Encinitas Planning Commission selects new chairman

City of Encinitas sign
(Karen Billing)

Kevin Doyle chosen to replace Bruce Ehlers, who was forced to resign


The city’s Planning Commission has elected a new leader to replace Bruce Ehlers, who was ordered to resign last month by the Encinitas City Council.

Commissioners agreed Thursday, May 5, to pick Kevin Doyle to become chairman.

“Thank you all for your confidence,” Doyle, who has been serving as vice chairman and has two years left in his term, told his fellow commissioners after the vote.

There was no comment from the audience on the item and, in fact, almost no one in the audience — a stark contrast to last month’s City Council meeting when Ehlers was removed. At that meeting, some two dozen people spoke out against Ehlers’ removal and the meeting became so contentious that the mayor ultimately called for a 10-minute recess.

Ultimately, council members voted unanimously to remove Ehlers, saying they were doing so because they did not feel he could be impartial on housing development issues. They cited legal paperwork that Ehlers, who is the key author of the city’s 2013 growth-control initiative, filed supporting a court case against the city last year and recent comments he had made to the news media regarding housing issues.

Critics of the council’s decision called it a vindictive political stunt, noting that Ehlers is running for a seat on the City Council. They argued that the current council members were trying to silence Ehlers, along with anyone else who criticizes their positions, particularly their support for higher-density housing projects.

Ehlers’ supporters included several former city planning commissioners and the board’s newly selected chairman, Doyle. At the meeting in April, Doyle told the City Council members that Ehlers was one of his greatest mentors and said the council was making a mistake in removing him.

At the Thursday, May 5 meeting, there was no discussion about the Ehlers situation, and the only dissent occurred when it came time for the commission to vote on who should be vice chairman. Both Steve Dalton and Susan Sherod indicated they were interested in the job.

Doyle told Sherod that he had concerns about her holding the position because she has a hearing disability. Sherod told him she’s now using a captioning system on her computer during the meetings and didn’t think she would have a problem doing the job.

Commissioner Chris Ryan nominated Dalton, and Doyle said he was going to second that motion. The vote was 3-1, with Sherod opposed.