Garden Grove Planning Commissioner’s Residency in Question

Garden Grove Planning Commissioner Vu Mai appears to be a resident of San Clemente, according to a review of public records.

Mai, a dentist with an office in Garden Grove, is registered to vote at a home he owns in San Clemente. He also claims a $7,000 homeowner’s property tax exemption at that home, an exemption that can only be claimed at an individual’s primary place of residence.

In order to serve on the city’s planning commission, an individual must be a resident and registered voter in Garden Grove, according to City Manager Scott Stiles.

The Garden Grove condominium listed on Mai’s planning commission application is owned by two individuals Dat T. Luong and Le Nhu Ly, according to records at the county Assessor’s Office.

Mai says he used to live in San Clemente full-time, but travels often because he is a U.S. Army reserve officer. He said he stays at the condominium with his aunt and uncle. He also owns another Garden Grove home, which he uses for rental income.

“I have a dental practice and my military base is in Garden Grove. I stay here most of the time for the convenience of work,” Mai wrote in an email to a Voice of OC reporter. “I also have a home in Garden Grove but I don’t like to live by myself. The home in San Clemente is for my family to live.”

“That’s why it’s not feasible and economically advantageous for me to live by myself,” he said.

Planning Commissioner Linda Zamora said she has lived in the same 11-unit condominium complex for 13 years, but has never seen Mai there.

“I know people are busy and work, but I thought it was weird that I’ve never seen him,” Zamora said.

According to City Clerk Kathy Bailor, applications for the Planning Commission operate on an “honor system.”City staff does not do additional research to verify residency, aside from checking the address listed on applications, Bailor said.

Stiles said he has not heard complaints about Mai’s residency and said he would bring the issue to the City Council.

“I think we have an obligation to report back to the City Council since they make the appointments to commissioners, and go from there,” Stiles said.

Mai was appointed to the commission in Jan. 2014 by council member Phat Bui, who Mai endorsed for City Council. Prior to that appointment, Mai had never served on a city commission.

There is currently one vacancy on the commission still awaiting an appointment by mayor Bao Nguyen. Nguyen’s first appointee, Julie Vo, failed to get the support of his colleagues, who were concerned that the nonprofit sector professional has never served on a city commission.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.