Bonsall resident Andy Vanderlaan will be the chair of San Diego County’s Local Agency Formation Commission for 2013.
“It’s a delight to serve. I’m very honored to do that,” Vanderlaan said.
Vanderlaan, who is the public member on the LAFCO board, was sworn in as the 2013 chair during LAFCO’s Feb. 4 meeting. He was elected as the incoming LAFCO chair Dec. 3 while John Ingalls of the Santa Fe Irrigation District was elected as LAFCO’s vice-chair for 2013. Vanderlaan was LAFCO’s 2012 vice-chair while County Supervisor Dianne Jacob was the 2012 chair.
“I’ve always considered it to be an honor to do that. I think LAFCO is very effective. The commission does good work,” Vanderlaan said.
Vanderlaan has been the public member on the LAFCO board since 1996, and the Dec. 3 actions reappointed him to another four-year term in that position. San Diego County’s LAFCO board consists of two county supervisors (currently Jacob and Bill Horn), one city council representative from San Diego (currently Lorie Zapf), two city council members from the county’s other 17 incorporated cites (currently Mark Lewis of El Cajon and Jim Janney of Imperial Beach), two members from special districts (currently Ingalls and Bud Pocklington of the South Bay Irrigation District), and one public member.
This will be Vanderlaan’s fifth term as San Diego LAFCO chair. He had also previously served as the LAFCO chair in 2001, when he succeeded Julianne Nygaard (then a member of the Carlsbad City Council), and as vice-chair in 2000 he chaired one meeting in Nygaard’s absence. Vanderlaan took over as LAFCO’s chair from Pocklington in 2006. Normally LAFCO rotates its chair and vice-chair positions between a county supervisor, a city council member, a special district board member, and the public member, and normally the LAFCO vice-chair becomes chair for the following year. Because LAFCO was in the process of reorganizing fire protection and emergency medical services in unincorporated San Diego County during Vanderlaan’s second term as chair, the retention of Vanderlaan and of Horn as vice-chair allowed for continuity and Vanderlaan served three consecutive years as chair from 2006 to 2008 while Horn was vice-chair for those three years.
“It’s always an honor,” Vanderlaan said of being chair. “I’ve served there before and I’ve always enjoyed doing that, so I’m looking forward to another year of service in that position.”
LAFCO is responsible for jurisdictional boundary changes including incorporations, annexations, consolidations, and detachments. Vanderlaan noted several challenges LAFCO might face during 2013 including historical state legislation which has shifted funding from local governments to the state. “There will be, I think, some city/district issues related to the funding thing,” he said. “I think that will be our biggest challenge for the next few years.”
That shift, as well as some lower levels of funding for the local agencies themselves, could impact the ability of those local governments to operate. “The budgets are getting tighter across the board,” Vanderlaan said.
“What that all means as far as services are concerned remains to be seen,” Vanderlaan said. “LAFCO is going to be pretty much in the front line, I would think, as far as how services are going to be provided.”
LAFCO must conduct a municipal service review, which evaluates services provided and anticipated needs, and approve a sphere of influence update which determines boundaries best served by a particular agency before making any jurisdictional boundary change, including a consolidation as well as an annexation. The municipal service review, sphere of influence update, and boundary change may occur at the same meeting as separate agenda items. While consolidation could be an option for strained local agencies, LAFCO also conducts periodic municipal service review updates. “As those move forward that evaluation itself may cause some agencies to rethink how they’re providing services,” Vanderlaan said.
While the state has tended to look to local governments for money the state lacks, a better economy could lead to more development with annexation-related conditions. “As the economy is recovering I’m sure we’ll be seeing more activity as to building and development,” Vanderlaan said.
“One of the major issues will be the system level of service, water in particular,” Vanderlaan said. “Water will be a significant challenge as it relates to the new development.”
Although consolidations have occurred infrequently in recent years and no city has incorporated since Encinitas and Solana Beach in 1986, small annexations and detachments result in San Diego LAFCO processing numerous boundary changes each year. LAFCO includes a staff as well as the eight board members. “We have a good group of people,” Vanderlaan said.
