Circulate San Diego Exposes Itself: ‘Gut Local Planning Boards as They Only Represent White Male Property Owners’

by on February 8, 2022 · 57 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

By Geoff Page

Four organizations that want to see the community planning group system drastically reformed, gutted actually, held a public forum February 4 titled “What’s Next for CPGs & CPG Reform.” The word “reform” can be very ambiguous, one person’s idea of “reform” is, to another person, an assassination.

Circulate San Diego held the event together with the Downtown San Diego Partnership, the San Diego County Bike Coalition, and the San Diego County Regional Chamber of Commerce. According to the flyer, it was made possible with support from San Diego Gas & Electric.

All of them have one theme in common, they want to build, build, build and they think the planning groups are standing in the way of their future. But, they don’t say it that way.

Here is the meeting description:

Are you interested in helping your community thrive? Curious about Community Planning Group reform efforts? Learn about Community Planning Groups (CPGs) in the City of San Diego with panelists who will share the ins and outs of community planning and how you can connect virtually with your CPG. We will also give an overview of what the current reform package contains and why it’s needed.

Topics to be addressed include:

What do CPGs do?
What are they doing during physical distancing?
How can I participate?
What is CPG reform? Why is it needed?

Three planning board “panelists” participated in the meeting. The choice of panelists said a great deal about how unbalanced this meeting was.

The first panelist was Dike Anyiwo, a member of the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group. He has barely three years of planning board experience. And, his experience is on an unusual planning board that represents an area that is not really a community but rather a collection of businesses and commercial property owners.

The second panelist was Marissa Tucker-Borquez, a member of the North Park Planning Committee. She has barely a year and a half of experience on her planning board. She has only been a San Diego resident for five years, a Bay Area transplant. She is the president of “YIMBY Democrats of San Diego County” and she founded Rise North Park.

The third panelist was Gail Friedt, a member of the Uptown Planners group. She has barely three years of planning board experience also.

One has to wonder why they did not seek out people with much deeper experience on planning boards. There are many out there. Additionally, the experiences of these three people have been during the unusual COVID pandemic. Planning boards have been operating much differently than they did before the outbreak.

The three panelists provided some background information about planning boards in general before the moderator began asking questions. The first one asked the panelists what positive impact they have had while on a planning board.

Anyiwo went first and he cited the Measure E campaign to lower the 30-foot height limit in the Midway area. He was very involved, along with the Midway group chair, Cathy Kenton, working with a funded campaign to get the measure passed.

This was an odd choice because this was not a positive impact the Midway group effected. This resulted in the outcome they wanted thanks to a great deal of outside money and help from people who are slathering to develop the area.

Anyiwo is a Riverside transplant who does not have deep experience in San Diego history. He has been a vocal critic of the 30-foot height limit and denigrated the original Prop C as a “Loosely worded ballot measure.”  He has repeated the Midway mantra that the people who got Prop C passed did a sloppy job by “arbitrarily” including Midway in the Prop C area.

It’s not enough, apparently, to just be opposed to something, it is also necessary to belittle the amazing effort people made in the past to get Prop C on the ballot.

Friedt said the positive impact she could recount was her group changing its by-laws and changing outreach to things like Facebook and Twitter.  Basically, her positive impact was all organizational for the planning board itself.

Tucker-Borquez did not really have a specific positive impact to describe and instead talked generally about the positive impacts a board can have. She could be forgiven because she has so little time actually on a board.

The moderator asked what the value of planning boards was and all three gave non-descript, basic answers. Tucker-Borquez mentioned advocating for affordable housing.

Then the discussion turned to the reforms being spearheaded by District 1 council member Joe Lacava. The moderator first asked for comments from the panelists about planning group problems.

Anyiwo brought up the city attorney’s opinion that the planning boards are illegal now because they do not comply with the city charter that sees them as independent entities. He mentioned the variety of by-laws that varied from group to group as a problem but it was not clear why it was a problem.

Anyiwo, then articulated the main theme of the meeting that was repeated over and over. He said the boards need to reflect the community better because they now tend to skew to older, more established people.

Tucker-Borquez continued this theme recounting that North Park is 70% renters but the board did not have many, if any renters on it. She said the board consisted of white, older homeowners. She said more diversity is needed.

Like a chorus, Friedt continued with the same them saying that her group was mostly male white older homeowners and there were few business representatives on the board.

To recap, Anyiwo said older people, Tucker-Borquez added white to the description, and Friedt contributed male to the composite description of old, white, men, which, today, is a death sentence in society.

Anyiwo and Tucker-Borquez are in their 30s, Friedt said she was 59 and she was one of the younger members on her board.

The moderator was Jesse O’Sullivan, the in-house counsel for Circulate San Diego, a newly minted attorney having been admitted to the bar in December 2019. He explained that a representative from Lacava’s office was supposed to attend and describe the proposed changes but was unable to make the meeting.

