 11 members, one from each district to ensure fair representation.

Instead of opening up the appointment process all over again, City Clerk Toni Taber confirmed Friday that city councilmembers will choose two commissioners from the pool of three finalists chosen to fill Vora’s seat, effectively filling both Vora and Leyba’s vacancies.

“We’re not recruiting,” said Taber. “We’re going to use the same applicant pool.”

The three finalists for the two vacancies include Mariel Caballero, a Santa Clara County deputy director at the probation department; Louis Barocio, vice principal at East Side Union High School District; and business owner Rolando Bonilla.

The City Council in October will select two commissioners to fill one term ending in 2020 and the other ending in 2022. Applicants must receive six or more votes to be appointed to the Planning Commission, according to Taber.

Contact Nadia Lopez at nadia@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @n_llopez on Twitter.

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