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Carolyn Luna, a six-year member of the city's Planning Commission, was appointed by the Carlsbad City Council to fill the vacant District 2 seat. Courtesy photo
Carolyn Luna, a six-year member of the city's Planning Commission, was appointed by the Carlsbad City Council to fill the vacant District 2 seat. Courtesy photo
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Carlsbad council appoints Luna to D2 seat, Burkholder to SANDAG

CARLSBAD — The City Council unanimously appointed Carolyn Luna to fill the vacant District 2 seat before naming Councilwoman Melanie Burkholder as the city’s primary representative on the SANDAG board of directors during a special Feb. 15 meeting. 

The city received eight applications for the open seat. Each council member could select up to three applicants on a paper ballot.

Luna’s designation — the second council appointment in the past two years — was cemented after she was the only candidate to appear on all four council members’ ballots. 

The council cited Luna’s 30-year career in land use and conservation with Riverside County and serving on the Carlsbad Planning Commission for the past six years.

“Public service has been a way of life for my family and me. It’s been our mantra,” Luna said. “I have the experience that will allow me to get up to speed quickly.”

Luna’s career in Riverside also focused on economic development, housing, transportation, air quality and airport management.

According to a city ordinance, Luna cannot run for the seat in 2024. 

After Luna was sworn in, the council’s next item centered on the prestigious SANDAG seat. While the council acknowledged SANDAG has become divisive and contentious, Councilwomen Priya Bhat-Patel and Teresa Acosta proposed Luna serve on the board for the next two years.

Luna said that while she had experience with the Southern California Association of Governments, known as SCAG, and was familiar with some of the issues at SANDAG, she wasn’t fully prepared to take on the responsibility.

Luna said she would need to research the 2021 Regional Transportation Plan more in-depth and questioned the impacts of four proposed tax increases, toll roads and road user charges, among other aspects of the plan.

Mayor Keith Blackburn then moved to appoint Councilwoman Melanie Burkholder to the position with a caveat: If selected, Burkholder would hold only the SANDAG seat and a spot on the city’s legislative subcommittee. 

“SANDAG has traditionally been the mayor, but in this particular case, SANDAG is a bit controversial,” Blackburn said. “It’s going to need a lot of attention. I would like a council member other than me. I’m concerned with the consistency and longevity.”

Burkholder’s nomination passed, 3-2, with Bhat-Patel and Acosta opposed. Bhat-Patel and Blackburn will serve as the first and second alternates, respectively.

“I think most importantly is that we get our fair share of what we need in Carlsbad and this area,” Burkholder said of her goals at SANDAG. “It would (the plan) disproportionately affect us in North County. I want to bring data and stats and to explain to them in plain English, in black and white, what it means for us.”

In January, the four-person council deadlocked, 2-2, on choosing its SANDAG representative. Since former Mayor Matt Hall retired, Bhat-Patel, the first alternate, temporarily served as the city’s primary representative on the board.

SANDAG’s next board meeting is Feb. 24.