O’Sullivan provided a brief synopsis and first mentioned the grand jury and city auditor reports that were critical of the community planning groups.

Addressing the issue of representation on planning boards, O’Sullivan made an unexpectedly objective comment. He said that anecdotally we have information that says the groups are not representative but no actual data exists to support that contention.

O’Sullivan laid out the three options to resolve the legal issues brought up by the city attorney’s office. Elliott’s decision can be seen here

The first option would be to have the mayor appoint all planning board members. O’Sullivan stated that would be in line with the city charter. He pointed out the impracticality of that option considering that there are hundreds of people serving on the city’s planning boards.

The second option was a city charter amendment. O’Sullivan said this would be a long, complicated process that would disrupt current operations. He mentioned complications with making these planning board seats official elected positions involving all the requirements of anyone running for public office.

The third option – make groups more independent of the city – is the one Circulate San Diego and its partners would like to see.  No matter how you word it, option three guts the planning boards.

But, they don’t say that.

By making them independent, the planning board’s official powers would be removed. The only real “powers” the boards have now is their participation in the planning process reviewing projects and land use decisions. By doing this, what these people really feel is a stumbling block, the CPGs can be by-passed.

In an attempt to soften this deathblow, the reform proponents say the city would still recognize groups in the communities and they would “remain an important part of planning process.” The planning department would allegedly “outreach” to the groups as “important community voices.”

Bullshit. The city hates dealing with planning groups now, and if the groups are no longer a required part of the planning process, officially, the community will not see their dust. This was an attempt to sugarcoat reality. Any of the other reform measures will mean nothing if this happens.

The panelists were asked their opinions of the reforms. Anyiwo said the reforms are great and that “we all need to be on the same page playing by the same rules.” When you consider the diversity in planning groups across this city, the idea of the same page and the same rules seems a bit rigid.

Friedt said the reforms are all really helpful.

Tucker-Borquez said Joe Lacava’s reforms are critical. The only way the word “critical” could be applied to these reforms would be if it referred to defanging the planning boards – as fast as possible.

Before taking audience questions, O’Sullivan ran a poll at the meeting to see what the attendees thought of the reforms. The result was 61% for, 8% against, 32% needed more information.

Because very little information was offered during this meeting about the reform details, the poll results appeared to reflect previously held opinions. The low number of those against reflected a lack of participation by those who oppose the changes. It was telling that one third of the attendees supported the lack of usable information by being unable to make a decision based on what was provided.

The question of term limits for planning board seats came up. The Midway and Peninsula planning groups allow people to hold three, three-year terms before they term out. They may run again after one year off.

Some critics point to people who have been on planning boards for years and coming back again as some sort of conspiracy by white, older, male board members.

Friedt  and Anyiwo had different opinions on this one. Friedt believed one year of was not long enough, Anyiwo said he was okay with the one year. He pointed out how hard it can be to find people to run for board seats. The Midway group has been chronically short of full membership for years.

Another audience question was how to get renters to join groups. During the discussion about the current groups not being representative of their communities, the lack of renters came up several times. This was ironic because both Anyiwo and Tucker-Borquez are renters and Friedt was a renter when she joined her planning board.

Tucker-Borquez said renters have families and multiple jobs. She suggested making meeting times more reasonable. She actually said, “Maybe you have fast food workers who work the odd hours.”

It is hard to know where to start with such a statement. Homeowners have families too. This statement that renters must have multiple jobs is becoming a familiar refrain but so far is unsupported. “Fast food workers?” Just have to leave that one alone.

Friedt said, “Lower the barrier to power.” For example, change the requirement to attend a meeting in order to run for a seat. Not sure what other “barriers” to power there are. Why would anyone run for a position on a group when they have never attended a meeting? Makes no sense.

The panelists were asked what their biggest challenge was serving on a board. Anyiwo went first and his comment was a perfect testament to those who believe they are the smart ones and they do not like opposing views. Anyiwo is the poster child. He answered:

“I think for me ignorance, there are a lot of people out there. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion but frankly some of the most difficult conversations are sometimes the best ones to have so when people come with a thoughtfully articulated nuanced position I’m here for that but when people come with these sort of blanket statements, I don’t want to get into specifics but I call it ignorance and logical fallacies that they bring to these conversations it becomes very difficult to justify spending your time as an individual away from your families or away from your friends to attend this event when you have to deal with people who are not tethered to the same plane of reality. But, that’s just me.”

In other words, we should not have to listen to opposing points of view, it is a waste of our time. What Anyiwo fails to recognize is that community planning groups are intended to be public forums where anyone can express an opinion. And, whether they agree or not, board members have to sit and listen.

