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McKinnon Fails to Win Reappointment to Planning Commission

Bob Kronovetrealty
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By Jorge Casuso

September 9, 2020 -- Planning Commissioner Richard McKinnon -- who ran twice for City Council as a slow-growth advocate -- failed to win re-appointment on Tuesday when the City Council filled two vacancies on the powrful board.

McKinnon will be replaced by Ellis Raskin, an attorney specializing in land use and environmental law, who serves on the City's Urban Forest Task Force.

Planning Commission Chair Leslie Lambert -- considered an outspoken advocate for housing development -- was appointed to a second two-year term.

McKinnon, who was first appointed to the Commission to serve a partial term in 2011, failed to win the five votes needed to be reappointed to a third full four-year term.

Raskin, who needed four votes to be appointed, won with unanimous support after Council member Terry O'Day switched his lone vote for Housing Commissioner Carl Hansen.

In his application for reappointment, McKinnon touted his more than 200 meetings and 9 years on the seven-member commission and his longstanding efforts "to get people out of cars."

"I’ve led a focus on protecting residents, controlling development for our needs, and taking our City a deeper green," McKinnon wrote in his application.

"I’ve emphasized making Santa Monica a series of walkable, self-sustaining communities; introducing a new mobility; powering environmentally progress; and building increasing amounts of affordable housing everywhere."

The Commission is known as a stepping stone to the City Council, and McKinnon made unsuccessful Council bids in 2012 and 2014 as a slow-growth candidate.

In July, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) cleared him of allegations he violated State campaign laws in his 2012 Council bid ("FPPC Clears Planning Commissioner of Violating Campaign Finance Laws," July 14, 2020).

Lambert initially served on the Planning Commission from 1987 to 1990, before being appointed again in 2016.

She described herself on her 2016 application as an advocate for “crafting a planning framework that acknowledges the need to produce more housing for every income level.

"Population growth is a reality as is the fact that thousands of people work in Santa Monica but can't afford to live here,” she wrote.

Raskin sought an appointment to the Commission in June 2019, but received only two votes.

He has represented clients in matters involving the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the California Coastal Act, the Subdivision Map Act and "other environmental and land use legislation," according his professional profile.

He has also advised clients regarding Political Reform Act compliance, according to the profile.

The Planning Commission is the City's most visible and powerful board, helping to shape development policies by making recommendations to the City Council on development agreements and documents that regulate or guide zoning and planning.

It also has the authority to subdivide land and approve permits, although decisions can be appealed.

According to a new mission statement approved by the Council last year, the Commission "seeks to balance the many needs and priorities within our community in accordance with the City’s General Plan and Specific Plans ("Council Set to Endorse New Mission Statement for Planning Commission," April 8, 2019).

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