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Former Santa Monica Planning Commissioner Returns to Post After 26 Years

Downtown Meeting Plan Banner

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
Roque & Mark Real Estate
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Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica


By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

August 11, 2016 -- A divided City Council on Tuesday appointed Santa Monica political veteran Leslie Lambert to a four-year term on the Planning Commission.

Lambert, who sits on the steering committee of Santa Monica Forward, one of two groups that opposes the slow-growth Land Use Voter Empowerment (LUVE) initiative on the November ballot, served on the Planning Commission from 1987 to 1990.

She also was on the Rent Control Board from 1981 to 1987 and currently sits on the Landmarks Commission.

The vote for Lambert's appointment mostly went along development philosophy lines, with one exception that gave her the edge.

Three of the four council members who some political observers say comprise the panel’s slow-growth majority -- Kevin McKeown, Sue Himmelrich and Tony Vazquez -- backed rival applicant Laurence Eubank, who heads the Wilshire-Montana Neighborhood Coalition.

The rest of the council voted for Lambert. This included Ted Winterer, who is also said to be part of the slow-growth majority.

Lambert wrote in her application that the Planning Commission plays a key role in “crafting a planning framework that acknowledges the need to produce more housing for every income level.”

She added that many residents “respond to planning and development issues on an emotional level.”

“That is understandable since we all love Santa Monica,” Lambert wrote. “But this perspective must not be allowed to exclude people from enjoying what we have and living closer to where they work. Population growth is a reality as is the fact that thousands of people work in Santa Monica but can't afford to live here.”

She wrote that her primary goal “would be to advocate for the enactment of land use policies and planning decisions which support and expand the diversity of our residents; protect our rent controlled apartments and our low density residential neighborhoods by targeting new housing development in downtown and along our transit corridors,” among other actions.

Lambert is a 37-year resident of Santa Monica and has worked in housing redevelopment management for almost as long, including serving for 12 years as the redevelopment administrator for the Canoga Park Main Street Program.

She will fill the commission seat being vacated by Gerda Newbold after two four-year terms. City Clerk Denise Anderson-Warren told The Lookout Newbold “did not express an interest in being reappointed.”

In addition to Lambert and Eubank, there were two other people who applied for the commission seat -- Richard Brand, member of the recently formed Downtown Neighborhood Association, and property manager Matt Tucker.

Appointments to the Planning Commission are important because the panel has arguably the most power of the appointed bodies in Santa Monica. It has the authority to approve permits, although decisions can be appealed.

The commission also makes recommendations to the council on development agreements and documents that regulate or guide zoning and planning in Santa Monica.

While a split council vote led to Lambert’s appointment, there was much less drama in the decision to reappoint Planning Commission Chair Richard McKinnon. The council unanimously granted him a new four-year term.

McKinnon attended his first commission meeting last week after suffering a concussion in an April bicycle crash. He addressed his injury at the meeting.

“Many people talk about Santa Monica as if it’s a huge conglomerate completely out of touch. I found it anything but that,” he said.

“People were incredibly generous and courteous and very kind during this period -- even people who violently opposed me politically in the past.”

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