Anyiwo demonstrated this attitude after this writer sent a letter to the Peninsula Community Planning Board opposing a transportation-related position the board was considering during the November 2021 monthly meeting. Anyiwo attended as Midway’s liaison but that didn’t stop him from commenting as follows:

“What I find ironic about this process is this letter by this person. I don’t understand why we are reading out those kinds those types of comments that are not contributing anything to the conversation.  We’re giving a platform to nonsense. I guess this individual is part of the community I don’t see what was productive of putting out those thoughts.”

Circulate San Diego’s planning board panelist clearly does not understand what these groups are for.

A final audience question was about how much time the panelists devote to planning board work. No one gave an estimate of hours other than to mention the regular monthly meeting and subcommittee meetings. What was another good illustration of the thought out there that there is a vast conspiracy to keep certain people off planning boards, was Tucker-Borquez’s answer.

She did not answer the question at all but went off on the requirement that a candidate running for a board seat needs to attend at least one meeting. She actually said that “this was a way to keep people from getting involved.”

Planning boards meet once a month for 10 to 12 months of the year. Some do not have a meeting in the summer or December. How this somehow keeps people from getting involved, by requiring attendance at one meeting is a mystery.

But, it further fleshes out this story that the reason the planning boards are made up of who they are made up of is because of a concerted effort on the part of hundreds of conniving, scheming old, white, male homeowners.

Councilmember LaCava’s website contains a draft of the proposed changes

Here is Circulate San Diego’s website

{ 57 comments… read them below or add one }

Vern February 8, 2022 at 12:10 pm

Thank you, Geoff.


Paul Webb February 8, 2022 at 12:42 pm

I think it is important to note that Dike is not just a member of the Midway planning board, but is also a “Public Policy Advisor” for the San Diego County Regional Chamber of Commerce, which was one of the organizers of the event. I think it is fair to question whether he was there representing the community or the business interests in the San Diego region. I’m guessing he would say that the two roles are not mutually exclusive, but if I were a member of the Midway community, I’d have to wonder where his professional responsibilities and his responsibility to the community correspond, where they conflict and how he deals with the conflict.

As I have noted previously, he is an alum of Tony Manolatos’ public relations firm. That firm’s clients include Sempra, Gafcon (a major developer in San Diego) and several housing projects that have been successfully opposed as “urban sprawl” by the Sierra Club and other environmental groups. Not saying that he is disqualified from participating on a planning board because of his professional affiliations, but I have to wonder whose interests he represents.

Full disclosure: When I was first elected to the PCPB, there were several people who questioned my loyalty to the community based on my previous employment with the Airport Authority. There are some who probably still do. I think that some skepticism of my former employment as a possible conflict of interest is justified and not necessarily unfair to me.


Geoff Page February 8, 2022 at 1:02 pm

Thanks, Paul, for coloring in some more about Anyiwo. I did not want to pile on too much, however justified, but your questions about him are valid. I see a very aggressive, ambitious up-and-comer, who consistently aligns himself with the powers that be in this city. He is in an ideal spot to raise his star with the coming development in the area. There is nothing wrong with aggression and ambition, but when it morphs into arrogance it becomes a problem.

Incidentally, when I first went for a seat on the PCPB, people questioned my loyalties as well. I’ve spent my whole career in the building industry and some worried I was there for the developers. I also thought that was a valid question to ask me and did not take any offense. It demonstrates the fallacy of judging a person based on a label like “old” or “white” or even “male.”


kh February 9, 2022 at 8:10 pm

Wait… So Mr. Anyiwo lambasted public participants for their ignorance and blanket statements and then immediately followed it with “I don’t want to get into specifics but they’re ignorant.” Hahahahahahaaaaaaa

These are the people being quizzed about why outreach and participation is inadequate?


Douglas Porter February 8, 2022 at 12:49 pm

How can you read the phrase “old, white, men, which, today, is a death sentence in society” and not think there’s racism going on here? Really?


Geoff Page February 8, 2022 at 12:52 pm

Not sure I grasped your point, Doug. Can you clarify?


Douglas Porter February 8, 2022 at 2:47 pm

The portrayal of whiteness as some sort of victimhood is a foundational part of the ideology of supremacists in the US., as has been documented in study after study. Here’s one academic paper for you: OR here’s an account of how Trump uses this topic to manipulate people in his rallies.


Geoff Page February 8, 2022 at 3:31 pm

Well, I have to say that I really do not appreciate being compared to white supremacists and trump. You went off the deep end on that comment. If you have read anything I’ve written here in The Rag, you would know better than to make such an accusation.

The comment was tongue-in-cheek, apparently you lack a sense of humor.


