SAMOHI — Friends and colleagues remembered Mayor Ken Genser on Sunday for his quick wit, steadfast friendship, love of a good meal and for the passion he showed serving Santa Monica as a City Councilman for the past 21 years.
The memorial service honoring the late mayor, who died this month at 59, drew several hundred people to Barnum Hall on Santa Monica High School’s campus.
City Hall officials and friends shared memories of a man who struggled with health issues most of his life but rarely complained, instead becoming known for his ready laugh.
“He shared with us all a brilliant intellect and a bulldog’s tenacity and a compassionate spirit and the heart of a mensch,” Councilman Richard Bloom said in remarks to an audience that included City Hall colleagues, as well as Los Angeles City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, state Rep. Julia Brownley and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky.
As Santa Monica’s longest-serving council member, Genser fought for the preservation of Santa Monica’s neighborhoods, the protection of tenant rights and the environment and was instrumental in creating affordable housing and youth programs.
Genser was a member of the Planning Commission prior to being elected to the council and was involved in the restoration of the Santa Monica Pier. He was a founding member of the city’s largest affordable housing developer, Community Corp. of Santa Monica, serving on its board from 1982 to 1988.
Lamont Ewell, who retired last week as Santa Monica’s city manager, remembered Genser as a lively dinner party guest, an authoritative Santa Monica historian and a meticulously logical thinker who lived, “by any and all accounts … a life of richness and fulfillment.”
Several colleagues said one of Genser’s defining traits on the council was his ability to be a fierce advocate for his point of view while maintaining civil relationships with opponents.
“One of the reasons Ken was so effective was because he had the amazing ability to be passionate about the issues without being emotional,” said Kelly Olsen, a friend and former councilman.
Olsen also used the platform to advocate for continuing the policies and positions that Genser supported during his tenure, even stating that Genser wanted Patricia Hoffman, the co-chair of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, the political party that Genser belonged to, to replace him on the council.
“I know from speaking with Ken on many occasions that it was his wish that Patricia be on the City Council,” he said.
The council is scheduled to officially declare Genser’s seat vacant on Tuesday, after which the panel will have 30 days to either appoint a replacement or make plans for a special election.
At last week’s meeting, City Councilman Kevin McKeown said the council should carefully consider how to select a new member, stating that the process used to fill the seat vacated when Councilman Herb Katz died last year was flawed.
Katz, who was not a member of SMRR, was replaced by SMRR member Gleam Davis, who had not run in the most recent election in November 2008. Ted Winterer, the highest vote-getter not elected to the council in that election and a non-SMRR member, was bypassed, despite an effort to appoint him.