Santa Monica Lookout
|Santa Monica Planning Commission Appointment Postponed to St. Patrick’s Day|
By Jonathan Friedman
February 11, 2015 -- Tuesday marked the second consecutive Santa Monica City Council meeting with the agenda featuring an appointment to fill the vacant seat on the Planning Commission. And again the item was postponed because there was not a full council present.
Pam O’Connor was not in attendance on Tuesday. Gleam Davis was absent when the item was first scheduled on Jan. 27.
Mayor Kevin McKeown said another absence was expected for the Feb. 24 meeting, so he recommended the decision be made March 17, which he noted is St. Patrick’s Day.
“It has always been our practice that on an appointment as crucial as Planning Commission to attempt to do it when we have a full council present,” McKeown said.
Not everybody agreed with this policy.
Andrew Hoyer, president of Mid City Neighbors, said he was disappointed the commission continues to operate one member short as it holds numerous meetings to review the proposed update to the City’s zoning ordinance.
Hoyer said Amy Aukstikalnis, who heads the neighborhood group Northeast Neighbors, is immediately ready to fill the spot.
“I know it’s a very difficult name to pronounce, but if she’s on the commission, you might get used to saying it a little more often,” Hoyer said.
“She has really dug into this zoning ordinance update. She knows what is going on with it. She knows how it affects the neighborhoods.”
He added he wanted to “discount” the comments of previous public speaker Jerry Rubin, who said the appointee should not be political or “aligned with any particular group after what’s clearly been a real divisive [City Council] election.”
“I don’t want a cream puff on the Planning Commission,” Hoyer said. “I want someone who is going to stand up and speak for the residents, and be forceful about it."
He continued, "I want someone there to protect our interests, my interests, and those of the rest of our memberships of the neighborhood organizations.”
McKeown jokingly responded, “I look forward to seeing those ‘not a cream puff’ campaign buttons.”
It is not clear if Aukstikalnis would have gotten enough votes for an appointment from the six council members in attendance, which included all four of those considered to be in alignment with the neighborhood organization-friendly slow-growth movement.
But it is highly unlikely O’Connor would have voted for Aukstikalnis, since she and the neighborhood organization activists often disagree on planning issues.
McKeown said he agreed with “the sentiment that this is an important seat that should be filled as quickly as possible,” but added that the position was too important for the decision to be made by less than the full council.
He asked the council if anybody wanted to make the appointment at that meeting. Nobody responded.
The seven-member commission has been one member short since December when Sue Himmelrich was elevated to the City Council following her successful election in November.
This is a powerful commission with the authority to approve permits and make recommendations to the council on development agreements and documents that regulate or guide zoning and planning.
Ten candidates are listed on the City’s website as “current applicants” for the vacant seat (See “Council Expected to Select New Santa Monica Planning Commissioner,” January 22, 2015*).
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