Douglas Porter February 8, 2022 at 4:12 pm

I did NOT call you a racist. I said there was racism involved in the statement. I cited two authoritative sources to make my point. I’m guessing made a mistake or weren’t intentional in saying what you said. Regardless, the fact remains that white victimhood is a tool used by racists to build their movement.
So if you want to make this into an attack on YOU, so be it.
And yes, I read the Rag everyday, was involved in publishing the original when it was in print, wrote for the other version for a bunch (?) of years.


Geoff Page February 8, 2022 at 4:25 pm

Yea, you kind of did do that, if there was racism in a statement I wrote, then I’m a racist.

This was not “white victimhood,” I am already aware of how that is used today. By writing your comment, you associated me with that group and you were way off track. Like I said, it was tongue-in-cheek but you didn’t get that.

And yes, I know your history with The Rag. You did not address what I said, have you read any of what I have written in The Rag?


Douglas Porter February 8, 2022 at 4:40 pm

I said I read the Rag everyday. By default that means I’ve read your articles. End///


Geoff Page February 8, 2022 at 4:45 pm

If you said you read “all” of The Rag every day, then maybe that statement would be true.


Lurker February 8, 2022 at 8:36 pm

He just does not get it sometimes


kh February 11, 2022 at 10:13 am

Douglas you’re correct there is racism in that statement. I believe that was Geoff’s entire point, that the entire community group system is being discredited/dismantled based in part on assumptions about skin color (or age or gender), rather than sticking to the substance of what they actually do. And I say assumptions because the grand jury report even admitted there was no tangible data to support it, not have they demonstrated any effort by planning groups to exclude people of color or other demographics.

That white supremecists may justify their cause because of reverse-discrimination isn’t relevant. I heard they like driving pickup trucks too, does that imply Geoff is racist if he drives a pickup?


Geoff Page February 11, 2022 at 11:54 am

Maybe so, kh, I’ve driven a pickup truck my whole adult life.

I liked this sentence:

“And I say assumptions because the grand jury report even admitted there was no tangible data to support it, not have they demonstrated any effort by planning groups to exclude people of color or other demographics.”

I keep asking these people to show what evidence they have of a conspiracy of any kind to exclude anyone for any reason. I’m pretty familiar with the three local planning boards and that is not evident at all.


kh February 11, 2022 at 1:31 pm

Strange, it’s almost as if nobody likes being stereotyped based on their skin color, or gender, or age.

Not minorities or indigenous people, not white male boomers, not white supremecists, and not progressives. Progressives of all people, should at least know better than to dabble in that sort of language.

Andrew February 8, 2022 at 1:03 pm

Lots of xenophobia and nativism. As a future old, white man, I have to say…woof.


Bearded OBcean February 8, 2022 at 3:28 pm

So Geoff is casually being called a racist and white supremacist? Really? He writes a 2500-word breakdown and that’s the takeaway? Weak.


Geoff Page February 8, 2022 at 3:33 pm

Thank you, Bearded, I am of the same thought, this was what he focused on in this long piece? Seems ridiculously touchy.


Gail Friedt February 8, 2022 at 3:49 pm

Interesting play but play. Geoff, you are the one who inserted commentary. I stated a fact only. Why don’t you take a poll of every CPG or attend every CPG meeting and then tell me my demographics are wrong instead of pulling the whiteness as victim card.
And 3 years of experience is pretty darn good in my book. I’m proud of what I have contributed to my community. Being on the CPG is just one of the many things I do. If only I had more time. Maybe when I retire I can publish my own newspaper.


Kathryn Burton February 8, 2022 at 3:54 pm

Thank you for this article which tells the truth behind the gutting of the planning boards.


Gail Friedt February 8, 2022 at 4:05 pm
Frank Gormlie February 8, 2022 at 4:20 pm

Yeah, Gail, that VoSD article has many problems. It stated without a clue of what they actually do: “Circulate San Diego, a transit advocacy organization, argued the groups are undemocratic, create barriers to participation and amplify the voices of older people who already own a home, contributing to the region’s housing crisis.” So, CirculateSD has been pushing this narrative for a few years now. Sure, planning boards have problems, but CSD wants to throw the baby out with the bathtub.

The OB Rag has shown many times how CSD is a handmaiden to the developer class and uses its “unscientific” critique of planning groups to push what developers and the city planners have wanted for years: a weak and weakened and gutted citizen review of planned developments and projects.


Geoff Page February 8, 2022 at 4:37 pm

So, have you ever wondered why the boards look like this? Do you really believe there are conspiracies all across the city to create this situation? What’s the solution? You’ve been there for three years, is the only solution gutting the community planning board system?


Gail Friedt February 8, 2022 at 5:06 pm

Here are some thoughts:
– meeting times are inconvenient.
– there is insufficient outreach by many CPG’s. Not utilizing social media.
– meetings run to long, especially for those with children.
– too many varying bylaws amongst CPG’s. Lack of standardization.
– bylaws that allow for appointees


Geoff Page February 8, 2022 at 5:21 pm

“meeting times are inconvenient” What do you propose to solve this problem? When should meetings be held?

