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Phone: (310) 458-8211
Fax: (310) 394-2962
Santa Monica City Hall
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1685 Main Street, Room 102
PO Box 2200
Santa Monica, CA 90407

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FAQs About Serving on a Board or Commission

Many items in this FAQ are covered in depth in the Boards and Commissions Handbook available from the Office of the City Clerk. A complete directory of boards, commissions, and other bodies to which the City Council makes appointments is also available from the City Clerk. The Boards and Commissions Directory includes members and their terms of appointment, staff and Council liaisons and contact information; meeting locations, dates and times; and information on the mission, responsibilities, authority and composition of each board and commission (task forces are not included). The directory is also on-line at: Boards, Commissions and other Appointed Bodies.


Q. How many city boards and commissions are there?
A. There are nineteen boards and commissions, plus two task forces.


Q. What’s the difference between a board, a commission and a task force?
A. Commissions are advisory to the City Council, established by the City Charter or by ordinance and involved in programs and activities that advance the group’s mission. In addition to their advisory capacity, certain commissions (e.g., Planning and Landmarks) have regulatory functions. Boards (Architectural Review, Library, Personnel) also have an advisory role, but are charged as well, by local or state law, with administrative, regulatory or review authority. Task forces are advisory bodies established by Council action, usually for a given period of time, to take on a specified task or project.*


Q. Are Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., the Pier Corporation and the Convention & Visitors Bureau considered boards and can I apply to serve on these?
A. Each of these agencies (Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. and the Pier Corporation were established by the city to manage their respective venues and the CVB, a private nonprofit corporation that manages tourism) has an appointed board of directors overseeing staff responsibilities. Applications accepted!


Q. How are commissioners appointed?
A. City Council votes on all appointments during a Council meeting after reviewing applications. Except for five members appointed by the Chamber of Commerce to the CVB Board of Directors (Council appoints the other five) and six members elected by Santa Monica Property Owners to Downtown Santa Monica Board of Directors (Council appoints the other six), the Council appoints all commissioners. Task force appointees are often recommended by staff, based on criteria related to the work of the group.


Q. When are appointments made?
A. Most appointments are made near the beginning of the fiscal year, usually in late June or early July. Appointments are made throughout the year, as vacancies occur. Task force appointments are made at the time a task force is established.

Q. Do I need to be an expert in the commission’s subject matter in order to serve?
A. Commission requirements vary (for example, the Arts Commission requires that members be actively involved in the arts, six members of the Disabilities Commission must be persons with disabilities, two Housing Commissioners must be Section 8 participants, one member of the Architectural Review Board must be an architect), but a genuine interest in the commission’s mission and in serving the community are the principal requisites for service.


Q. Do I need to live in Santa Monica in order to serve?
A. With very few exceptions allowing persons who work in Santa Monica but do not live here to serve (Architectural Review Board, Arts, Building & Fire-Life Safety, Social Services Commissions, Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., CVB, Pier Corporation), commissioners must be Santa Monica residents.


Q. What are the length of commission terms and are there term limits?
A. Most are four-year terms. The exceptions are Personnel Board (5 years) and Housing Commission Section 8 appointments (2 years). Commission service is limited to two full terms, with the possibility of a third term by a 2/3 vote of the Council.

Q. Are commissioners allowed to serve on more than one commission?
A. Although a person may apply for multiple commissions, with the exception of the Building & Fire-Life Safety Commission, a person can only serve on one commission at a time.


Q. Can a person apply to serve on more than one commission?
A. Yes, but a person can serve on only one commission at a time, with the exception of the Building & Fire-Life Safety Commission.


Q. Are commissioners paid?
A. With the exception of Planning Commissioners, these are unpaid, volunteer positions.  Members of Boards and Commissions may be reimbursed for expenses in the amount of $25.00 per meeting, not to exceed $50.00 per month.

Planning Commissioners receive a meeting stipend of $40.47 per meeting, with a monthly maximum of $100.  Attendance at at least three quarters of the meeting is mandatory to receive payment.  


Q. Do commissions have staff?
A. Each commission has a staff liaison designated to assist with the administrative work of the commission and to serve as the commission’s link with other city staff.


Q. How much time does commission service take?
A. The Planning Commission and several other commissions are time intensive because the meetings are lengthy and preparation for the meetings can take hours; other commissions have shorter meetings, but commissioners may find themselves involved in subcommittee or project work at various times during the year. Best to ask a commissioner! Boards, Commissions and other Appointed Bodies.


Q. Must commissioners make their personal finances public?
A. All public officials, including commissioners, must file annual conflict of interest forms with the City Clerk’s Office as required by State law. Those forms are public records, which are available to the public upon request. Those forms require disclosure of information about income, business and property interests in the community, gifts, and the like. As to income, officials are required to disclose sources but not exact dollar amounts.


Q. Where do commissions meet and how often?
A. Meeting locations vary, but most are either in the City Council Chambers at City Hall or at the Ken Edwards Center. Most commissions meet once a month; Planning Commission and Architectural Review Board meet twice a month. Boards and Commissions Meeting Schedules

Q. Are commissions and commissioners required to follow the state’s open meetings law in doing their work?
A. Yes. The Brown Act requires that all meetings be open to the public, be noticed, and be conducted according to a posted agenda. Also, members of the public must be given an opportunity to attend the meeting and comment on all agenda items and any other aspect of the commission’s work. A quorum of commissioners cannot discuss their work, either as a group or serially, outside the public meeting setting. Complete Brown Act information is available from the City Clerk and the City Attorney.


Q. Do all commissions ever meet together?
A. Annually, in the spring, the City Clerk and a host city department invite all commissioners to a recognition dinner where commissions report to each other and Council on their accomplishments over the past year. The last few years the update has been presented as an entertaining video “starring” commissioners. A new member orientation presented by the City Manager, City Attorney and City Clerk is held prior to the dinner.


Q. How do I apply to become a commissioner and how long is my application active?
A. Applications may be submitted Online, or can be obtained from the City Clerk’s office at City Hall or by calling 458-8211. Applications are active for one year from the date of submittal. After one year, each applicant receives a letter from the City Clerk asking if he or she is still interested in being considered for appointment. If so, an updated application must be submitted.


Q. Where can I get additional information about commission service or where should I refer friends and neighbors if they have questions?
A. The City Clerk and staff in the Records & Election Services Department at City Hall are happy to answer questions about commission service and to refer interested residents to commission staff liaisons or their departments for questions about specific commissions. The City Clerk can be reached at 458-8211, by fax at 394-2962, or via email at


For questions on other city-related matters, please call (310) 458-8411—the City of Santa Monica’s main information number.

Thank you for your interest in serving your community! 

 *The Task Force on the Environment and Urban Forest Task Force are currently active.

  For simplicity, the term “commission” is used in this document, but should be read to include “board.”



Last updated: 2/8/2017
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