CITY HALL — At least 11 residents are in the mix to fill the Planning Commission seat left vacant when Sue Himmelrich was elected to City Council in November.
The Planning Commission, a seven-member body, is currently short a commissioner. Council will decide who fills the seat through a public appointment process.
The commission is important not only because it guides council on large land-use decisions but also because it has become a sort of minor leagues for council candidates.
Santa Monica’s four newest councilmembers — Himmelrich, Ted Winterer, Terry O’Day, and Gleam Davis — served first as members of the Planning Commission. In the last election Himmelrich and current Planning Commissioners Jennifer Kennedy and Richard McKinnon ran for a council seat, as did former Planning Commissioner Frank Gruber.
Four residents have filed to fill Himmelrich’s open seat since she was elected in early November and another seven have had applications sitting on file for more than a year.
Jodi Summers, a real estate broker and member of the Civic Working Group — which is working to guide the future of the Civic Auditorium — filed an application on New Year’s Day.
“The City and the Planning Commission already have their processes and agenda in place,” she said of her goals in the application. “Our objective is to support the current processes and offer fresh ideas and feedback when appropriate.”
Carter Rubin also rang in the New Year with an application to the commission. Rubin has been a member of the Housing Commission since May and is an advisory board member of Santa Monica Next, an advocacy group focused on the future of Santa Monica.
“My overarching goal is to ensure that Santa Monica continues to be a community where residents can grow and thrive from childhood through family formation to our golden years,” Rubin said in his application.
Elizabeth Anne Tooke, a member of the Junior Chamber of Commerce, applied in late November.
“I would like to serve on the planning commission in order to provide an informed point of view as well as one that comes from a younger generation,” she said. “Additionally, I will promote smart growth ideas that make sense to this city.”
Nina Fresco, who is the current chair of the Civic Working Group and served as a member of the Landmarks Commission for over a decade, applied for the vacant seat just a week after Himmelrich’s election to council.
“When I served on the Landmarks Commission we only had one tool for safeguarding the City’s vision,” she said in her application. “Using the Landmarks Ordinance, we ensured that new development was harmonious with development from the past to retain the City’s cultural identity, while interfering as little as possible with the goals of the new project. As a Planning Commissioner, I would like to see the kind of creativity and ingenuity applied to incorporate historic places into new development, applied to all expressed and documented goals established in Santa Monica. The Planning Commission has access to the complete toolbox.”
Renee Weitzer, chief planning deputy in Los Angeles, applied for the position in 2012 and reapplied a year ago.
“With a background in planning and land use, I have worked on specific and community plans and other land use matters on behalf of the City of Los Angeles and have presented before commissions, councils and homeowner groups,” she said in the application.
Richard Brand, an architect, applied in June of 2013.
Tom Cleys, an asset manager, applied two years ago.
John Cyrus Smith, a teacher and former council candidate, did as well. He is a member of numerous neighborhood and community groups.
Kent C. Smith applied around the same time and had previously served on the Pier Restoration Corporation.
Perhaps most notable of these January of 2013 applicants, whose applications remain valid, is Armen Melkonians, founder of Residocracy. Melkonians led the charge against the controversial Hines development agreement that was overturned after a signature gathering process.