“there is insufficient outreach by many CPG’s. Not utilizing social media.” – What facts do you have to support this statement? I know the PCPB and the OBPB have websites and use Facebook and Nextdoor.

“meetings run to long, especially for those with children.” What is your solution to this? Projects need to be heard, informational items are important. Where would you cut the time?

“too many varying bylaws amongst CPG’s. Lack of standardization.” Why does this matter? What is this criticism getting at? These communities are all very different why this need for “standardization?

“bylaws that allow for appointees.” So what is the solution to this, just have boards operate with a reduced membership until the next election?


Gail Friedt February 8, 2022 at 5:35 pm

I meant “too long” that was a typo.
I don’t have all the answers but I’m happy Joe La Cava has some solutions.
Standardization is important- some required attendance at a meeting to vote. Some required attendance at 3 meetings to run, some required no attendance. It has nothing to do with the community.

What about Twitter? IG? TikTok? There’s so much more than FB and Nextdoor.

I’m taking my lack of humor and signing off.


Geoff Page February 8, 2022 at 9:09 pm

Well, you really didn’t answer the questions. You say you’re glad Lacava has some solutions? So, what is his solution to the meetings being too long?

Why is standardization important? Why can’t each community handle things in its own unique way as long as they adhere to the basics of 600-24? It has everything to do with the community. That’s why planning groups are so important, they reflect the community and give people in that unique community a voice.

The law requires posting the meeting notices 72 hours in advance at the place where the groups meet. When I was chair, we also placed an ad in the local paper.

Twitter? IG? TikTok? How would Twitter reach the people within the planning board boundaries? I’m not aware of using Instagram to advertise meetings. And, TikTok seems an odd choice. Do you have examples of these three being used to advertisement a planning board meeting?

Signing off. This is the usual response when a commenter is questioned and can’t back up what they say or just don’t want to hear any more because it is uncomfortable.


Gail Laurie Friedt February 9, 2022 at 9:21 am

I’m addressing your social media question. Check out Uptown Planners as they post meetings on IG and twitter.
And no, I don’t feel uncomfortable AND, I can back up what I have to say. But, at this point in my life, I chose not to engage with a bunch of mansplainers. You have a wonderful life.


Geoff Page February 9, 2022 at 11:18 am

Ah! There it is again “mansplainers” the ultimate write-off of all male opinions you don’t agree with. You seem too intelligent to stoop to that one. Perhaps I misjudged you.


Geoff Page February 9, 2022 at 11:24 am

Ok, I looked at their website. How do I find them on Twitter and Instagram?


kh February 11, 2022 at 10:24 am

I agree, meeting times are often inconvenient. The meetings often interfere with putting my kids to bed and always take away from family time. But I do it anyways. I’m not quite sure why, as it seems mostly futile thanks to efforts from Circulate SD and Scott Sherman. Perhaps if planning groups were given serious consideration, more would be motivated to sacrifice their personal time to volunteer. What’s your suggestion for alternative times? During the work day when only paid lobbyists and the unemployed have time to participate?

Our board has spent a lot of energy on outreach and advertising of meetings. Even with meetings being virtual, participation is still very weak. Most of our community are renters for 5 years or less. Most don’t know and don’t care about community planning.

Constructive feedback should be the focus. The CPC has already agreed with changes on meeting attendance and removing any barriers to candidates. There’s no argument there.


Sorry not Sorry February 11, 2022 at 9:28 am



Geoff Page February 8, 2022 at 4:33 pm

Ms. Friedt, I’m not rising to that insult because it is nonsense.

Why should I do the work of substantiating your statement? You said it, why don’t you take the poll.

I was not denigrating your volunteerism at all. Three years is some experience but much of it has been during the very unusual COVID time, it has been a different experience. I was just pointing out that the panel did not have anyone on it with deep experience on planning boards. That doesn’t make sense considering the people who do. The chair of Anyiwo’s group has many years of experience, was she asked? There are many people on the OB board with many years of experience, were any of them asked?


Gail Friedt February 8, 2022 at 4:59 pm

Geoff – No, I don’t know who was asked. I bet you could find out if you asked. And, your “tongue in cheek” comment wasn’t funny to me either, and I do have a good sense of humor.


Geoff Page February 8, 2022 at 5:14 pm

I would respectfully disagree.


Gail Friedt February 8, 2022 at 5:16 pm



Mat Wahlstrom February 8, 2022 at 8:00 pm

Thank you, Geoff, for your continued diligence in exposing this hand-in-glove effort by developer-funded front groups to pack community planning groups with their members, with the explicit goal of swaying their decisions.

