In the early morning of Sept. 10 with no prior notice to the public nor to me, a majority of the Santa Monica City Council represented by the All-Santa Monica Coalition and led by Mayor Chris Reed voted to remove me as a commissioner on the Santa Monica Planning Commission.
This was an action unprecedented in the city. Never before has a sitting commissioner been removed before her or his term had expired. The manner in which the council majority took this action--and the reasons which they gave for their action should cast serious doubt on their fitness for public office. That is an issue which will be resolved by the voters in November.
However, as a professor of planning and as a planning professional with a national reputation for innovativeness and excellence, I feel that it is only fair for me to set the record straight on my work as a planning commissioner. The vague and contradictory reasons offered by the council majority as to why they had to remove me from the commission seem to boil down to one charge: that somehow my presence on the commission was harmful to good city planning practice and to the efficient running of the city Planning Commission.
No serious evidence was provided at the early-morning session to support this contention, and I believe that the real reason I was voted off the commission was as repayment to the many developers, builders, and commercial property owners who have contributed large sums of money to the campaigns of Mayor Reed and the All-Santa Monica Coalition council members Bill Jennings, David Epstein, and Herb Katz.
What has been my record on the city Planning Commission?
I have served for over 5 1/2 years as a member of the commission. In that time, I have had an attendance record of over 95% and I have demonstrated not only technical competence and the capacity for innovative thought, but a commitment to defend all of the neighborhoods of Santa Monica, regardless of income or race, renter or homeowner, from the effects of cancerous overdevelopment. I have championed citizen participation in the planning process and insisted that large-scale developments must mitigate the effects that they have on traffic, pollution, housing costs, and overall congestion. To give a few examples from recent planning commission meetings:
I recently took the lead on the commission in insisting that an illegally constructed oversized brick wall that was erected on Esparta Way and San Vicente in one of the city's upper-income neighborhoods be reduced to the proper and legal height of three feet. I supported the homeowners in this neighborhood and convinced my reluctant colleagues on the commission that the errant builder had to remove the unsightly wall and replace it with one more in keeping with neighborhood.
On Monday, Sept. 8, at the Planning Commission just prior to the City Council's precipitous action in removing me, the commission faced a request to build a large hotel on Main Street in the Ocean Park area. Hundreds of citizens, pro and con, turned out to testify on the project, and the City Hall chamber where the commission meets overflowed with people. . . . Once the meeting began, the commission wanted to cancel the hearing on the project and not hear the many people who had come to testify on the project. I had to make a formal motion to proceed with the hearing on the project before us and to hear the project. Some of the commissioners appointed by the current council majority voted against hearing the public. I prevailed, and the hearing took place in an orderly manner. After hearing the public, I made the motion which resolved the issue, and then I made the positive suggestion that a community planning body composed of Main Street property owners and Ocean Park residents be appointed by the City Council to study proposed changes to the land-use plan for Main Street. My proposal was forwarded to the council. And after the meeting, both residents and businessmen such as Pete Barrett praised me for my leadership and constructive action.
These are just a few examples of the many times in which I have played a key role in resolving planning issues in this city.
In addition, I have played an important role in the long-range planning of our city. As planning commissioner, I can count the following among my contributions:
- I played a key role in developing the city housing plan, including our strong program of insuring affordable housing--a program which is under attack by the current council majority.
- I played the lead role in writing the city's new land-use plan. I was the commissioner who insisted that actual height and story limitations be included in the land-use element itself. It is because of me that our citizens are protected from the high-rise development that is plaguing West Los Angeles.