City Council will decide between 76 applicants Tuesday to fill the seat vacated by Tony Vazquez.
Council hopefuls had until noon Thursday to apply for the seat and a variety of people have decided they want a greater say in local politics, including members of several city boards and commissions, the co-chair of the Pico Neighborhood Association and even Vazquez’s wife, Maria Leon-Vazquez.
Leon-Vazquez is a member of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District board and came under fire in late 2017 after the Los Angeles Times reported that she voted to award at least nine contracts to consulting firms that Vazquez worked for. A SMMUSD probe confirmed the Times report but didn’t conclude she had violated state conflict of interest laws.
Vazquez departure comes during a California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) lawsuit that claims Latinos are underrepresented on Council because of Santa Monica’s at-large election system. In her application, Leon-Vazquez positions herself as an advocate for Santa Monica’s Latino community, particularly on housing issues.
“The council has to be representative of all of its diverse constituents,” she wrote. “My presence as a member of the council would guarantee a voice to protect any further gentrification of our affordable units in the city, especially in the Pico neighborhood.”
Leon-Vazquez isn’t the only member of Santa Monica’s Latino community to apply for the seat. Oscar de la Torre, co-chair of the Pico Neighborhood Association and the husband of the plaintiff in the CVRA case, has also thrown his hat in the ring.
De la Torre is a vocal critic of City Hall, but his application barely mentions his opposition work. He avoids criticizing the City and instead proposes working with residents to address development and creating new affordable housing and economic development programs.
“I have more than 20 years experience in governance and public policy development, leadership development and coalition building,” he wrote. “I have expertise in developing innovative and effective programs and policies to address inequities and institutionalized racism.”
Rent Control Board member Caroline Torosis also pledged in her application to promote affordable housing. She identified her other priorities as sustainable transportation, addressing homelessness and public education.
“I am committed to promoting an inclusive and diverse community,” Torosis wrote. “We need to ensure that those who have made Santa Monica their home are able to age in place, and that we continue to make Santa Monica accessible and affordable for those who live and work in the community.”
Evan Meyer, a software and non-profit entrepreneur who recently finished a term as president of the Ocean Park Association, wrote in his application that he would focus on reducing traffic, homelessness and housing, and making City technology more efficient.
Meyer is the founder and CEO of RideAmigos, a software platform that helps government agencies understand commuter habits and reduce traffic. He said he plans to use his expertise to help the city meet its transportation goals.
Other applicants include Planning Commissioners Jason Parry and Richard McKinnon, former Santa Monica College trustee Barry Snell and Mary Marlow, chair of the Santa Monica Transparency Project.
If at least four councilmembers do not agree on which applicant to appoint, the City will re-open the application and Council will vote again on Jan. 29. If it doesn’t decide by Feb. 7, 30 days after Vazquez resigned, voters will choose a new councilmember in a Nov. 5 special election to serve through November 2020.