Jim Ries, who joined the Planning Commission in 2007, left the dais as a commissioner for the last time, urging future commissioners to reach across the aisle.
Ries was up for a third term — therefore requiring five City Council votes rather than the usual four — but was ultimately replaced by longtime Landmarks Commissioner Nina Fresco.
Jason Parry was reappointed and council will fill the seat of Carter Rubin, who is not seeking reappointment, later this year.
“We will all miss him,” Commissioner Richard McKinnon said before Ries’ last meeting, “and the depth of expertise and intelligence and application he’s brought to us has, on many nights, saved this commission from going in the wrong direction. And I think he has been one of the more important commissioners in this city over a long period of time. Not everyone has agreed with some of his positions, and that’s the way that it will always be in Santa Monica when it comes to planning, but he is consistent, he is forthright, and he is someone that we all rely on.”
Commissioner Gerda Newbold said she was shocked that he was not reappointed, though she “sort of knew it was coming.”
“He’s actually the only person who actually works in land use, which I think is kind of problematic for our commission,” she said. “His knowledge and his experience have been really important to us especially after we lost some architects.”
Commissioner Jennifer Kennedy agreed.
“There have been times when we’ve had some really difficult decisions to make, things that were close, could have gone either way, or things that just needed further in depth analyses, and Commissioner Ries never hesitated to take out his calculator and do the math,” she said, “and really help us through some difficult situations and he has been a leader on this commission.”
McKinnon noted Ries’ service on both a Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) and a Zoning Ordinance update is rare for a commissioner.
“The LUCE update was one of the highlights my career,” he said, “just when we got through with all of that, and all the awards we got, and what a great document that was. Maybe the zoning code was or wasn’t implemented in a perfect fashion but we went through that and that was a very difficult process.”
In an era where development has been the center of city debate, Ries urged cooperation.
“Change is a scary thing for a community but we as a society and a community have to change the way we do our land use,” he said. “We’re not all going to agree on things and my only advice for future commissioners is: Try to work across the aisle and engage other people. There’s always common ground and that’s really what government’s about is finding common ground and figuring out what change we can implement and there are things both sides won’t agree to but over time we can work on those things.”
Ries, who took to the dais for the last time less than 24 hours after council opted to appoint Fresco to his seat, said he wouldn’t be leaving Santa Monica civic life.
“I think that community service is incredibly important and the city, whether you like it or not, you haven’t seen the last of me,” he said. “I don’t know what I will do next, but I assure you I will stay involved in this community.”