By Raiza Giorgi

The Solvang City Council voted unanimously to appoint the top five candidates for their newly created Branding and Design Committee (BDC), and said the task was tough because all of those who put in applications were very qualified. 

“The people who made presentations, any one of them can fill this position,” said Mayor Pro Tem Robert Clarke. 

The five people selected at the regular council meeting on Aug. 24 were Rene Kaerskov, Solvang resident and owner of the Copenhagen House; Esther Jacobsen Bates, Solvang resident and executive director of the Elverhoj Museum of History and Art; Jennifer Dryden Hess, Solvang resident and senior vice president, global head of real estate and project management of workplace services at Northern Trust; Brett Marchi, Ballard resident and architect; and Halina Wyluda-Kazmierczak, Santa Ynez resident and owner of Art First Studio in Solvang. 

The BDC officially replaced the former Board of Architectural Review (BAR) which was dismantled in February, as the council cited concerns the former group wasn’t “legal,” even though local resident Aaron Petersen challenged that narrative stating it was the eighth element to the city’s General Plan. 

ElsaMarie Lund, a BAR member for approximately six years, said in March those serving on the panel had not been notified about or included in discussions regarding the BAR’s future or changes to design guidelines.

The BDC also opened up its applicant pool to not just Solvang residents but any Santa Ynez Valley resident who had background in architecture, design, Danish culture and architectural history. 

The BDC will have the same duties of the BAR which is responsible for providing recommendations and reviewing projects looking at design elements and how they fit with Solvang’s Danish theme and old-world exterior look. They will also advise on signage and landscape design among some of their duties. 

“Such guidelines shall contain review policies and standards for review and be forwarded to the City Council for approval,” according to the resolution. 

The BDC also has all the authority and will perform all review and approval functions designated in the Solvang Municipal Code for the BAR. 

When the applicants were questioned about their roles and what they feel are the biggest challenges facing Solvang regarding this process, several of them said the process itself should be attainable and consistent. 

“It is important to protect the look of Solvang and get landowners to reinvest in their property. The City should be easy to work with and there should be a set of clear and defined rules,” Kaerskov said. 

Hess added that she spent 10 years at Disney creating branding standards for their corporate offices worldwide, and she also echoed the sentiments for collective consistency. 

“The package of design elements should be cohesive and attainable,” Hess said. “There are things like signage, lighting, landscaping that can be not financially burdensome.” 

Julie Palladino, one applicant that wasn’t chosen, stated that she wanted to see more building color, not the muted white and grey that a lot of the buildings are starting to look like. 

“Copenhagen especially is so colorful in their buildings I would like to see more of that again,” Palladino said. 

Bates stated that she was excited to apply for the position given her long history in Solvang and that she studied Danish design and culture through her position at the Elverhoj. 

“I appreciate all the volunteers and the work they do will help the council reflect our local culture,” said Councilman Chris Djernaes. 

City Manager Xenia Bradford stated the appointees will follow the Brown Act guidelines and no more than two can discuss a project outside of their meeting schedule. She added that the BDC meetings will follow the already scheduled BAR meeting dates and the targeted date for the next meeting was Sept. 10, following all the paperwork and the agenda posted more than 72 hours before the meeting. 

“We hope that you all will stay involved as you all have things to offer,” Clarke ended. 

For more information visit and visit City Hall tab and scroll to Boards and Commissions.