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Former Mayor Appointed To Landmarks Commission


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By Jorge Casuso

January 26, 2024 -- Former mayor Pam O'Connor, who served a record 24 years on the City Council, will return to the Landmarks Commission, where she launched her political career more than three decades ago.

O'Connor was one of two candidates vying for an open seat and the only one meeting the strict qualification requiring that it be filled by an architectural historian.

But the seemingly inevitable appointment devolved into a contentious debate Tuesday that once again exposed Council tensions after three members pushed for delaying the appointment.

They argued that O'Connor furthered the lack of diversity on the City's Boards and Commissions, which often saw familiar faces appointed, and requested more time to recruit applicants from underrepresented groups.

"I think this is more about creating diversity," said Councilmember Lana Negrete. "There are a group of people who tend to be the ones that are running things all the time.

"I think that's the issue here," Negrete said. "I think that's why we're tiptoeing around. Oftentimes we see the same names over and over again."

Councilmember Gleam Davis argued that the issue wasn't a lack of diversity but opposition to O'Connor, who had been a lightening rod for years as a major proponent of development.

"I think this is personal against Ms. O'Connor," Davis said. "No one has raised this issue until Pam O'Connor's name came up, and I just think that's frankly disgusting."

Councilmember Christine Para, who had moved to push back the appointment 30 days, said the issue had nothing to do with O'Connor.

"I resent the accusation that this is personal," she said. "I don't know Ms. O'Connor. I've never met her in my life. I've never had a conversation with her in my life."

Councilmember Jesse Zwick noted that the open seat for a term that ends June 30, 2026 had been posted last summer and that only two applications were received.

"I don't know how many architectural historians are clamoring to have this position," Zwick said. "And I don't know why we would delay it beyond (the) nearly six months it's been since these applicants have applied."

Mayor Phil Brock, who ran on a slow-growth platform, said he has had "numerous disagreements" on policy with O'Connor since 2014 and was concerned she "had checked off lobbyist on her application."

"My first instinct when I saw Pam's name is that I was horrified," Brock said. But O'Connor assured him "she has never served as a lobbyist (and) doesn't serve now."

Brock noted that O'Connor had started her political career on the Landmarks Commission, "served the city for thirty, forty years" and "is probably the on;y architectural historian that lives in Santa Monica."

"Many people in this City have had disagreements with her," he said, "and many people love her."

The motion to postpone the appointment failed on a 3 to 4 vote, with Parra, Negrete and Oscar de la Torre voting in favor, and Davis, Brock, Zwick and Caroline Torosis voting against the motion.

O'Connor was appointed with five votes, with Parra and de la Torre abstaining.

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