County task force targets community planning groups
By Eddie Brisendine
San Diego County Board of Supervisors postponed discussion of possible changes to community planning groups (CPGs) until Feb. 29, at the request of District 2 Supervisor Dianne Jacob.
The supervisors heard recommendations from a Red Tape Reduction Task Force during a recent meeting.
The supervisors formed the task force in April to examine the land development permitting process through the county departments of Public Works and Planning and Land Use and to identify opportunities for operational improvements that will result in efficiency in the permitting process.
The task force was comprised of seven board-appointed members of the public with various experiences in land use or land development.
“I would prefer having a more lengthy discussion in 60 days, primarily because I’d like to make sure that all of the CPGs are notified of the particular recommendations by the task force and have an opportunity to review it and to provide some input to the board,” said Jacob. “I’d also like to have an opportunity to meet with all the CPGs in the second district, which I do from time to time, to discuss this…They have been an integral part of the land use project.”
In its report, the task force provided 21 unanimous recommendations, dealing with customer service, organization, staff training and environmental issues. The one recommendation that was not unanimous was the issue of community planning groups.
The report stated that “over time, the actions of some CPG members have evolved from acting in an advisory role to the county into one of direct negotiation with the project applicants, direct requests for technical studies from project applicants or even requests for project amenities that may be beyond the required nexus for a particular project.
In other cases, CPGs often make a series of direct requests to applicants (over several meetings) for changes to a project. Each of the requested changes may then need to be presented at successive CPG meetings, which are frequently 30 days apart.
The result of this can be significant delays to the project processing schedule.”
The report offered a choice of two recommendations:
A. Remove community planning groups from the county’s “umbrella” and rescind Board Policy I-1, along with the following:
•Require discretionary permit applicants to prepare a public participation plan (PPP) to inform residents of the community of the proposed project. The PPP shall be required for tentative parcel maps, tentative maps, multiple use permits, rezones, specific plans, general plan amendments or other similar permit types. The PPP shall include one publicly noticed community meeting to be held in the community.
B. Leave the community planning groups under the county’s “umbrella” with the following changes:
•Limit the scope of their review to the preparation and amendment of the general plan, the community plan and the PPP.
•Staff each community planning group with a senior land planner and county counsel.
•Institute term limits on community planning group members to a maximum of two two-year terms within a 10-year period.
•Limit the number of planning group members to seven per group.
•Revise board policy I-1 to reflect the changes herein.
•Revise fee ordinance to clarify that the community planning groups no longer receive free appeals to the board of supervisors.
•Require discretionary permit applicants to prepare a PPP with one publicly noticed community meeting to be held.
At the conclusion of the report, it became apparent that the talk of community planning groups was the sticking issue for both the public in attendance and the supervisors.
Jacob was concerned that a few of the county’s planning groups may be the driving force for this action by overstepping their bounds and she wanted to know whether the task force had clearly defined where the problems were.
“We need to know what it is, where it is, and who it is that is causing these problems,” Jacob said.
She was also concerned about the public awareness and asked Megan Brown of the task force what means of notice was provided to the public.
Brown replied that agendas were posted at the south end of the county building and on the back door of the supervisors’ meeting room. The agenda was also posted on the clerk of the board’s website, as well as in Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Horn’s newsletter.
While no representatives from the Ramona Community Planning Group spoke, members of several other planning groups addressed the board with their concerns about the CPG recommendations. After discussion by the public and the supervisors, a motion was made to set aside the CPG recommendation for separate discussion and to accept several other recommendations made by the task force and implement them immediately.
Horn noted that the CPG issue had become a serious legal problem and needed to be dealt with immediately.
Jacob disagreed, saying she would prefer having a more lengthy discussion and allow planning groups time to give input.
In her examples of good CPG involvement, Jacob mentioned a Ramona project.
“One recent project was Montecito, in Ramona, that was supported by the Ramona planning group and worked its way through the project. It was not an easy project but that was not because of the planning group, at least from the input that I receieved.”
The supervisors uanimously agreed to bring the CPG issue back for discussion at their Feb. 29 meeting. Meetings begin at 9 a.m. and are held on the third floor of the county administration center, 1600 Pacific Highway in San Diego.
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