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Costa Mesa City to Allow Non-Citizens on Planning Commission

The Costa Mesa City Council voted to permit non-U.S. citizens to serve on the city’s planning commission.

Last July, the Costa Mesa City Council decided in a 5-2 vote to remove not only the district requirement to serve on the city’s Planning Commission, but also the citizenship requirement. Prior to this, planning commissioners, who are responsible for coordinating local plans relating to new projects, programs, and construction in the city, were required to be from the various city districts and be United States citizens.

Mayor Pro Tem Andrea Marr stated she was “offended” by the citizenship requirement and voted to remove the requirement along with Councilmembers Arils Reynolds, Loren Gameros, Jeffrey Harlan, and Manuel Chavez. Councilmember Don Harper and Mayor John Stephens opposed the measure.

The measure removed the citizenship requirement as well as the requirement that commissioners live in a particular district; however, commissioners still must be Costa Mesa residents. The district requirement that was removed had the intent of making sure residents have fair representation in their respective neighborhoods, but some have voiced concerns that one should be a citizen of the United States in order to wield such decision making power that can affect cities, such as being on Costa Mesa’s planning commission.

Last year, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors voted to remove the citizenship requirement for many county government jobs. There are an estimated two million non-citizens reportedly living in California, according to a 2014 count. That number has likely increased since then. Additionally, last year, policy makers in Washington, D.C., Illinois, and New York City considered passing measures that would give non-citizens the right to vote in local elections, such as school boards, supervisors, or city councils.

However, a 2018 poll conducted by The Hill showed that a majority of both Republicans and Democrats oppose measures giving non-citizens the right to vote.

Just as some cities have voted to give non-citizens the chance to vote or serve in city positions, some have gone in the opposite direction and explicitly banned those without U.S. citizenship from voting or running for local electorship.

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