Consolidation of Commissions | City Council to Consider Changes

A special meeting of the City Council Wednesday night Feb 23 to discuss consolidation of citizen boards and commissions.

PHOTO: Esteban Lopez | News | City Hall Council Chambers courtyard entrance in South Pasadena

Recommendations for a wholesale consolidation of South Pasadena’s famously unwieldy system of two dozen citizen boards and commissions will be the topic of a special meeting of the City Council Wednesday, Feb. 23 at 6 pm.

Up for discussion are staff recommendations to merge the Public Works Commission with the Mobility, Transportation and Infrastructure commission; “dissolve” the Animal and Youth commissions, folding them into a 7-member Community Service Commission that would also absorb the Senior Citizen and Parks and Recreation Commissions; consolidate the Public Arts and Planning Commissions; and eliminate the Ad Hoc Committees on Finance and Economic Development.

South Pasadena is known for its unusually large complement of commissions, and ad hoc, standing, and steering committees. A city survey determined South Pasadena has two-to-three times the number of commissions as other cities its size. And while commissions leverage the city’s unusually high compliment of active citizens with professional skills, they create significant work for city staff and complicate municipal politics.

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Each commission has a Council Member liaison who attends their meetings. Eight have one or more city staff members who devote an average of 8-to-10 hours a month tending to them.

Managing the commissions is one of the biggest challenges for the city manager. The office of Arminé Chaparyan, the first-time city manager who took over the job eight months ago, conducted an outreach effort Jan. 27 that included a virtual “community input discussion” with 26 attendees and an online survey that garnered 25 responses. It’s also done an analysis to “capture the current state of these advisory bodies” and identify their effectiveness and efficiencies.

“The City Manager’s Office met with staff liaisons of each Commission to discuss workload, staff time spent on Commission related work, strengths, shortcomings, and recommendations in managing Commission workflow and output,” according to a staff report signed by Chaparyan,  Deputy City Manager Domenica Megerdichian and Management Analyst Mary Jerejian.

The report includes considerable data and analysis of the current commission structure. In addition to the elimination of five commissions, it recommends creation of a manual for “onboarding” new commissioners, providing training for staff in the skills needed to serve commissions, such as taking minutes preparing meetings, and provides a comprehensive summary of public comments received.

Two of those public comments: “There are too many commission for a city the size of South Pasadena” and “There are too many meetings.”

List of City Council Commissions, Boards and Ad Hoc Committees

Animal Commission

Cultural Heritage Commission

Design Review Board

Finance Commission

Mobility and Transportation Infrastructure Commission

Library Board of Trustees

Natural Resources and Environmental Commission

Parks and Recreation Commission

Planning Commission

Public Arts Commission

Public Safety Commission

Public Works Commission

Senior Citizen Commission

Youth Commission

Fourth of July – Festival of Balloons Committee

South Pasadena Tournament of Roses Committee

Ad Hoc Committee: City Council and South Pasadena Unified School District

Ad Hoc Committee: Finance

Ad Hoc Committee: Mission-Meridian Village Subcommittee

Ad Hoc Committee: Implementation, Caltrans Surplus Properties Disposition

Ad Hoc Committee: Recreation Leased Facilities

Ad Hoc Committee: South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce – Legislative

Ad Hoc Committee: South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce – Economic Development

Ad Hoc Committee: South Pasadena Chamber of Commerce – Chamber Board

Ad Hoc Committee: Economic Development

Ben Tansey is a journalist and author. He grew up in the South Bay and is a graduate of Evergreen State College. He worked in Washington State as a reporter in a rural timber community and for many years as an editor for a Western electric energy policy publication based in Seattle.