Since so many of those complicit in this effort are seized with concern about CPGs following “standardization” and “bylaws,” I feel compelled to point out how they have openly flouted Council Policy 600-24, which established the ‘bylaws shell’ all CPGs have needed to follow since 1976.

Article I Section 4 requires that “The official positions and opinions of a community planning group shall not be established or determined by any organization other than that group, nor by any individual member of the community planning group other than one authorized to do so by the group.”

And Article VI Section 9, “Collective Concurrence. In accordance with Brown Act section 54952.2, any attempt to develop a collective concurrence of the members of a community planning group as to action to be taken
on an item by members of the group, either by direct or indirect
communication, by personal intermediaries, by serial meetings, or
by technological devices, is prohibited, other than at a properly
noticed public meeting.”

Yet we’ve seen in numerous comments on this site and others the subjects of this article try to excuse their flagrant violation of these legal requirements, simply because they care so darn much about their agenda it’s racist/ageist/sexist/classist to insist they need to follow them.

Suffice to say they’re so full of bullsh*t a high colonic would render them invisible.


Sarah Krimple February 8, 2022 at 10:35 pm

Dougie, please move back to or move to SF. These outlandish, baseless comments are a waste of time. Old white males are often stereotyped and criticized; sometimes unfairly. Spare us with the victimhood nonsense.


Paul Webb February 9, 2022 at 10:00 am

One last thought on this topic.

The proposed “reforms” of the CPGs had its genesis in a grand jury report in 2018 after receiving “a citizen’s complaint alleging that the City of San Diego Community Planning Groups (CPGs) tend to delay hearing certain items as a method of restricting growth in their communities.” As far as I know, the complaint itself was never made public, nor was the identity of the complainer ever disclosed.

The grand jury concluded that there was no way of knowing the level of diversity of the CPGs, but somehow also concluded that the CPGs were not of sufficient diversity to adequately represent their communities. It also concluded that most delays in approving projects (the reason for the original complaint) could be resolved by having more city planning participation in the CPG meetings, reasoning that additional direction from city staff could answer many questions and identify which issues were outside the purview of the CPGs. But, overall, it only identified one specific instance where the a CPG was completely out of bounds in its demands of a developer.

Despite a failure to identify serious, specific problems with the CPGs and their review of development projects (with the exception of the lack of diversity), the grand jury report was seized by someone to determine that there needed to be significant reforms of the CPGs, leading to where we are today. To me, this seems like a smokescreen to cover up the overarching goal of streamlining the development process to eliminate any meaningful community review of new development.

I’d also point out that the current grand jury is hardly representative of the overall make-up of the population of San Diego County. Only one of its members is not retired, leading me to believe that its median age is a lot older than the population as a whole. I only see two names that appear to be Hispanic, but going by name alone is can be misleading. The grand jury does not provide information on the diversity of its members. I know from my own experience as a finalist in the grand jury selection process that when we gathered together for the lottery to select the jurors from the finalists, we were overwhelmingly older and whiter than the general population.

It sure seems to me that this whole thing started with an unsubstantiated (and later determined to be unsupported) complaint that led to an imperfect process and some findings that were not exactly damning of the CPGs and their processes. And for this we are blowing up the CPGs?


Geoff Page February 9, 2022 at 11:22 am

You said it with this sentence, Paul:

“To me, this seems like a smokescreen to cover up the overarching goal of streamlining the development process to eliminate any meaningful community review of new development.”

This is exactly what is happening.


Long Pham February 10, 2022 at 3:43 pm

What a load of garbage implying that transplants to San Diego don’t get to have opinions or say in San Diego. You don’t need to be born here to see that CPG are filled with wealthy white homeowners and that interests of renters, low income workers, and BIPOC communities voices are not heard. San Diego throughout it’s history has been a city of transplants and the people who run this “newspaper” don’t have any more insight. It’s ridiculous to see a bunch of white old men cosplay as progressive and appropriate progressives language. Zoning and community groups have been a tool since their inception for segregation and white supremacy so as a native San Diego and a person of color I have no qualms about removing community planning groups as they are upholding the harmful status quo. These issues were ligated in the 2020 mayoral election and it’s clear to anybody with a passing understanding of politics that Gloria won in areas that were predominantly lower income and non white and the areas that were white and wealthier supported Bry. So instead of assuming you speak for anything actually progressive, maybe we should you know listen to actual BIPOC people.


kh February 10, 2022 at 7:59 pm

How about you speak for yourself. You don’t speak for BIPOC people, and they don’t speak for white people.

Do you have anything constructive to add on citizen engagement on the planning process? Top-down planning probably seems great up until you find those at the top are no longer on your side. Have you ever sought a seat on a planning group?

