In a surprise turn early Wednesday morning, City Council appointed urban planner and Los Angeles mayor staffer Carter Rubin to a vacant Planning Commission seat.
The seat has been vacant since Sue Himmelrich left the commission for council in November. The appointment expires in June.
Mayor Pro Tempore Tony Vazquez was the swing vote and told the Daily Press that — after his nominee wasn’t getting traction — he went with Rubin, who is 28 years old, in order to get some young blood on the commission.
Rubin currently serves as a member of the Housing Commission.
He’s also on the board of Santa Monica Next and Southern California Streets Initiative, which advocate for public transportation and, oftentimes, development projects.
Rubin is a program manager of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Great Streets Initiative.
Rubin had initial support from council members Terry O’Day, Pam O’Connor, and Gleam Davis, who tend to support development more frequently than the other four members.
The less development-friendly members split votes between three nominees: Nina Fresco, who was backed by Ted Winterer and Kevin McKeown, Mario Fonda-Bonardi, who was backed by Himmelrich, and Laurence Eubank, who Vazquez supported.
Needing to reach four votes, Fresco and Rubin were renominated. Vazquez, was first to vote, switched to support Rubin and Rubin was successfully appointed.
“I guess what kind of tipped it to me was I kind of agree with many of the folks in town that we need to do a better job of grooming new leadership and getting this new generation involved,” Vazquez said, “and here you have this young man who’s willing to step up and show that he can handle it. I’m not sure he can but I’m willing to give it a try. The fact that this appointment is only good for two months, I thought, ‘Well, this is not a bad probation.’ Let’s see what happens.”
Vazquez was 34 when he was elected to council for the first time in 1990 — the youngest member of the council at the time.
“I feel I was able to hold my own but now, coming back here 20 years later, it’s a whole nother ball game,” he said. “There’s something to be said about having experience obviously.”
Prior to the council vote, several members of the public pushed for council to appoint a younger candidate, mentioning specifically Rubin or Elizabeth Tooke.
When asked by the Daily Press if he was watching the appointment — which occurred after midnight — or if he was surprised by Vazquez’s vote, Rubin declined to answer, directing the reporter to his Planning Commission application.
“As a writer and board member of StreetsblogLA and Santa Monica Next, I’ve used the fourth estate to highlight key issues relating to sustainability, public health and mobility, and given readers the information they need to make informed decisions,” Rubin said in his application. “As a member of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s staff, I helped lead the effort to launch the City’s open data portal, which shares financial, geographic, crime, transportation and other city service data with the public. As a Housing Commissioner, I’ve strived to connect with Santa Monicans on the issue of housing affordability. These experiences will shape my approach to my service as Planning Commissioner.”
Rubin was born in Santa Monica and grew up in Brentwood. His first job was in Santa Monica at Earth Wind and Flour. He’s an avid bowler at Bayshore Lanes and he currently lives in Sunset Park.
After months, the Planning Commission just finished reviewing an updated Zoning Ordinance, which will dictate land uses throughout the city for years to come. The ordinance will go to council next month and the Planning Commission will likely go back to reviewing specific project proposals.
Rubin will be up for reappointment again after June 30, as will Chair Jason Parry and Commissioner Jim Ries.
Commissioners Richard McKinnon and Gerda Newbold will be reconsidered a year after that.
The Planning Commission is often seen as a stepping-stone to City Council. A majority of the current council served first on the Planning Commission.
Three members of the commission ran for council last year.