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Katz Decides Not to Seek Third Council Term : Politics: The veteran representative says unhappiness with the council's direction played a role in his decision. Altogether, four of seven seats are up for grabs in November.

August 06, 1992|JEFF KRAMER and JEFFREY L. RABIN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

SANTA MONICA — Veteran City Councilman Herb Katz, in a surprise move Tuesday, announced that he will not run for reelection in Santa Monica this fall.

Katz's departure further complicates an uncertain council race, raising the question of whether his seat will be filled by a more conservative candidate or by another candidate backed by Santa Monicans for Renters Rights.

A member of the council minority, Katz has been an outspoken critic of City Atty. Robert M. Myers over management of the city's homeless population.

At Tuesday night's council meeting, Katz cited the demands of his professional and personal life in announcing his decision not to seek a third term.

He pointed to the soaring time demands of his Westside architectural firm, but also acknowledged that his unhappiness with the council's direction played a big role in his decision.

"I see myself as a lone voice," Katz said Wednesday. "That's not encouraging."

Katz, 61, and Councilman Robert T. Holbrook are the only council members not affiliated with the city's dominant political force, Santa Monicans for Renters Rights, a distinction that has frequently put Katz on the losing end of major votes.

Most recently, he opposed a bike-path plan, backed a curfew for minors, and pressed for additional cuts in the city budget--all to no avail.

But more than any other issue, the repeated clashes with Myers defined the limits of the two-term councilman's power.

One of the council's stronger supporters of law enforcement, Katz has demanded that Myers resign, most recently because of the city attorney's refusal to prosecute violators of a new ordinance that prohibits camping in city parks.

Just last month, a Katz-backed move to oust Myers failed on a 5-2 vote, with Myers drawing all of his support from the SMRR-backed council members.

Noting that the council was voting against the wishes of Police Chief James T. Butts, an angry Katz accused his colleagues of "stabbing that man in the back."

Despite the setbacks, Katz stressed Wednesday that he intends to stay active in local politics as a private citizen, pledging specifically to pursue his campaign against Myers.

"It's not dead yet," he said, adding, "People are sick of the homeless running this town."

Myers, asked if he was relieved that Katz was stepping down, declined to respond, but did offer some words of praise for the outgoing councilman.

"Herb has spent thousands of hours trying to serve the community, and although we have our disagreements, I've always respected his dedication to the city."

By dropping out of the race only a few days before the deadline for candidates to file for the November elections, Katz has made indecipherable an already confusing race.

Altogether, four of the seven seats are up for grabs. But SMRR is having trouble coming up with a full slate of candidates.

The group, whose strong support of the city's tough rent-control law has won powerful backing at the polls, endorsed council members Judy Abdo and Ken Genser for reelection at a divisive convention on Sunday. However, members had a tough time agreeing on a third candidate, eventually supporting the co-chairwoman of the city's rent-control board, Nancy Greenstein, only to have her decide later that she would not run for office.

Councilman Dennis Zane said Wednesday that Greenstein was "feeling a lot of pressure to save the day on Sunday." But Zane said Greenstein has since decided not to run because of the demands of her job as public safety coordinator in West Hollywood.

Voters in that city will decide this fall whether to establish their own police department, and Greenstein is playing a key role in researching the cost and merit of the idea. She was not available for comment Wednesday.

Sharp differences over what kind and how much development should occur in Santa Monica were evident at the group's convention. "Within SMRR, there is a very strong consensus about slow growth," Zane said, "but a division about how slow."

With Katz out of the race and Zane also retiring from the council, a flurry of behind-the-scenes jockeying is expected before filing closes for the two open seats next week.

Katz has served the city government for 19 years, starting as a member of the Architectural Review Board. He then served eight years as a planning commissioner and was appointed in 1983 to the Pier Restoration Commission before his election to the City Council a year later.

But his clout waned with the rise of the pro-rent-control forces, and when his then-council ally Chris Reed was defeated in 1990, Katz was left more isolated than ever.

More recently, he has expressed a weariness with what he termed the council's "micro-management," arguing that the board should stick to writing policy and leave routine management to the professionals.

"We try to tell the staff and the city how to run things on a day-to-day basis," Katz said. "Why aren't you doing this at the recycling center? Why aren't you doing this at the Police Department? I don't think that's what we should be doing as a legislative body."

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