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Council Approves Hybrid Meetings, Rule Changes

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By Lookout Staff

June 22, 2022 -- The Santa Monica City Council could begin holding "hybrid meetings" on a test basis, while Boards and Commissions will continue to meet remotely for the rest of the year.

Those are among the measures and rule changes the Council approved Tuesday night to better manage meetings and allow for remote public comment on a test basis through December 31.

“By making these changes, my hope is that City Council meetings become more efficient while still allowing the community to meaningfully participate and have their voices heard,” said Santa Monica Mayor Sue Himmelrich.

“We all have busy lives and personal obligations," Himmelrich said. "Allowing remote public comment at Board and Commission meetings makes participating easier for everyone in our community."

The Council voted to implement hybrid meetings with a call-in option -- a method used to transition from virtual to in-person meetings after the coronavirus shutdown.

But it will do so only when there are resources available to fund the facility upgrades and staffing needed.

"Due to limited resources, the City is currently unable to adequately support hybrid meetings," City officials said after the meeting.

During the mid-year budget review in six months, the Council will consider possible funding options, officials said.

Under the new rules:

  • Council meetings will begin at 7 p.m., the set time to end Closed Session.

  • Public Input on non-agenda items will be heard before Closed Session, along with a consolidated period for public comment on special items, closed session and the Consent Calendar.

  • Proclamations and other special items also will be heard ahead of Closed Session.

  • All remaining public comment on agenda items, except public hearings, will be heard after Council returns from closed session.

  • Public comment for public hearings (items that require public notice such as appeals, zoning changes and other items required by law) will be heard when the items are called.

In addition, Councilmembers must submit Discussion Items that are heard near the end of meetings by noon on Monday, eight days before the meeting.

The rule changes are the latest attempt by the Council to wrap up its meetings -- which often last well past midnight -- at an earlier hour ("Council Takes Yet Another Stab at Shortening Meetings," May 20, 2022).

The problem has stubbornly persisted despite numerous proposals taken up the Council over the years, including limiting the amount of time Councilmembers have to discuss an item and placing a five-minute limit on oral staff reports.

Editor's note: This article was updated at 6:45 Thursday to correct information provided by the City stating that hybrid meetings would begin in September.

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