Jack’s Story

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Longtime resident, former Art Juror, former Art Jury president, former Association Board member and former Association Board president, Jack Queen replaced Jane Van Praag as an Art Juror last year when Van Praag resigned. 

Jack resigned last week, mid-term, from the Art Jury, so I called him up and asked him what had happened. Jack is very engaging person and I had a lot of fun listening to his story. This is what he said.

Jack’s wife, Patty Queen, was appointed to the Art Jury about twenty years ago. Jack said that Patty had a great time, found the work challenging, but rewarding, fun and interesting during her three year term.

So when Patty left, she encouraged Jack to volunteer and Jack also had a terrific experience on the Art Jury. When he initially joined, the Art Jury President was a spec house developer, which wasn’t ideal as far as agendas and conflict of interest go. Nonetheless, with five diverse people on the Art Jury, disagreements were handled well and at the end of the day, votes were cast and good projects were moved forward. Jack was voted in as Art Jury president in his second and third year.

Jack had high praise for former building commissioner Robert Green and was sad to see Green and many other long time Association staffers leave in the wake of the Ann Boon/Pete Smith saga. There was still lots of controversy, but it was handled the right way. Indeed, subsequent to his three year Art Jury term, he was elected to the Association Board, and in this twelve year span, he can only recall a single time where the Board got involved in Art Jury business, and it was for a Protective Covenant outlined appeal process.

“The Art Jury is five people that all have a slightly different interpretation of what the Protective Covenant means, and thus their decisions create in the community an attractive fabric of what the Protective Covenant describes”, Jack told me. 

After his twelve years involved in Rancho affairs, Jack “took some time off” and raced cars (I need to circle back to him and ask him about that adventure!). He was called back to duty, as it were, when Van Praag resigned. He was no doubt seen as a reliable steady hand after the recent Art Jury turmoil. “But when I got onto the Art Jury, it wasn’t the same as it was before”.

One change was immediately noticeable. The Art Jury now had two Board liaisons who sat seemingly in judgement of what the Art Jury was doing. They would occasionally interject and object to how the Art Jury operated. They would sit and whisper to each other, furiously taking notes. 

Jack didn’t have Board liaisons back when he was an Art Juror fifteen years ago, and thinks the current Board has overreached by having them now. Moreover Jack thinks choosing these particular Board liaisons was a mismatch as he sees both of them as serious critics of the Art Jury. “Why would you pick two people who have serious concerns over how the Art Jury operates as liaisons?”, he asked. In the end, it left him feeling that the Art Jury was being watched and criticized. 

The other change that he saw was that the Board kept bringing out re-interpretations of the Protective Covenant. For some reason, the Board felt it had to set in stone their interpretation of the Covenant, something that the Art Jury had traditionally done through the years. “When the Board made the recent wood exterior cladding resolution limiting wood use to 25%, I retorted that it should be 28%. I was asked why 28%, to which I replied, exactly, why 25%?”. Jack feels that the Art Jury, which sees dozens of projects every meeting, is the best judge of what is appropriate, and not some arbitrary number picked at seeming random by a Board with no experience with architectural design decisions.

Jack sees these hastily drawn up Board resolutions and regulations as “emasculating” the Art Jury. He sees them as constraining the Art Jury to work the way the Covenant intended it should work. Contra the Board’s apparent suspicion of the Art Jury, Jack says of his Art Juror colleagues “They have all been great to work with”. He also gives praise to Building Commissioner Miriam Babaki saying “Miriam has done a great job and has assembled a solid staff”. 

At Monday’s closed door Art Jury session, the heated arguments started right away. The Board had just passed a resolution mandating that the Art Jury certify that every final approved project meets a series of items. Suffice it to say that the Art Jury is unanimous in rejecting this. In the meeting, when Jack started hearing Board members ignoring the Art Jury’s concerns and vociferously arguing their point of view (and trying to pull rank), he had enough. He said that if they were being prevented from getting any real work done, he couldn’t be part of the process. He left the meeting and officially resigned later that day. To be clear, Jack says “I believe that the Board’s heart is in the right place, I just don’t agree with everything they are doing regarding the Art Jury”.

That Jack Queen felt he had to resign says something. Of the Art Jury, he says “I think the Art Jury is the most important part of Rancho Santa Fe, because of the permanence of its decisions. You physically see the results of their decisions. In this way, it is way more important than the Board”. He sees the work it does, ensuring high quality construction, as vitally important. He is proud to remember applicants that changed their submissions based on Art Jury comments, who subsequently came back to him after construction and praised the design oversight that significantly improved the project. 

In addition to Jack’s resignation, two Art Jurors are terming off this December, and Jack is worried that there won’t be enough qualified applicants to fill Art Jury vacancies. However he is hopeful that the current Board/Art Jury imbroglio will pass and the Art Jury will once again be left in peace to do the quality work that five dedicated individuals have always done for the last 90 years. He has contacted other previous Art Jury members in the hopes they too will step up along with new applicants to fill the spots that will be open.