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Mayor Won't Retain Planning Commissioner

January 02, 1986|DARYL KELLEY | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — Mayor Ernie Kell has declined to reappoint Planning Commissioner Hugh Henshaw, prompting the veteran commissioner to say he was denied a new term because he is "too independent" of the City Council.

Kell's nomination of architect Manuel E. Perez to replace Henshaw and his reappointment to the commission of physician Horace Rains, a longtime civil rights activist, will be forwarded to the council for consideration on Tuesday.

Kell said he nominated Perez, 38, because as an architect he "will add a dimension we've not had on the Planning Commission."

Kell said Henshaw, who was appointed to an unexpired term term in October, 1977, had served nearly eight years by the time his second term expired June 30, and that was enough. The City Charter allowed Henshaw to be reappointed because he had served less than two full four-year terms.

Explanation Called 'Phony'

Henshaw did an outstanding job, but the intent of the charter is to restrict commissioners to eight years' service, Kell said.

Henshaw said Kell's explanation was "phony" and that, in a meeting nine months ago, Kell had been blunt about what he expected of planning commissioners.

"He told me that the commissioners he wanted had to be receptive to the desires of the City Council," said Henshaw, 67, "because the council have to answer to their constituents. I told him, 'Well, Mr. Kell, if what you want is a rubber stamp, then I'm the wrong person.' "

Kell said Henshaw's recollection is inaccurate. "That was not my feeling," he said. "That's not what my intent was."

Perez, chairman of the city Community Development Advisory Commission and president of the 190-member local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, said, "I'm not anybody's rubber stamp."

Decisions Appealable

The Planning Commission recommends development plans to the City Council. It makes recommendations on all proposed zone changes and decides on special-use permits and other matters. All of its decisions may be appealed to the council. Commissioners earn $50 per meeting.

The seven-member commission now has as members a university economics professor, a real estate broker, the owner of a chain of convalescent hospitals, a retired engineer, a homemaker active in the cultural heritage movement, and Rains and Henshaw, who is a retired assistant fire chief.

Perez should be well known to the council because in 1983 he lobbied for a Planning Commission post and was passed over by Mayor Tom Clark. He later wrote a newspaper commentary that was highly critical of the selection process.

"I did not ingratiate myself to the council, and a lot of people were wondering if I'd burned some bridges," Perez said.

His candidacy had been endorsed in 1983 by a number of organizations, and he had received the personal encouragement and endorsement of then-Chamber of Commerce president Joe Saucedo, Perez said. But Perez had not applied for the post until after a majority of the council had committed to another candidate, real estate broker and former Civil Service Commissioner Richard Gaylord.

'He Was Being Careful'

That experience, Perez said, might have been one reason Kell tried hard to quell controversy before announcing his selections this time--six months after Henshaw's and Raines' terms expired. The nominees would take office immediately, if approved Tuesday.

"He was being very careful, very thorough," Perez said. "I had a number of conversations with Ernie. And he also wanted to make sure there were no conflicts of interest."

Because of concern about conflicts of interest, Perez, the owner of a small architectural firm in Long Beach, said he will cease to work with Pacific Relocation Consultants, a private firm the Redevelopment Agency hires when helping businesses relocate.

Perez, who primarily designs new projects and helps usher them thorough local government, moved to Long Beach in 1978.

Bachelor's From Yale

Before that, he worked for two years with a large development company in Newport Beach, was executive director of the Building Industry Assn. in Orange County for two years and was a senior planner for the City of Brea, Perez said.

He has a bachelor's degree in architecture from Yale and a master's degree in architecture and urban design from UCLA, he said.

Kell said he had intended to reappoint Rains all along, but delayed because he wanted to submit the nomination for Henshaw's seat at the same time and was determined to be very deliberate with that choice.

Rains, 73, a former president of the local chapter of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, was appointed to the Planning Commission in 1980. He was one of a handful of local black professionals when he moved to Long Beach in 1954.

As a member of the city Human Relations Committee, he worked to defuse racial tensions in the 1960s.

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