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Three Planning Commissioners Seek Reappointment

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By Jorge Casuso

July 13, 2023 -- Three Planning Commissioners with a total of 28 years on Santa Monica's most visible and powerful board are seeking to be reappointed by the City Council Tuesday for another four years.

Commissioners Jim Ries, Nina Fresco and Mario Fonda Bonardi contend that their experience on the seven-member commission is needed as the City faces major planning challenges.

"The city is in an enormous state of flux and the Department of Community Development is under particular pressure to get a great deal done in the immediate future," said Fresco, who along with Fonda-Bonardi is seeking a third term.

"Stability on the Planning Commission at this moment could ensure that we make our way through this period of significant change swiftly and efficiently," Fresco wrote.

Ries -- who served from 2007 to 2015 and from 2019 to the present -- listed on his application for a fourth term a "significant depth of knowledge regarding Santa Monica land use issues."

One goal listed on Ries' application is "to continue to work on important land use documents such as the Local Coastal Plan which will claw back a bit of local land use control."

The other is to "focus on expanding the City’s response to climate change as we plan the future which will soon include the airport's transition and the 2028 Olympics," he wrote referring to the closure of Santa Monica Airport in 2028.

To be reappointed a third consecutive term, Fresco and former Council candidate Fonda Bonardi -- both staunch supporters of historic preservation -- must receive five votes.

Other applicants vying for the three open Commission seats are Housing Commissioner Josh Hamilton, former City Council candidate Thomas Ciszek, former Recreation and Parks commissioner Deborah Cohan and Alexander Sinunu.

Ciszek's vision is to "encourage our city's belief in the value of preservation in Santa Monica as a steward of our historic resources while supporting a spirit of data-driven, sustainable growth."

Hamilton "would like Santa Monica to remain an interesting and diverse community with a range of housing options available to different income levels."

Cohen believes the Commission "should only adopt policies where the impact will not (have) unintended negative consequences."

While Sununu believes Santa Monica should "plan for the needs of our changing world and the challenging economics of California real estate."

Viewed as a stepping stone to the City Council, the Planning Commission helps to shape development policies by making recommendations to the City Council on development agreements and documents that regulate or guide zoning and planning.

These include the City's Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) and Housing Element. In addition, the Commission has the authority to approve permits, although decisions can be appealed.

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