Community Planning Groups Under Audit

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Commentary

There have been numerous San Diego City Planning Group abuses. Originally intended to give voice to the community some Planning Groups have been hijacked by lobbyist’s intent on using the Planning Group to forward the agenda of their clients. Other Planning Groups delay hearing projects to and/or restrict growth in their communities.

You can review the audit at:  https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/19-013_community_planning_groups.pdf

There is a synopsis on the last three pages.

One issue is that of Unenforceable Recommendations:

Audit Abstract: To ensure that Community Planning Groups (CPGs) do not make unenforceable recommendations, we recommend the following: The Planning Department in conjunction with relevant City departments should provide a more comprehensive training program that includes:

  • A mandatory training segment focused entirely on project development reviews; and
  • Sessions open to both CPG members and the public to increase understanding of the review process and roles and responsibilities.

An example of an unenforceable recommendation would be when members of the University Community Planning Group (UCPG) tried to extort a million dollars from Alexandria, promising to deliver UCPG votes in support of an Alexandria project. They did this in open session, which begs the question of what they are doing in private. The audience cried extortion and the board members and their lobbyist were forced to abandon the strategy, at least in public anyway.

UCPG has many ethic issues, extortion being one and elections another. For the past 10-15 years UCPG has been controlled by a small group of citizens’ intent on not building the Regents Road Bridge. The two thirds of the community that want the bridge built are systematically excluded from board membership. Elections are in the total control of UCPG board members and paid lobbyists. Given there is so much time and effort spent excluding two thirds of the community, the word community should be stricken from the UCPG acronym.

Another questionable election was for the University Plan Update Committee. The city planner had a box with 22 names, on pink folded Post-Its. The planner handed each drawn folded Post-It to the UCPG chair who unfolded the notes behind a stack of papers which totally obscured any audience view. The chair could easily have substituted any name he wanted. He then read from Post-Its which clearly had not been folded before. It was a sleazy way to run an election and flies in the face of the training course I took.

UCPG board members all supported Westfield Malls goal of not building the Regents Road Bridge. The UCPG board, NIMBYs, government workers and lobbyists figured out they could enrich themselves by removing key roads in order to funnel; traffic, customers and therefore money to a wealthy Westfield Mall. Mall lobbyists fanned hate in the community, pitting neighbor against neighbor, thereby keeping the spotlight off themselves. The local UCCA paper, funded by Westfield, still refuses to publish articles analyzing the public safety advantages of the bridge. Westfield Mall paid a half million dollars for an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), to remove the Regents Road Bridge, an EIR that somehow did not consider ambulance service times. With the bridge no longer on the city plan, 35 million dollars in Development Impact Fees must now be refunded to the Mall and other developers. To date only one of Universities 3 main roads has been completed.  According to county statistics not having finished these key roads in University results in 7 citizens not making it alive to the emergency room each year, but why would a foreign owned mall like Westfield care about that?  Several times I have requested ambulance and FRS-56 statistics from the city, no response, are there more than 7 deaths per year?

Since the UCPG membership systematically excludes certain residents the current board should be disbanded. The UCPG community boundaries should be further partitioned to allow members from all of UC. It’s been ten years since someone from the east has been on the UCPG board.

In contrast to UCPG, the Clairemont Community Planning Group (CCPG) is always looking for new members and unlike UCPG the Clairemont group consistently issues informative minutes and they do not obscure important community business with undocumented Ad-Hoc meetings.

There is some debate as to what a Planning Group is supposed to be:

Audit Abstract: The City of San Diego (Management) acknowledges the Office of the City Auditor Performance Audit of Community Planning Groups (Audit). Management has a fundamental disagreement with the basis of the Auditor’s recommendations that Community Planning Groups (CPGs) are “Service Organizations” and as such, the City delegates certain responsibilities to them. CPGs are independent self-governing organizations which are voluntarily created and maintained by members of communities to provide a forum for members of the public to make land use recommendations to the City. While Management is in disagreement as to the basis in which the Auditors arrived at their conclusions, Management is in agreement that City Council Policy 600-24 should be amended to address each of the recommendations in the Audit.

So CPG’s are independent self-governing organizations. I guess like AA or maybe a Newspaper? So they make their own rules and may exclude specific groups. But how could the city then accept them as a voice of the entire community? Confused? Well, welcome to the club. There have been other complaints: 2017/2018 San Diego County Grand Jury, link:

https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/dam/sdc/grandjury/reports/2017-2018/SanDiegoCommunityPlanningGroups.pdf

The goal is that by December 2019 City Management will develop a proposal for City Council to consider revisions to City Council Policy 600-24 and the Administrative Guidelines. A strong promise, but one that will be tempered by a record of Planning Group activities that could bring considerable liabilities.

Louis Rodolico has been a resident of University City since 2001 and is a candidate for District 1 City Council        louisrodolico.com

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