This article was forwarded to me by Panama Bartholomy, a neighborhood activist. If you have a chance, come to City Hall tonight (915 I Street, New City Hall council chambers, 5:30 PM) and tell the Planning Commission that you don't want the city to shut its citizens out of the planning and design process.
On Thursday the Sacramento Planning Commission will have a public hearing on a proposal (http://www.cityofsacramento.org/dsd/meetings/commissions/planning/2008/documents/DOC_letter.PDF) by the Development Oversight Commission (DOC), a City-appointed group comprised almost entirely of real estate developers, architects, and business consultants, to eliminate the City's Design Review Commission and change the development approval process in the City so that City staff will make most planning and design decisions administratively, leaving no opportunity for public input.
The reasons you and members of your association should come to the hearing at City Hall on Thursday February 12th at 5:30pm to testify against this proposal:
1. This attempt to reduce citizen and citizen-commission input and oversight of development in our community has undergone no public vetting from community groups that will be affected by such a fundamental shift in our City's development.
The proposal was developed and sent directly to the Mayor with no input from the Planning or Design Review Commissions. More importantly, the proposed ordinance was not brought to any neighborhood association or other community-based organization that normally comments on development in their communities.
This is not the kind of transparency and open government practices that should be an essential part of such a fundamental change in our community's development approval process.
2. The proposal will greatly reduce opportunities for Community input
The proposal will eliminate the City's Design Review Commission and fold its responsibilities into the Planning Commission and shift “…the majority of decisions to the staff level..”. The movement of “…the majority of decisions to staff level…” will likely reduce community involvement from the development review process. Communities have a right to be able to comment on projects that will be built in their neighborhood.
Even after moving most decisions to the staff level, by eliminating the Design Review Commission the public loses one of the two opportunities they have left to comment on development projects proposed in their neighborhood. The recommendation would squeeze all public input on a project into one meeting where every issue with design or planning will have to be settled. This will almost certainly create the types of extremely long meetings that discourage public involvement and will force complex decisions that have long-term impacts on communities into unreasonably short decision-making time frames.
Reducing opportunities for citizens to be involved in projects in their neighborhoods decreases transparency, will cause more projects to be appealed to the City Council and will increase the likelihood of lawsuits to block projects. This will decrease the effectiveness of the development review process.
Please come to the Planning Commission hearing and comment on this item and let the City know that you think the public should have a role in development decisions in our City. Please distribute this email to other residents who would come to testify in support of preserving the role of the citizen in our city's development.
The recommendation can be found here: (http://www.cityofsacramento.org/dsd/meetings/commissions/planning/2008/documents/DOC_letter.PDF) and the meeting is at the New City Hall, 915 I Street, 1st Floor- Council Chambers, February 12, 2009 at 5:30 P.M.