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Council Scheduled to Fill Vacant Planning Seat

By Jorge Casuso

June 28 -- A community activist, a prominent architect and a 90-year-old who can't attend night meetings are among the applicants vying for the Planning Commission seat vacated by Arlene Hopkins, who has decided not to seek a second term.

Hopkins -- who has served on the commission for four years -- said that her business won't allow her to devote the necessary time to the city's most powerful appointed board, which approves major developments in the City.

"My service on the Planning Commission has taken lot of my time, and I've given it willingly," Hopkins said. "I need to refocus back on my business."

Hopkins -- who said she has 24 "bankers' boxes" filled with files relating to her volunteer work in planning -- noted that the commission is in the midst of revising the Land Use and Circulation Element of the General Plan, which will dictate how the city grows for years to come.

"To do a really good job, I'm going to have to put in more time," Hopkins said. "There's a lot of homework involved. I would have continued to do it joyfully and willingly, but I won't have to time.

"Part of what democracy is about is that we take a turn," she said.

The council is scheduled to appoint a new member to the commission Tuesday night.

Among the eight applicants are activist Maria Loya, who made an unsuccessful run for City Council last year; Dennis Woods, a transportation planner for West Hollywood; Hendrik "Hank" Koning, a local architect who has built numerous projects in the city, and Jim D. Ries, a land use consultant who sits on the Sustainable City Task Force.

Also seeking the vacant seat are 90-year-old Elizabeth Champ, a retired Air Force employee who volunteers at Santa Monica's two hospitals; Robert Seldon, an attorney who co-founded Northeast neighbors; Madeline Davis Heller, a mediator who sits on the Heritage Museum Board, and Mathew Watt, a volunteer at free meal programs for the homeless.
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