After introducing P. Lamont Ewell, Santa Monica’s new City Manager, at its November 16 meeting, the City Council and others lauded outgoing City Manager Susan E. McCarthy, who will retire on December 8.
McCarthy, who was appointed by the Council in 1999 was the first woman to hold the City’s top job. She had previously spent five years as the Assistant City Manager. She also served four years as the Director of Community and Cultural Services; four years as the Director of Personnel, and five years in the department of Transportation and Administrative Services.
This was McCarthy’s last appearance at a Council meeting. Assistant City Manager Gordon Anderson will be acting City Manager from McCarthy’s departure until Ewell assumes his new post in mid-January.
The day after the Council meeting, Ewell formally resigned from his current position as San Diego’s City Manager.
Mayor Pam O’Connor presented McCarthy with a City commendation that praised her “good humor, sharp wit, incisive mind, in-depth knowledge and amazing memory.” The commendation also noted “her ability to balance many competing interests and council member interests while maintaining the respect of all parties” and her “strong work ethic, deep commitment to customer service and government accountability.”
Later, O’Connor complimented McCarthy’s “creativity, diplomacy, her problem solving ability and her unflappability. She’s been a strong executive, a strong administrator of what is a large and complex municipal corporation and that certainly is an inspiration for the young women especially in our community.”
Two former mayors also spoke. Paul Rosenstein complimented McCarthy’s “modesty and love for the City,” saying that “as a resident of the City she really felt in her bones the needs of the City and the needs of the community.”
Michael Feinstein described her “ability to be balanced, do the job professionally, forcibly, intelligently and yet have a human side.”
Each of the six Council members praised McCarthy and thanked her.
McCarthy said, “I loved Santa Monica when I came here in 1974 and I love living here as much today as then. Clearly, there have been changes and some of them have been welcome and some of them haven’t and I’ve had something to do with some of them and some of them I haven’t. I do think it’s a community that benefits from extraordinary dedication from a group of volunteers. People who are willing to get involved with their government and neighborhoods and that’s what makes it a very special place and I thank you for the opportunity to serve here.”
Moving on, after a lengthy discussion, the Council gave direction to City staff regarding priorities and allocation of code compliance resources. Timothy McCormick, the City’s Chief Building Officer, told the Council that the City’s code compliance section currently “has ten budgeted positions for code compliance officers” but two of those positions are currently vacant. Currently, staff resources are allocated as follows: five positions for general building standards, two positions for general zoning standards, one position for noise monitoring and two for the monitoring of certain discretionary permits. No employees have been assigned to check for either non-conforming signs or seismic retrofit.
According to the City staff report, “code compliance staff uses a priority system for responding to complaints. The priority system emphasizes life safety and health and results in the most immediate response going to violations such as dangerous buildings, after-hour activities and substandard housing conditions. Lower priority violations such as deferred routine building maintenance, unpermitted signs and outdoor merchandise receive secondary response effort.”
The Council also heard from several speakers. Ocean Park resident Anita Holcomb told the Council that there has been “no noise enforcement since the passage of the noise ordinance update … noise impacted residents have been brushed off by the City and are being told its a low priority. 10,600 people have complained at night [about noise] in the 18 month period from January 2001 to June 2002. … As here’s no noise enforcement officer on duty at night” complaints go to the Santa Monica Police Department.
“I think it’s not cost-effective to have very highly paid police officers enforcing codes that they aren’t familiar with. … [and such complaints are never followed up by code enforcement.”
Activist Michael Tarbot asked the Council to support more “proactive” enforcement, especially in the areas of remaining earthquake damage and mold.In response, the Council asked City staff to give seismic retrofit, noise enforcement and mold concerns higher priority. It also asked that the staff return with a personnel, financial and/or focus budget outlining what the City could realistically accomplish with the ten positions currently allocated, and proposed that there should be a tiered priority system, a cyclical approach to proactive enforcement and efficiency protocols for code enforcement.