If you’ve ever wondered whether the City’s boards and commissions look like the residents they’re representing, your questions will soon be answered, thanks to new direction given by City Council during the Jan. 11 Santa Monica City Council meeting.

Council Member Oscar de la Torre requested that the City begin assessing the demographic makeup of its many boards and commissions.
“I know we had this discussion in the past, and I want to find a way to codify, sort of, a resolution,” de la Torre began. “And really, it’s about how we document the demographic profile of our boards and commissions, so we understand where our gaps are.”

De la Torre suggested the City Clerk gather the demographic profile of each board and commission, including categories such as race, ethnicity, gender, age and sexual orientation — “whatever categories the Council believes is necessary for us to get a good picture of where we have deficiencies, in terms of our appointments.”

Mayor Sue Himmelrich expressed concern that some of the data points — particularly sexual orientation — might be uncomfortable or even illegal to request from board members and commissioners.

“Sexual orientation is something that, for instance, could be personal,” Himmelrich said.

For the same reason, rather than provide demographics for each of the city’s boards and commissions, City Council determined it would be better to request the City Clerk generate an annual report aggregating all of the demographic data among the many representatives.

The final language of the resolution was: “The City Clerk will provide an annual report before the Council on the aggregate demographic profile of our boards and commissions.”

The discussion came amid an item updating the City’s policies for “city boards, commissions, committees, task forces and regional advisory boards,” that included the implementation of council liaisons to each board, term limits to some boards/commissions, and that the limitation of members serving on one or more board or commission would not apply to members of advisory committees.

The rules were to apply to all of Santa Monica’s many boards and commissions; the City website lists two dozen such entities, from the Airport Commission to the Metropolitan Water District Board.