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New Santa Monica Planning Commissioners Champion Historic Preservation

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Jonathan Friedman
Associate Editor

August 11, 2015 -- The Santa Monica Planning Commission’s two newest members--Nina Fresco and Mario Fonda-Bonardi--have at least one thing in common. They both have strong backgrounds as supporters of historic preservation.

Fresco served on the City’s Landmarks Commission from 2001 to 2013. She has been an advocate for many of Santa Monica’s historic places, including most recently the Civic Auditorium. Fonda-Bonardi is a local architect, and among his firm’s work is historic preservation.

Fresco headed a group of activists called Save the Civic, and two years ago was appointed to the Civic Working Group. This committee was tasked with advising the City Council on options for the future of the Civic Auditorium.

Regarding her philosophy outside historic preservation, Fresco wrote in her commission application, “We are part of the very large and complicated Los Angeles area, and a state struggling with financial and environmental concerns.

She continued, those personally affected with the overall goals of the City that protect the needs of everyone else collectively,” she wrote.

Fonda-Bonardi was among a group of people who successfully advocated for the preservation of the 19th-century-built “shotgun house,” which was in danger of demolition in the late 1990s.

Fresco and Fonda-Bonardi were appointed to the commission at separate City Council meetings, both by 4 to 3 votes.

On June 23, Council members representing both sides of Santa Monica’s development debate supported Fresco, who was arguably a compromise appointee during a second round of voting.

Fresco received votes from Mayor Kevin McKeown and Mayor Pro Tem Tony Vazquez as well as Council members Terry O’Day and and Gleam Davis.

The July 14 appointment for Fonda-Bonardi was more along “party” lines.

His support came from the council members backed by activists who consider themselves slow growth --McKeown, Vazquez, Ted Winterer and Sue Himmelrich.

Fona-Bonardi is a member of Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow (SMART), which says on its website that it is concerned about the City’s “direction” when it comes to development.

He said during his first meeting as a commissioner last month that he was “after a low-rise city, and told KPCC-Radio in April, "We're a beach-oriented community. We're a place where its essential character is low-rise. Not mid-rise and certainly not high-rise."

Slow-growth activist Phil Brock applauded the appointment on Residocracy’s Facebook page.

“Congratulations are in order as SMART Group member [and Santa Monica] architect Mario Fonda-Bonardi was appointed to the Planning Commission last night. Thanks to our City Council for making this smart choice!”

The Planning Commission is a powerful body with the authority to approve permits and make recommendations to the council on development agreements and documents that regulate or guide zoning and planning.

Although it’s too early to forecast the 2016 City Council election and contests beyond, it is noteworthy that the Planning Commission is often a stepping stone to the council, which is one of the reasons appointments to the panel are considered significant.

Five of the seven current council members previously served on the Planning Commission.

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