These Community Planning Groups were formed in 1976, not in the Jim Crow era.


Geoff Page February 11, 2022 at 11:43 am

“What a load of garbage implying that transplants to San Diego don’t get to have opinions or say in San Diego.”

Show me specifically where I said anything of that sort.

“You don’t need to be born here to see that CPG are filled with wealthy white homeowners and that interests of renters, low income workers, and BIPOC communities voices are not heard.”

You have information on all 42 CPGs? What specific interests of renters, low-income workers, and BIPOC communities are you referring to?
I had to look up BIPOC and the term seems a bit racist to me, “black and indigenous people of color.” What about Asians and Hispanic peoples? Don’t they count? And how did “black” and “indigenous” people wind up in the same acronym?

“Zoning and community groups have been a tool since their inception for segregation and white supremacy…”

Community planning groups were only begun in the mid 70s, it seems your knowledge of that history is wanting. And, those groups really have no power and no say over any zoning. You want to get mad at someone go after the politicians who do control the zoning and the business interests behind them.

“Gloria won in areas that were predominantly lower income and non white…” What a surprise, San Diego’s first Hispanic mayor won support among the minorities that he looks like. But, that’s about as far as it goes with him, he is not like the people he persuaded to vote for him but he made them think he was. Remind you of someone else?

“and the areas that were white and wealthier supported Bry.” All you’re doing is making statements. What information do you have to back that up? So, areas that are not “low income” are automatically “wealthier?”

“So instead of assuming you speak for anything actually progressive, maybe we should you know listen to actual BIPOC people.”

I have no idea what that is supposed to mean. I never made an assumption that I was speaking for anything “progressive.” And now, to understand, I only need to talk to some black and indigenous people and I can ignore everyone else?


Paul Webb February 11, 2022 at 12:30 pm

I’m sorry Long Pham, but this post is simultaneously laughable and sad. When you say “community groups have been a tool since their inception for segregation and white supremacy” you obviously don’t know the stories of some of the planning groups in San Diego. The creation of the Ocean Beach planning board was a grass roots effort of a number of community members in reaction to city plans to essentially wall off the beach with a series of Miami Beach style high rise buildings (I can’t remember if they were apartments or condos, but, hey, it was over 40 years ago). Ocean Beach was originally part of the Peninsula plan area, but a group of very hard working and dedicated people fought city hall to have some (very, very limited) influence on development in the community. There was a very real fear at that time that the OB community, which at that time was relatively low income community, would have been destroyed to make way for a much more wealthy community.

When I moved here during this period, I was living on a graduate student’s budget. After graduation, I lived on minimum wage for several years. I know you can’t do that now, but that is not the fault of the planning group. Things change, and not always for the better.

Second, I don’t remember community planning groups being “litigated in the 2020 mayoral election.” Frankly, I don’t remember planning groups being the subject of any debate during the election. Beyond that, I didn’t realize that Toddy’s election meant that there would or should be no debate arguing against any policies he endorsed. I have some understanding of civics, and I don’t believe any election means we have a new dictator, or a new dictator class who get to decide all the issues based on their own values. If that were the case, we might still be fighting in some foreign wars that we have (thankfully) exited, there would have been no civil rights legislation, no fair housing laws, etc. Dissent is part of our democracy.

If you are going to make assertions about the income and color of supporters of Todd vis a vis Bry, give us the numbers. I’m not saying its not true, because I frankly do not know. If you do know, back up what you say with data.

Finally, you do not appear to understand the power (or lack thereof) in development decisions that planning groups have. They are advisory only. Period, full stop. In my first two terms on the Peninsula board, I can recall very, very few we actually voted to oppose. Only once during that six year period did we go so far as to appeal a project before the planning commission. What is going on in our communities is happening in spite of the planning groups, not because of them.


kh February 11, 2022 at 10:23 am

I agree, meeting times are often inconvenient. The meetings often interfere with putting my kids to bed and always take away from family time. But I do it anyways. I’m not quite sure why, as it seems mostly futile thanks to efforts from Circulate SD and Scott Sherman. Perhaps if planning groups were given serious consideration, more would be motivated to sacrifice their personal time to volunteer. What’s your suggestion for alternative times? During the work day when only paid lobbyists and the unemployed have time to participate?

Our board has spent a lot of energy on outreach and advertising of meetings. Even with meetings being virtual, participation is still very weak. Most of our community are renters for 5 years or less. Most don’t know and don’t care about community planning.

The CPC has already agreed with changes on meeting attendance and removing any barriers to candidates. There’s no argument there.


Frank Gormlie February 11, 2022 at 10:39 am

You raise a good point, kh. Who can volunteer? Who can spend hours away from family, job, school consistently on a monthly basis, not those special events like the parade, the food & toy drive, the clean-ups, but every month – for years? Who can do it?

