The renters' rights minority on the Santa Monica City Council has charged the majority All Santa Monica Coalition with trying to pack the Planning Commission.
In a 4-2 vote, the council appointed Larry Israel, a businessman and the owner of four homes and an apartment building, to serve a four-year term on the commission. Israel replaces Ken Genser, who works for American Youth Hostels and served a four-year term.
Israel's appointment brings to three the number of commissioners who are considered loyal to the All Santa Monica Coalition. Two others are considered loyal to Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights and two are considered independent of either faction.
Councilman James P. Conn said that he wanted to make it clear that "a political decision was just made to change the balance of the Planning Commission."
According to Conn, most of the council members had said that Genser was doing a good job and that in such cases reappointment was usually automatic. The council replaced him with "a person who in his own application said he was the chairman of a multimillion-dollar corporation."
Israel is the chief executive officer of Visualtek Inc., a company that produces vision aids for the partially sighted.
Members of the All Santa Monica Coalition said that it was their right to make the appointment. "The Planning Commission continues to have four spokesmen for neighborhoods," said Mayor Christine E. Reed.
But Councilman Dennis Zane said Israel's appointment represents a shift in philosophy for the city and the Planning Commission. "It is clear the Planning Commission is a very important political body. It is not merely advisory. (It) makes decisions," Zane said. "Ken Genser would have maximized support of the neighborhoods."
Genser, affiliated with the renters' rights faction, said that he had been told by three of the four coalition council members that he was doing a "very good" job and that he was complimented for not making decisions based on political considerations.