CITY HALL — Community groups are calling for the dismissal of a transportation and planning consultant who used a politically-charged phrase to describe Santa Monica residents in a resume available on his company’s website.
Jeffrey Tumlin, a principal at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, Inc., has done work on several major planning efforts in Santa Monica, including the Land Use and Circulation Element, Bicycle Action Plan and the development of the zoning ordinance, amongst others.
He touts these accomplishments in a three-page resume available on his company’s website, as well as work done in other cities like San Francisco and Seattle.
What got Santa Monica residents’ hackles up, however, was a line in his “key accomplishments” section which said that Santa Monica politics had been dominated for decades by “NIMBYs who used traffic fear as their primary tool for stopping development.”
For those unfamiliar with the term, it stands for “Not In My Back Yard,” and tends to refer in the pejorative to people who resist development and change.
The line was first revealed in a public forum by resident Zina Josephs in a letter submitted to the Planning Commission calling Tumlin’s rosy projections of traffic in the Bergamot Area on the eastern end of the city into question.
Daily Press columnist Bill Bauer included the line in a section of his Monday column entitled “Tumlin still fooling himself,” and community groups rallied Wednesday, sending around letters to gather support for Tumlin’s inglorious exit.
“This dismissive attitude toward residents’ legitimate concerns is alarming coming from a man who is tasked with finding solutions for ALL stakeholders in our community,” reads a letter forwarded by Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City. “Mr. Tumlin should be listening to residents — who, not insignificantly, are paying his salary — rather than vilifying them.”
Planning Director David Martin condemned Tumlin’s “unfortunate comments,” but reaffirmed City Hall’s confidence in the Nelson\Nygaard firm and its work in Santa Monica.
“We vigorously oppose any statement of our community being characterized as NIMBYs,” Martin said. “As a city, we go out of our way to be inclusive and respectful of the diverse opinions held by our residents.”
When asked if he was concerned that Tumlin’s comments would hurt his ability to work in Santa Monica, particularly at public meetings at which he has become a fixture, Martin said only, “Yes.”
Residents got fiery toward Tumlin after he suggested decoupling parking spaces from apartment complexes in a proposal to change parking requirements in Santa Monica.
He put forward a concept embraced by the planning community that cheap, plentiful parking attracts cars and traffic. Rather than develop an excessive number of parking spaces, Tumlin suggested restricting parking or charging more for the stock available.
That didn’t go over well with residents, who own cars and want a place to park them.
“We’re residents; we’re not a social experiment,” said resident John Petz at the January Planning Commission meeting. “We didn’t move here to become part of a theoretical new world.”
The concept of shared parking, as it’s called, may not be fully understood by the community and will require more refinement, Martin said.
“This will happen as the zoning ordinance makes its way through the process, including Planning Commission consideration, before Council hears it in fall or early winter this year,” Martin said.