Who can do this thankless job of studying projects proposed for the community and make solid recommendations to the community, the city, and developer?

Who are the volunteers who have led the OB Planning Board since 1976? What were their average ages? and property status?

What would all those volunteers feel now if they realized what the city and developer class (and Circulate San Diego) have in mind for the future of planning groups?


Frank Gormlie February 11, 2022 at 10:32 am

It dawned on me late last night that there’s an entire element missing in this debate about the perceived and actual biases of local planning groups – and that is the class element, the class issue, specifically the “business class issue.” No one has really addressed it as a weakness of the CPGs – which is there are admittedly at least a couple of planning groups that are dominated by business class interests. This is particularly true about those planning groups in communities without many residents, like Midway and Mission Valley. At least in Mission Valley, business interests openly dominate the board and discussions it has. It’s actually breath-taking.


kh February 11, 2022 at 10:55 am

People that care, and are valued, will find a way to make the time. Now I can think of many things the city could do to encourage participation and ease the administrative work required of volunteers, and have pressed them to improve in such areas with no luck.

The proposal being discussed will increases the burden on volunteers and decreases their value. One might call it hypocrisy. I’ll call it a thinly veiled attempt to completely remove community members from the planning process.


Geoff Page February 11, 2022 at 11:50 am

Exactly. And not so thinly veiled either.


Geoff Page February 11, 2022 at 11:49 am

If it were up to me, I would change the rules to only allow residents – owners and renters of course – on planning boards. Businesses have different interests than residents do. Too many planning boards are corrupted by this like have a guy like Mark Steele on the Barrio Logan planning board. The PCPB had a member once who was also on the Pacific Beach board because he had business in both places.

I think the people who live in the community day to day should have the only voice.


Frank Gormlie February 11, 2022 at 2:19 pm

The original “model” used by OBceans in the establishment of the OBPB back in 1975-76 included businesspeople and I’m fairly certain the model was provided by the city. It was also a way to get local business and merchant support for the whole concept of a locally elected planning board.


Geoff Page February 11, 2022 at 2:37 pm

I can see why they were included if it helped create the boards. But, I think the way it works today is harmful after many years involved with these groups. Some groups allow a business “representative” and don’t require the owner to be present. They can run in elections like this as well. OB is different from those early years when Newport was lined with mostly locally run businesses. Not anymore.


Gail Friedt February 11, 2022 at 3:28 pm

in case you missed it – excellent opinion piece highlighting San Diego’s housing needs.


Geoff Page February 11, 2022 at 3:44 pm

It’s an opinion piece and there was nothing “excellent” about it. He actually wrote, ” But that contentedness has a downside: as a region, we lack the motivation to solve real, systemic problems.”

The guy is spouting the ridiculous characterization of southern California as being too laid back to do anything but go to the beach and smoke pot. Not considering that Californians have the fifth largest economy in the world.

Here’s something you may have missed:



Vern February 11, 2022 at 6:32 pm

Hi Gail. The VOSD article wasn’t really excellent at all. It mentioned that SD needs “housing” but doesn’t suggest the real need – affordable housing. The article doesn’t mention those displaced by the current YIMBY housing frenzy. In fact, the article never mentioned affordable housing except in “wealthy” neighborhoods. (Maybe build affordable housing in Fairbanks Ranch/Rancho Santa Fe?).

YIMBY housing directives seem to support high-density “luxury” or “market rate” condo, townhomes and apartments. What’s left out of this mix, again, is affordable housing.

As told by a work colleague three + years back, there were affordable apartments in OB, and he lived in one of these apartments. He was, at one point, notified that the owners were planning on updating the apartments, then weeks later given a notice of eviction. What once was affordable apartment living in OB became, in this case, market-rate short-term rentals.

Now, “17 on Voltaire” is yet another YIMBY hi-density project – no affordable homes, only luxury or market rate ($700-$800/sf for 1300 – 1600 sf units). The VOSD opinion article doesn’t mention this or other similar luxury/market-rate projects.


sealintheselkirks February 12, 2022 at 3:43 pm

So how much of the article below might be relevant to the shenanigans going on? Who are the puppetmasters pulling the strings to get rid of community input through local planning boards (a little as that affects the direction this is all going anyway)?

I know people in other states that are being blasted by the rise in rents with no concurrent rise in wages and are on the verge of being displaced with no where to go who work full time. They will NEVER be able to buy a home and will always be renters who have no choice but to pay whatever rent is imposed.

What is wrong with the people that are pushing this crap? Is it just GREED? Do they have any idea what kind of future this world is facing? Or are they just sociopaths with no moral compass other than making more money? Is greed a virus like rabies, gets into the brain and turns one insane? Sometimes I think so…

When Private Equity Becomes Your Landlord



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