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City Council Faced with Crucial Planning Appointments

By Jorge Casuso

July 10 -- Neighborhood activists are closely watching the pending appointment of three members to the powerful Planning Commission at a time when the future development of the beachside city is being charted.

While many observers expect Terry O’Day to be reappointed to a second term, there is much speculation about Commissioner Darrell Clarke’s unusual bid for a third four-year term.

Clarke likely faces an uphill battle, needing five City Council votes and facing stiff competition from a field of qualified candidates. But the sitting commissioner, who is widely viewed as a slow growth advocate representing residents’ interests, feels he can contribute his expertise during a critical time for the city.

“It seems important to offer to continue,” said Clarke. “After eight years, they know what I’m about.”

One of the major projects Clarke would like to see through is the update of the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) that will shape the face of Santa Monica for years to come. The other is the effort to bring light rail to the beachside city.

“The next year is really important,” said Clarke, who is the long-time co-chair of Friends of the Expo Line.

After more than three years gathering public input, City officials are preparing to roll up their sleeves and iron out the details that will comprise the first update of the City’s General Plan in a quarter century, Clarke said.

“We will begin to decide what goes where in the city,” said Clarke, who has been involved in the process since its inception. “That’s the real meat.”

The next year will also be “pivotal for the Expo Line,” Clarke said, noting that City officials will decide where to place the terminals and what development will rise around them.

“There’s going to be a lot of detailed planning in Santa Monica,” Clarke said.

So far, at least two council members have privately said they will not vote to grant Clarke a third term, and two others are unlikely to back his bid.

That would leave two open seats and a field of strong candidates that includes two members of Santa Monica’s Sustainable City Task Force -- Dennis Woods and Jim Ries --and Gleam Davis, a well-known education activist who has run for the School Board and City Council.

A professional urban and transportation planner for 18 years, Woods plans to focus on integrating transportation and land use, promote bicycling and walking and seek innovative approaches to parking, according to his application. He also said he plans to promote sustainable goals and protect open space.

“I have prepared Zoning Ordinances, rewritten sections of General Plans, worked to have the First Westside Mobility Plan and prepared the first comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian mobility plan for a municipal government on the Westside,” wrote Woods, who was chair of the Borderline Neighborhood Improvement Group for five years.

Ries, a land use consultant who chairs of the Sustainable City Task Force, also has been involved in neighborhood efforts, serving on the board of the Pico Neighborhood Association, as well as on the Home Ownership Study Group sponsored by Community Corporation.

“I want to work towards an aesthetically interesting, vital and sustainable City offering recreational, employment, educational and living opportunities to the City’s diverse population,” wrote Ries, who has a Masters Degree in Urban Planning from the UCLA School of Architecture and Urban Planning.

Davis, who has focused most of her community efforts on education and currently serves as co-chair of the School District’s bond committee, seems to share many of Clarke’s goals.

“My goal would be to complete the current work on the Land Use and Circulation Element and to preserve the diversity, sustainability, and livability of our neighborhoods,” Davis, an in-house counsel to AT&T, wrote on her application.

“I am interested in opportunities to expand parks and other public open spaces and I would work to integrate planning and public transportation policies,” she wrote.

Davis may have a leg up in her bid for appointment. A longtime member of the powerful tenants group, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, Davis’ appointment would guarantee that there remain at least two women on the seven-member commission.

Another woman seeking a seat is Juleann Viktoria Bukovchik. An internal auditor for the real estate industry, Bukovchik sees “the need to integrate multiple facets of our city as we forward-think the development and green expansion of our hometown,” according to her application.

A volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, Bukovchik, wants to encourage sustainable projects that are diverse in design and “meet the needs and exceed the desires of our community.”

Other applicants for the three open seats are:

  • Robert Jay Kronovet, Real Estate Broker & Property manager and the current Co-Commissioner/Treasure of the Pico Improvement Organization. “My paramount goals as a planning commissioner” are to meet the “need for thoughtful growth that generates income for the city and provides a quality environment,” wrote Kronovet, who has run for City Council and rent Control Board.
  • Elizabeth Champ, a retired real estate clerk and a volunteer at Santa Monica UCLA Medical Center and Saint John's Health Center, whose goal is to “keep Santa Monica beautiful!”
  • David Edward Goddard, the CFO of a $2.5B real estate investment company, whose goal is “to insure that the residents' interests of Santa Monica are adequately represented.”

Slow-growth activists see the council’s Planning Commission appointments, which likely will take place when all seven members are back on the dais next month, as crucial.

Clarke, along with Jay Johnson and Julie Lopez Dad, are the only slow-growthers left from a commission that was widely viewed as unfriendly to developers.

“Darrell has demonstrated a real independence,” said former City Council member Kelly Olson, who chaired the slow-growth commission five years ago. “He gives equal weight to residents.

“I think it’s clear that the (current) commission is sympathetic towards development and cuts slack for developers,” Olsen said. “It’s been going that way, and that’s what the City Council majority wants.

“If they don’t approve Darrell,” he said, “that is a statement that they want to go in the direction of approving development.”

But Commissioner Johnson says the makeup of the seven-member board is not so clear cut.

“I think the slow-growth, no-growth, big-growth was through with the Planning Commission a few years ago,” said Johnson. “It’s rare that the board splits.”

Johnson said he supports Clarke’s reappointment.

“He has specific expertise on questions of transportation,” Johnson said. “He’s very astute on architectural questions and design questions. He has that sense of history.”

 

“After eight years, they know what I’m about.”
Darrell Clarke

 

“If they don’t approve Darrell, that is a statement that they want to go in the direction of approving development.”
Kelly Olson

 

 

“I think the slow-growth, no-growth, big-growth was through with the Planning Commission a few years ago.”
Jay Johnson.

 

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