Santa Monica Planning Commissioner Derek Shearer was ousted by the City Council at the end of a lengthy meeting Tuesday.
Shearer, a professor of urban studies and a planning commissioner for more than five years, had come under increasing fire in recent weeks for his public criticism of Planning Director Ann Siracusa and Planning Commissioner Penny Perlman, as well as for his attendance record at commission meetings.
Shearer is a member of Santa Monicans for Renters Rights, which has two seats on the seven-seat council.
He was fired when independent Councilman Alan Katz provided the crucial fifth vote on a motion to remove him. The motion was made by Herb Katz, member of the opposing All Santa Monica Coalition. Mayor Christine E. Reed and Councilmen David Epstein and William Jennings, who are members of the coalition, also voted to oust Shearer.
In an interview on Wednesday, Shearer said his removal was "a cowardly act taken at 2 in the morning. This is basically a political vendetta by Chris Reed and the council majority. They are angry that I have defended neighborhoods and criticized developers."
In introducing his motion, Herb Katz said he was voting to oust Shearer in part because Shearer sometimes voted on Planning Commission items according to his own political agenda rather than on the issues.
Shearer labeled Herb Katz's charge, "an out-and-out lie. I have a national reputation as a planner and economist."
Reed said her vote to remove Shearer stemmed from his criticism of city planning staff in the Santa Monica Evening Outlook.
In an interview published in that paper in late August, Shearer was quoted as saying that Siracusa was inept and that Perlman was inefficient. Siracusa denied Shearer's contention in the same Outlook article and confirmed Tuesday that he has since apologized to her.
Perlman said Shearer's criticism of her was "an attempt to discredit the Santa Monica planning process."
Shortly after Shearer's remarks were published, Reed issued a statement defending Siracusa and calling for Shearer's resignation.
Before Tuesday's meeting, Shearer said he had met with Siracusa and, "I went out of my way to say how sorry I was that she had been caught in the middle of what I think are political attacks on me by the other side."
At Tuesday's meeting, Shearer was defended by Santa Monicans for Renters Rights Councilmen Dennis Zane and James Conn, who voted against removal.
"It is clear that this is a long-standing political vendetta that has finally had an opportunity to be realized," Zane said.
Conn said Shearer's past criticism of city staff and other planning commissioners was not sufficient grounds for removal. Turning to his fellow council members, he said, "People on this panel have criticized staff members in public forums and have asked for their removal."
He added that commissioners should be evaluated on the basis of their participation and attendance. "It is not appropriate to remove Derek Shearer," Conn said.
But Jennings urged the council to fire Shearer, saying that council members would be cowardly if they did not do so.
But he also acknowledged that firing Shearer would give Santa Monicans for Renters Rights political ammunition in an election year.
"He has been daring us to fire him so his firing can be used in political mailings," he said.
Reed, Jennings and Epstein are running against Santa Monicans for Renters Rights candidates Julie Dad, Delores Press and David Finkel. Alan Katz is also running but does not face opposition from either the coalition or Santa Monicans for Renters Rights.
Alan Katz, who in July helped thwart an effort to remove Shearer before it could reach the council, emphasized that his vote to fire Shearer was not politically motivated.
"The vote I will cast is one of conscience, not politics," Katz said. "As far as my own political position is concerned, I would be far better off voting against this motion."
But, he said, "Commissioner Shearer's recent attack on the Planning Department's staff was . . . unwise, unwarranted and unnecessary."
He said he voted to oust Shearer because it was necessary to protect the "integrity of the planning process."
Herb Katz said he introduced his motion to remove Shearer in response to a letter from Planning Commission Chairwoman Eileen Hecht. In an interview before the meeting, Hecht said personal animosity between Shearer and other planning commissioners "has been dredged up to the extreme and I don't see any way it can be resolved."
After the council fired Shearer, Zane moved that Planning Commissioner Larry Israel also be removed from the commission.
Zane's motion failed, with only Conn joining Zane in voting to remove Israel.
Zane contended that Israel had also criticized city staff and that his attendance record was similar to Shearer's. "If the council was concerned about operating in a fashion that was fair, it would be hard to make a distinction between Shearer and Israel," he said.