Is the OB Planning Board Abusing Its ‘Consent Agenda’?

by on February 1, 2021 · 8 comments

in Ocean Beach

The OB Planning Board continues its monthly meetings via Cisco WebEx this Wednesday, Feb. 3, at 6 pm.

There’s a number of issues and projects on the agenda, but because most are under the controversial “consent agenda” (4 of 6) there’s only 2 so-called “action items”. Items on the consent agenda do not need to be discussed or detailed and there’s usually just a vote by the full Board. Any board member or member of the audience, however, in this process can request to have any consent item “pulled” from the consent agenda and placed on the “regular” agenda.

So, for example, there’s a project at 5064 Lotus Street – but because it’s on the consent agenda, there are no details to the project on the agenda; usually there is some description of the project. Okay, the subcommittee, the Project Review Committee, voted 8 to 0 to recommend approval to the full Board. But the full Board at least needs to bring it up for some level of discussion.

In addition, there’s at least one issue deserving of discussion embedded in the consent agenda, called “Froude St. Traffic Calming.” There’s a push by some in the community for a 4-way stop at Froude and at either Brighton or Saratoga – but others oppose it. Why place an item such as this in the consent agenda when the public expects – or needs – a full discussion and visible public input?

Now, item 1 on the consent agenda may very well deserve to be there. But the others?

This seems to be “consent agenda abuse” – abuse of a procedure that is supposed to make meetings more efficient and time-saving.

But why place most of the agenda with real issues on the consent agenda? It does not make sense – and perhaps we all need some educating on why it’s necessary to use this procedure now – during the pandemic – when it appears different levels of government are using the COVID limitations as a cover to carry out policies without adequate public input. (We’re not accusing the OBPB of this.)

Since the OB Planning Board was first established in 1976 – 45 years ago – the Board did not use the consent agenda process – until last year. For the first time. And now, it seems to be overly-used and an abuse of the whole idea. We beseech the Board to reconsider this trend.

Here’s the official agenda:

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Avatar Geoff Page February 1, 2021 at 11:21 am

I could not agree more. The public deserves to know what the Lotus Street project entails. Before the board recommends any traffic calming measures, they need to explain to the public in detail, why they are taking this action. These kinds of recommendations affect a lot of people and should not be consent agenda items. On top of that, Froude is half in OB and half in the Peninsula planning area. What coordination has been done on this? Consent agendas are meant for VERY busy public bodies and OB is not one of those. Since the advent of Zoom meetings, OB is no longer constrained by the amount of time they can have the Rec Center so what is the problem?

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Avatar Paul Webb February 1, 2021 at 1:29 pm

In addition, I’d like to point out that the Froude Street stop sign project scored very low on the City’s evaluation for the stop signs, low enough that there would ordinarily not be implemented.

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Avatar kh February 1, 2021 at 3:19 pm

Anyone attending a meeting can speak up and pull the item off the consent agenda for full discussion and deliberation. Consent agenda is only available to items that have received unanimous approval at a noticed subcommittee meeting.

The documents relating to the Lotus St project are also available on the OBPB website at oceanbeachplanning.org under the 1/20/21 Project Review Committee agenda. And they should be updated under the Feb agenda link shortly.

More public participation is always encouraged, especially at subcommittee meetings where there is more time to discuss these items in detail.

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Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie February 2, 2021 at 11:23 am

kh – thanks for the clarification. I’m hoping my young friends on the OBPB took this as friendly advice from an old grump.

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Avatar Geoff Page February 2, 2021 at 12:48 pm

You’re not only an old grump but you’re getting soft in your old age. Your point in this story is well taken, stick to it. If people pay any attention to anything, it is when the full board meetings are held. Planning boards are not so busy that they need this device.

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Avatar kh February 2, 2021 at 3:57 pm

Tell that to my wife trying to put 2 screaming children to bed when the meetings go late.

Hopefully the consent agenda this month gives us more time to discuss vacation rental policy before it goes to city Council in a few weeks.

If anyone feels the consent agenda is stifling public input then perhaps we can do more to inform the public that they are welcome to still request it be a discussion item. But if members of the public choose not to participate, what is accomplished by repeating it the board again? It’s very disappointing when members of the public don’t take the time to attend, even from their couch. One neighbor did comment during the project review committee, in favor of the project.

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Avatar Geoff Page February 2, 2021 at 5:24 pm

I hear you, kh. I have always said that I appreciate younger people who take the time to volunteer like you do. I was not doing that at your age. I think if you put a blurb on the agenda that briefly explains a consent item can still be discussed, that would help.

As for repeating it again during the full board meeting…The PCPB Project Review subcommittee briefly reports on each project they reviewed at the full meeting. They describe the project, any concerns, and then relate what their vote was. Oftentimes, there is little or no discussion but it gives the public a second chance in case they missed the PR meeting.

And, yes, it is disappointing to see the lack of public participation most of the time. But, that usually means, usually, that there is no controversy about a subject. If there is, they will show up, I know you’ve seen this.

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Avatar Geoff Page February 1, 2021 at 3:59 pm

I just read the minutes for the OB Transportation subcommittee and saw their reasoning for picking Brighton and Saratoga. The thought was “that having stops closer to the schools/church (safe routes to schools) and in line with the bicycle blvd. would be much more effective and needed.” The minutes indicated that board chair Andrea Schlageter and Nicole Burgess made these two suggestions.

I knew I’d see Burgess’s name because I recognized the language “safe routes to schools.” This is euphemism for cycling interests. I have no idea what “the bicycle blvd.” means. Froude is not a bicycle blvd. There is no designated “safe route to schools,” it is applied everywhere. Too many of these traffic moderations are coming from the cycling community and Burgess in particular, who does not drive at all.

I do not find any need to consider the proximity of churches as a consideration for this kind of thing. So what about schools? The nearest one is OB Elementary. There are already four-way stop signs at Newport and Froude and Newport and Ebers leading to the school. There is another at Ebers and Santa Monica. No, it’s not about schools either.

We all need to pay attention, the cycling community is quietly going about altering traffic in ways that they think are best. Some changes may be but these two and the lighted crosswalk at Froude and Voltaire are not.

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