Vanderlaan had experience with district consolidation prior to becoming a LAFCO board member. He was the fire chief of the Fallbrook Fire Protection District in 1986 when that agency transitioned to the North County Fire Protection District after merging with the County Service Area which provided fire protection to Rainbow and adding the previously-unserved Gavilan Mountain area. (The 1986 consolidation involved initial discussions about including DeLuz, but the citizens there were reluctant to annex.) The district covered fewer than 60 square miles when Vanderlaan became its fire chief and now encompasses 92 square miles.
Vanderlaan was also the fire chief when LAFCO oversaw two attempts by Fallbrook citizens to incorporate as a city. Those efforts ended with rejection in 1981 and 1988 elections. Since the fire department includes part of Bonsall and LAFCO-related law does not allow conversion of a special district into a city department if a certain percentage of the population or territory is outside the new city, the fire district would have remained independent had Fallbrook become a city.
Vanderlaan replaced Ed Thurber, the original chief of the Fallbrook Fire Protection District (which was officially called the Fallbrook Local Fire Protection District when it was founded in 1930), in 1976 and retired at the end of 1995. Vanderlaan grew up in West Covina and began his career with the Covina Fire Department. After 3 1/2 years as a Covina firefighter, he spent 9 1/2 years at the Huntington Beach Fire Department. In 1976 Vanderlaan came to Fallbrook as the assistant fire chief and became the fire chief when Thurber retired sooner than expected.
While Vanderlaan was the Fallbrook agency’s fire chief, the fire department also added paramedic service, expanded from two to five stations, transitioned from volunteers to reserves, implemented the Explorer program, and survived financial changes due to Proposition 13 and the state ERAF shift of funds from special districts to education. Vanderlaan also obtained automatic aid agreements with Vista and Camp Pendleton (the Camp Pendleton fire station at the Naval Weapons Station is within a mile of the North County Fire Protection District and often helps on fires in the Downtown Fallbrook area).
Vanderlaan’s work with LAFCO during his time as fire chief led him to apply for the public member position when that seat had an opening in 1996. He was appointed as LAFCO’s public member that year and was re-appointed in 2000, 2004, and 2008.
In 1999, LAFCO addressed the issue of property tax transfer to fire protection districts annexing property by forming the Task Force on Fire Protection Funding, which also addressed other funding needs involving the fire service. In 2000 the task force became independent from LAFCO in order to allow for the advocacy of recommendations, and the task force was renamed as the Task Force on Fire Protection and Emergency Medical Services. Most of the task force’s objectives have been accomplished, and currently its primary duty is to make recommendations on applications for the $400,000 the county now commits annually to the needs of the fire service. Vanderlaan has served as the vice-chair of the task force for its entire existence.
The state LAFCO organization, which consists of the 58 county LAFCO agencies and focuses on sharing experience and on monitoring state legislation and making recommendations, restructured its board in 2010 to elect a city council member, county supervisor, special district board member, and public member from each region. Vanderlaan was selected as the Southern Region’s public member. He served a two-year term which expired last year (the Southern Region rotates its terms on the CALAFCO board, so Vanderlaan could not be re-elected to that position).
After retiring from the North County Fire Protection District, Vanderlaan became the executive director of the Western Fire Chiefs Association. He retired from that position in 2001.
Vanderlaan’s post-retirement activities included a year as president of the Boys and Girls Club. He has also coached basketball at the Boys and Girls Club and for the Fallbrook High School junior varsity girls team and the Potter Junior High School girls team, and he currently coaches the Zion Lutheran junior high school boys team. Vanderlaan is also on Zion Lutheran School’s Board of Education.
Andy and Miriam Vanderlaan also have three daughters and seven grandchildren.
“My wife calls grandchildren the dessert of life, so we’re enjoying that dessert every chance we get,” Vanderlaan said.