The city will review and may consolidate its boards and commissions, which advise the City Council on matters such as urban planning, social services and sustainability.
The City Council voted Tuesday to adopt a swathe of recommendations from city staff that would change the rules governing boards, commissions and task forces and form an ad hoc group to review the bodies. The council also voted to convert the Task Force on the Environment to a formal commission named the Commission on Sustainability and the Environment.
The council appoints the Architectural Review, Personnel and Santa Monica Library boards; the Airport, Planning, Recreation and Parks, Arts, Building and Fire-Life Safety, Status of Women, Disabilities, Housing, Landmarks, Social Services commissions; the Audit and Clean Beaches & Ocean Parcel Tax Citizens’ Oversight committees; and the Environment and Urban Forest task forces.
City Commissions advise the Council on their respective topics and have some administrative responsibility but most of their decisions can be appealed and overturned by the Council.
The council also appoints some members of the Santa Monica Travel & Tourism, Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. and Santa Monica Pier Corporation boards, as well as the L.A. County West Vector Control District and the Metropolitan Water District.
City staff recommended creating a community working group to review all boards and commissions and potentially consolidate them if they share similar responsibilities.
“Because there has not been a comprehensive review or oversight of the boards and commissions, a significant amount of overlap has developed in the roles, goals, and purviews of several of these bodies,” staff wrote in a report. “This overlap has caused some bodies to lack specific goals, therefore potentially reducing their effectiveness as formal advisory bodies to the City Council.”
Staff also recommended that board and commission members be required to complete state ethics training and be prohibited from serving on more than one body at a time. The city plans to put a measure on the ballot in the next general election to modify the city charter to move the authorizations for boards and commissions whose authorizations currently are in the city charter to the city code, which is easier to amend.
After members of the Social Services Commission told the council Tuesday that the commission has not produced an annual report of the city’s social programs in decades, as required by city code, several council members said the city needs to redefine the role of boards and commissions. Local homeless advocates have criticized the commission for failing to produce the review and circulated a petition this week asking for greater accountability.
“We don’t have enough resources to do an annual report,” said Bill Parent, a member of the commission.
Mayor Pro Tempore Terry O’Day said the input from the commission showed that its mission had been overlooked and needed to be rethought.
“The real purpose of the commission and what legal changes need to be put in place is a really tall task for this community working group, but a really important and valuable mission,” he said.
Councilmember Sue Himmelrich said the city should make the boards and commissions more effective as advisory bodies. Himmelrich added that the boards and commissions are not representative of the Santa Monica community and the city should work to make them more diverse.
“I think we need to give them more respect,” she said. “We need to make it a more significant job.”