Government / Politics

SJB Council appoints two new planning commissioners

Ad hoc committee gives little detail about its evaluation process.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to include comments from Councilmembers Mary Edge and Cesar Flores. 

The San Juan Bautista City Council appointed Jackie Morris-Lopez and Mary Bains to the Planning Commission on Jan. 19. Both were approved on a 3-2 vote, with Councilmembers Scott Freels and John Freeman opposed. 

The ad hoc committee, made up of Councilmembers Mary Edge and Cesar Flores, was tasked with recommending two out of five applicants—Morris-Lopez, Bains, EJ Sabathia, Priscilla Ribeiro and former councilman Dan De Vries—to fill vacancies left by Freels and Shirley Brewer. 

Without providing any details, Edge informed the council of the committee’s choices. Flores added that they had used a scoring system.

“We basically went through what we felt was needed for these positions and that’s the selection that we made,” Flores said. 

Freeman asked the committee members to elaborate on their selection process, as he wanted to make sure those appointed had knowledge of planning, San Juan Bautista’s General Plan, and the California Environmental Quality Act.

“They are well qualified,” Edge responded. 

After Freeman said that did not give him any information that he requested, Edge said Bains is a former planning commissioner for the city of East Palo Alto. She added the council was familiar with Morris-Lopez, so she didn’t need to discuss her qualifications. 

Morris-Lopez is a continual public participant at city meetings. She also ran for a City Council seat in November and is a member of the city’s Urban Growth Boundary Committee. According to her application, she is a physician assistant in Monterey County. 

According to Bains’ application, she served for five years on East Palo Alto’s Planning Commission. She is a licensed psychotherapist, a library reader volunteer and a life skills trainer with a homeless shelter.

Applicants Sabathia and Ribeiro asked the council to elaborate on the process and qualifications the council was seeking.

“I would like to understand more about the process of scoring specifically,” Sabathia said. “What were pluses? What were minuses? So that in the future I can maybe, if not selected, do anything that I can to make myself as someone who might be seen as worthy of a position like this.”

Sabathia is a mechanical engineer who’s lived in San Juan Bautista for two years. His wife Michelle was appointed as the city’s treasurer at the Jan. 19 meeting. 

Ribeiro is a Santa Clara County social worker. Former councilman De Vries, a land use attorney, served on the San Juan Bautista Planning Commission from 1991-2004. He also served for 12 years on the San Benito County Planning Commission.

Following public comment, City Manager Don Reynolds also asked the committee members to elaborate on their method of evaluating the applicants. 

“We decided to come up with a point system one through 10, and if there were questions that were questionable we rated it whether it was a 10, a one or eight,” Edge said. She also shared her scores:

  • Morris-Lopez-128
  • Bains-120
  • Sabathia-117
  • Ribeiro-102
  • De Vries-90

Freeman asked Edge if she had interviewed the candidates, to which she responded she only reviewed applications and submitted resumes. The committee did not provide any information on the other applicants in the meeting.

Edge and Flores told BenitoLink criteria they looked at included applications, how long the applicant had been in San Juan Bautista, and education. Both also said they received unsolicited public input from community members, which played a role in their recommendation to the City Council.  


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Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. A San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He also was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily.