Fuel: In addition to banning flammable material from the Pier, council will have several additional items to debate on Tuesday night. Clara Harter

The stacked council agenda includes an investigation into alleged open meeting law violations by two or more council members.

Current Santa Monica Housing Commissioner Leonora Camner is speaking out about what her supporters call a “retaliation item” recently added to the upcoming City Council agenda: a motion from Council Members Phil Brock, Christine Parra and Oscar de la Torre to have her removed from the Commission.

Over the weekend, Santa Monica city staff added several key items to the agenda for the next City Council meeting, scheduled to take place on Tuesday, Feb. 22.

One of the new items is a “ Request of Councilmembers Brock, Parra and de la Torre that the City Council remove Housing Commissioner Leonora Camner pursuant to City Charter Article 1002 (requiring a motion adopted by at least five affirmative votes), and to thank her for her previous service to the Santa Monica Housing Commission.” Camner, who has been on the commission since late 2021, is also the executive director of Abundant Housing LA, a 501(c)4 social welfare not-for-profit.

The move comes as the Housing Commission has taken on additional prominence; just days earlier, the Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) rejected the City’s 6th Cycle Housing Element, requesting additional research into the feasibility of converting City-identified sites into housing among other adjustments.

Neither Brock nor de la Torre responded to a request for comment by Daily Press deadline.

Camner posted an image of the agenda item on Twitter, writing: “Getting kicked off the housing commission because I advocate for housing.”

Among Camner’s supporters is San Francisco State Senator Scott Wiener, chair of the Senate’s Housing Commission and outspoken housing advocate, who tweeted on Monday: “Santa Monica City Council is considering removing from its Housing Commission one of our great Southern California housing advocates, Leonora Camner.

Why? Because she actually believes in having more housing.” Wiener also encouraged his followers to submit letters to Santa Monica City Council.

Camner announced on social media that she was planning a meet-up at Tongva Park at noon on Tuesday, Feb. 22, where she would discuss the Housing Commission and her advocacy.

Brown Act violations

In response to concerns over possible violations of the Brown Act — specifically, allegations that council members disclosed closed-session discussions publicly — Council on Tuesday will consider launching an independent investigation into the allegations.

Specifically, some council members believe their counterparts violated both the Brown Act (California’s open meetings law that dictates how public officials conduct business) and confidentiality agreements while going through the recruitment and interviewing process for Santa Monica’s City Manager and City Attorney in 2021 and 2022. The proposal would authorize the issuance of subpoenas in the name of the City as part of the investigation.

Sidewalk/Pier vending rules

City staff are asking Council for direction on “resource-intensive and costly” Pier Task Force operations, which have already cost nearly $600,000 in enforcement on the Santa Monica Pier. That includes $342,400 spent by the Santa Monica Police Department, $84,500 spent by taxpayer-funded private security, $81,200 spent by Code Enforcement, $58,400 spent by the Santa Monica Fire Department and $24,000 spent by Public Works.

If the current enforcement model continues, staff estimate it will cost the city about $3.75 million for fiscal year 2022-23.

These various “investments,” as staff calls them, involve a Task Force that works each weekend from Friday through Sunday “to address the risks to public safety, public health, and the environment posed by unpermitted vending on and around the Pier, with a focus on criminal violations and associated non-criminal activities.” In addition, the City has invested the work of two deputy city attorneys, physical modifications to the Pier itself (such as temporary fencing and gates), and outreach and educational materials to Pier vendors. They have also requested the City’s lobbyists work “to advance state legislation related to sidewalk vending,” in an attempt to reform certain aspects of SB 946, the state law that decriminalized sidewalk vending beginning in 2019.

Staff recommends Council consider tweaks to the current enforcement plan, which would bring the total cost of the Pier Task Force for fiscal year 2022-23 from $3.75 million down to $3.07 million.

City Hall murals

The latest move in the saga over City Hall’s controversial Stanton Macdonald-Wright murals will come Tuesday, as de la Torre and Parra issued a request to no longer install the “scrims,” or curtain-like screens, over the historic artwork. The murals depict aspects of Santa Monica history through a lens of 1930s white America, with some imagery evoking complaints of racial insensitivity.

De la Torre was the council member who initially called for the murals to be covered during a council discussion in May 2021; at the time, de la Torre said he felt the art was beautiful and valuable, but “very problematic.”

When the item requesting the murals be covered was initially brought forward by de la Torre and Parra, it was approved in a 6-1 vote of City Council, but nearly one year later the scrim has not yet been installed. Now, the two council members are requesting community engagement take place instead.

The request states that rather than cover or remove the murals, staff should “launch … a process that engages and educates our community and results in the addition of artwork within the lobby to create a more inclusive and complete story of our City’s history and vision for our future to advance the City’s commitment to equity, justice and respect for all and, in the interim, direct staff to explore the creation of a temporary lobby display around the themes that will be explored during the larger community education and engagement process.”

One suggestion came last May: the addition of a mural depicting Toypurina, a member of the Tongva Tribe in the eighteenth century who was a leader against colonial rule.

Pier parking to resume

If approved, Santa Monica City Manager David White will be tasked with establishing hours of operation for the parking lot located atop the Santa Monica Pier. The lot has been closed since the initial COVID-19 shut-down in March 2020, when that part of the Pier was “temporarily repurposed to support expanded outdoor dining, additional open space, and enhanced physical distancing.” The closure also allowed parts of the Pier deck and substructure to be replaced, according to a staff report prepared for the Tuesday meeting.

Currently, the Pier is closed to the public from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and the parking lot reopening was not anticipated to materially change those hours. Vehicles would be required to vacate the lot at or before closing time.

Council meeting cut-off

Council Members Brock and Lana Negrete placed a discussion item on the Tuesday agenda requesting a change to the way meetings are held; namely, that no new items may be heard (except for public comment) after 11 p.m.

Currently, City Council Meetings commonly run seven, eight or nine hours in length, sometimes ending well after 2 a.m. The suggested change would stipulate that a two-thirds majority of council members could vote to hear new items after 11 p.m. if they so choose.

emily@smdp.com