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Development Commission updates controversial proposal for city planning



A commission that advises the Sacramento City Council on development issues has updated a controversial proposal to unite the city’s planning and design commissions into one body.

Brian Holloway, a member of the Development Oversight Commission (DOC), said Tuesday that the DOC is proposing a combined planning and design commission with nine members.

Of that nine-member group, four or five members would be design professionals, Holloway said. Representatives of the public would serve in the remaining positions on the commission.

He pointed out that the proposal would join the two commissions, saying the design commission would not be dismantled.

Asked why the commission wants to unite the two commissions, Holloway said: “First of all, there would be significant cost savings in doing that.”

Combining the two commissions would also streamline the current process for the public, according to Holloway. Right now, members of the public ask the design commission to look at land use, which is the planning commission’s role, he said. And residents also ask the planning commission to look at design issues.

Both commissions thought that creating a unified planning and design commission would be a good idea, Holloway said.

The DOC is meeting Wednesday, April 15, at 300 Richards Boulevard in the second floor training room. Members of the public are welcome to attend the meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m.

Holloway said the DOC created its current proposal after listening to public input.

The DOC will probably decide at its April 15 meeting to suggest its current proposal to the city, according to Holloway.

At the April 15 meeting, the DOC will also weigh in on a city development process known as the “early notification process.” In that process, the public is informed in advance of development projects that have been proposed to the city, Holloway explained.

But community members are telling the DOC that the early notification process isn’t working, he said. The DOC is likely going to suggest that the city improve the process, he noted.

The DOC earlier proposed a united design and planning commission with seven members, Holloway said. In that previous plan, two or three people on the commission would have been design professionals, according to Holloway.

The earlier plan had come under fire from the Midtown Neighborhood Association (MNA), which was formerly called the Winn Park/Capitol Avenue Neighborhood Association.

Local historian and MNA member William Burg had claimed in a March 25 post on The Sacramento Press that the DOC had suggested that five members from the development industry sit on a seven-member board. Burg has been raising concerns about the public’s ability to participate in a joined planning and design commission.

The DOC is not comprised of city staffers. It consists of members from the development industry and the general public. The City Council receives suggestions from the DOC.

The public can make suggestions to the DOC by e-mailing DOC@cityofsacramento.org or calling 916-808-5908.


Kathleen Haley is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Press.

 
  • William Burg

    So far, every public meeting regarding this issue has met with a uniform negative response. At the Planning Commission where it was introduced, the Area 1 NAG meeting where planning manager Bill Thomas told the audience he considered the changes a done deal, the Preservation Roundtable and the Oak Park Neighborhood Association meeting, these proposals were met with confusion and universal condemnation. So far, the only people who seem to like them are the DOC and the mayor.

    The proposals as presented so far are vague, unclear, and constantly changing. First, they suggested a seven-member board with five professionals, then a nine-member board. There will be many changes to how projects are handled, and many projects that are currently heard by the Planning or Design Commission will instead be heard by the Planning or Design Director, a paid city staffer, at daytime meetings at the Planning Department offices. These meetings are during business hours, and thus harder for working people to attend than the evening Commission meetings at City Hall. Decisions can be appealed, but an appeal costs $500 or more.

    The early notification process isn’t working because there is no process. Technically, city staff are supposed to encourage developers to contact neighborhood groups and introduce them to upcoming developments, and hear neighborhood concerns. In the real world, this rarely happens, because early notification is not required. Some developers take the time to reach out to neighborhoods, and address concerns, but many just don’t bother at all.

    I am a bit concerned to read this in your article:
    “Both commissions thought that creating a unified planning and design commission would be a good idea, Holloway said.”
    This is nonsense. At the Planning Commission meeting, EVERY Planning Commissioner meeting opposed this idea. Since then, several members of both Planning and Design have attended other public meetings on the subject and voiced their concerns and opposition to this measure. I have not yet heard one single commissioner voice support–or even neutrality. They all think it is a bad idea. So do all of the neighborhood groups who have heard it: not just MNA, but also the Sacramento Old City Association, members of the Boulevard Park and Oak Park board, and others. Unfortunately, neighborhood groups have no political authority at all, so coming under fire by a neighborhood association doesn’t mean much.

  • Panama Bartholomy

    Yes, please check facts before posting Kathleen. Mr Holloway’s statement regarding the support is either misunderstood or just wrong. Also, you should rad the proposal. Particularly the cost savings analysis. It does not stand up to even slight scrutiny.

    • Kathleen,

      Panama is correct. Neither the Planning Commission or the Design Commission is in support of the proposal. It has been discussed by both, but there is little or no support for it. Please clarify that, as it is important information.

      Thanks,

      Brian Holloway

  • Kathleen Haley

    Hi William and Panama,
    Thanks for the feedback. I will continue to cover this issue. William: Can you e-mail me with your daytime phone and e-mail address? My e-mail address is kathleen@sacramentopress.com
    Cheers, Kathleen

  • Casey Kirk

    Great article, Kathleen. You definitely pinpointed the issues that the public needs to be concerned with. What stood out to me the most is the lack of advance notice to community members about development plans. If we aren’t given notice until the plans are put into action how are we supposed to have any kind of influence?

  • William Burg

    Kathleen, the senior Sacramento Press staff all have my contact info.

  • Kathleen Haley

    Thanks, William. I hope to get in touch with you soon.