June 22 deadline for applications to replace outgoing Councilmember Kevin McKeown
By Sam Catanzaro
The application process is now open for a vacancy that will arise when Santa Monica City Councilmember Kevin McKeown retires next week.
On Wednesday June 2, City Council held a special meeting acknowledging Councilmember McKeown’s retirement while adopting a resolution declaring a vacant seat.
“I very much appreciate your engagement and support over these many years. Thank you. I am grateful for the opportunity you have given me — the privilege and honor of being able to be of service to the city I deeply love,” reads McKeown’s notice of retirement. “With this letter I officially announce my retirement from the City Council. My last day will be June 11th.”
At the June 2 meeting, Council voted unanimously to open an application process that will run from June 3 to noon June 22. Councilmemeber Oscar de la Torre was not present at the virtual meeting, due to a headache.
Council voted to hold a special meeting on June 29 to make an appointment from the pool of applicants. To apply for a vacant seat, visit smgov.net/councilappoint or call (310) 458-8211.
If Council is unable to choose a replacement at the June 29 meeting, a special election will most likely be held. According to City Clerk Denise Anderson-Ward, LA County estimates such an election would cost $528,000 if combined with the November recall election of Governor Gavin Newsom. The funds for such a special election would come out of Santa Monica’s general fund since the City only budgets for elections on even-numbered years.
The person appointed to the vacant seat will serve a partial term ending on November 8, 2022.
The last time Santa Monica City Council failed to fill a vacant seat by appointment was in 1998, following the departure of Councilmember Asha Greenberg, leading to a special election that was won by now-Assemblymember Richard Bloom.
Over the past three years, two Councilmembers have been appointed. Former Councilmember Ana Jara was chosen to replace Tony Vacquez in 2019. In 2020 current Councilmember Kristen McKcown was appointed to replace Greg Morena.
The 72-year-old McKeown–first elected to Council in 1998 and has served as Mayor twice including most recently in 2020– first made the announcement at the end of the May 25 City Council meeting.
“Before we continue I have a brief announcement. This is something I wanted to say at the same time both to the Council and to the community. I have decided to retire. You have all been very kind about me not looking my age but I am well into my 70s. I am profoundly grateful for the many years that I had the privilege and honor of being able to be a service to this city which I deeply love, but I have decided to retire, effective two weeks from Friday,” McKeown said during the virtual meeting. “I thank you, goodnight, and good-bye.”
As reported by the Santa Monica Lookout, McKeown participated in a virtual Ocean Park Association (OPA) last Wednesday and said only that health was not a factor and that it was the right time for retirement.
“You’ve watched me so you know that I’m a pretty thoughtful guy, not all that impetuous,” reads a transcript from his remarks published by the Lookout. “So I’ve been thinking about this for some time.
“At the moment there’s a lot of change happening in the city. Our city manager’s about to leave, we’re about to adopt a housing element, a budget.
“These are all actions that should be voted on by people who intend to continue on, so this seemed like the time, the moment, having completed as much as I wanted to, as I could.”
McKeown, a Santa Monica renter for 45 years, for 25 years served as Macintosh computer consultant for the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. On City Council, where he is in the third year of his sixth term, he has been an advocate for renter rights, affordable housing, and environmental sustainability. In 2015, McKeown made a presentation on behalf of Santa Monica to an international audience at the United Nations climate conference where the Paris Accords were agreed to. He served as Mayor in 2020, which was a uniquely difficult year in Santa Monica history.
McKeown is also Santa Monica’s Director on the Board of the Clean Power Alliance of Southern California, and serves on the State of California’s Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, and as the current chair of the regional Westside Cities Council of Governments.
“Kevin has dedicated his life to making Santa Monica stronger, greener, and more equitable. I personally was devastated to learn about his plans to retire, and our City Council will sorely miss his depth of experience and his punny humor. Kevin has had a unique ability to coalesce the Council around our shared values and goals and has tirelessly worked to meaningfully advance protections and support for vulnerable tenants and residents. His active correspondence with constituents has been a model of public service,” said Mayor Sue Himmelrich. “This is a man who loves Santa Monica in his bones and demonstrated unrelenting integrity and dedication to the community as a tenured Councilmember. It is hard to imagine a meeting without his perfect radio voice and comedic timing.”