City’s Meeting on Community Planning Group ‘Reform’ and Reapplication – ‘Smells Like a Fish Telling Us How to Ride a Bicycle’

by on July 26, 2023 · 11 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

By Kevin Hastings

On Monday, July 24, the city held a meeting on the community planning group (CPG) reform and reapplication process. (It was a hybrid meeting.  I think only 8 were there in person.)

It was pretty disgusting. Their presentation kept harping on member diversity and demographics as the criteria going forward… none of the other issues brought up in the entire reform process and grand jury report.

In a discussion about possible new groups competing for recognition, I asked how those new groups could come to exist to begin with, since they have to exist before they can apply. Would they have to first hold a community-wide election compliant with 600-24, could it just be a group that created themselves? Answer: they would not have to be elected, they could be anyone. Just wild.

In discussion about how staff would choose between a new and existing group, racial and demographic diversity seemed to be their biggest concern. Not how long they’ve existed, how well attended, how qualified or how well they run meetings or how transparent. Not diversity of opinion or interests. .

Some attendees suggested if there are competing groups of people the city should work to combine them into a stronger group somehow, rather than just picking one over the other. Imagine the city choosing between a group of nimbys and a group of bike advocates to represent a community’s interests!!!

New groups could seek to combine multiple planning areas to represent a larger area. Existing groups are subject to their boundaries.

The planning staffer presenting failed to understand basics about how brown act and how CPGs operate. A CPG member asked about a dispute involving the chair (uptown?) and ways that they could force a vote on something the chair refused to put on agenda. The staffer suggested members could create their own ad-hoc committee or a Vice Chair could post an agenda against the chair’s wishes! Idiot.

In a discussion about outreach some expressed frustration that we can hardly fill seats, how are we supposed to find enough people to meet these diversity goals? The staffer threw out ideas like offering child care at meetings, or food to get more people to attend, along with a bunch of ideas that cost money. An attendee pointed out our $500 annual stipend that will probably go away entirely.

I typed a comment that if the city wanted to increase interest and participation, the #1 way is to give the planning boards some teeth and take us seriously. The presenter read my comment aloud and chuckled.

I agree that some CPGs are not representative of their community makeup, and there’s obvious reasons for this.  But the city’s effort to force diversity is just embarrassing and insulting so far.

They are allowing for self-appointed groups to replace elected ones.  The only legitimate way to try and increase diversity is to recruit more candidates.  The grand jury made this point clear.

But we have not been able to lately, and this new effort by the city just puts it all on us, while further eroding our standing.  Existing members don’t see the point any more… and now you’re asking us to recruit more in order to meet your diversity goals?  Name ONE thing the city is doing to increase interest in CPGs.

And no matter how diverse a candidate pool is, we do not appoint them.  They are subject to the community’s vote. Which I trust will continue to elect members based on the issues.  The end result will probably be the same regardless.

This whole process smells like a fish is telling me how to ride a bicycle.

Kevin Hastings is the vice-chair of the OB Planning Board.

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie July 26, 2023 at 10:47 am

Editordude: I know the graphic doesn’t quite fit the headline analogy, but it’s close enough.


FrankF July 26, 2023 at 1:17 pm

A fish telling me how to ride a bicycle. That tells it all!!

We all shout at the city for being unresponsive but the real villain is Sacramento. They gutted local planning controls, they passed legislation demanding higher density under the banner of affordable housing.

BTW, somebody tell me what is affordable when it comes to housing. That’s an aspiration, but when you have a desirable community like OB you’ll never be able to build enough houses, condos, or apartments to bring the price down to the mythical “affordable” because everybody wants to live here!!!

I scraped and bought my first house in OB in 1976 for $65,000 and my mortgage was half of my monthly pay check. Most people today would think that’s nuts, but that’s what living in OB was worth to me.


kh July 26, 2023 at 2:34 pm

Yes cookie cutter state mandates are a problem, but then look at what’s happening at Muir and Abbott.

The developer could’ve planned something with more units and more affordable units that also made them MORE money. Instead it’s a triplex that looks more like an Airbnb resort. And of course they bypassed the planning board.


Chris July 26, 2023 at 5:32 pm

Buying a house is one thing, but (stating the obvious) renters are being priced out everywhere. What is the solution? Increased high density wont result in lower rents but neither leaving things as they are.


Will August 1, 2023 at 8:23 am

Wonder what the $65,000 purchase item is currently assessed at for taxes thanks to Prop 13. The high tax burden of early homeownership is a significant hurdle for first time buyers while those who bought long ago and are often financially established pay a small fraction comparatively.

I was recently in Sydney, Australia where housing might even be more expensive than here. I saw like 5 homeless people in this much larger city. Our homeless problem is more than simply supply, which is a significant part. We lock up more of our population than any nation on earth. Medical bills are the number 1 cited reason for home foreclosure. We created racial ghettos and their associated poverty through years of redlining and deed restricted racial covenants. Society is organized to pressure people into owning automobiles that are expensive to buy, maintain, fuel, and park.

The housing crisis is a manifestation of many of these behaviors and I say this as someone severely frustrated and annoyed by people living on sidewalks. The entitlement of some homeless and the messes they leave behind are inexcusable. The problem of homelessness and American-style poverty is our problem and will require many changes that may be painful to some if we are to ever alleviate it. That might mean denser housing as much as some people do not like it.


Geoff Page August 1, 2023 at 11:23 am

Well. Will, you left the most important part out of your comment. YOu sais Australia might even be more expensive than here but you only saw about five homeless people. So, what is Australia doing about the problem? Why so few homeless?


Sorry not Sorry August 1, 2023 at 12:08 pm

Can we really just narrow it down to one thing? It seems very difficult to even name the biggest issue. It’s like blaming school shootings solely on violent video games. I don’t buy it.


Will August 2, 2023 at 8:11 am

Our homeless problem is multifaceted and cannot be fixed with a silver bullet. Universal affordable access to healthcare would absolutely keep people from falling into poverty. Removing the near-requirement that all Americans own automobiles, that are ultimately worth a few hundred dollars after years of expensive ownership, by investing in alternate forms on transit that are healthier for people snd better for the planet. Mixed zoning also helps with this as people can walk to purchase goods or receive services. Probably we should tax the wealthy more and capital gains in general as we did in the go-go 1950s. Maybe lock less Americans in prisons which have some if the highest recidivism rates on the planet and are extremely expensive to run.

There are options but they are nearly universally contentious in the US. I just try to line up behind parts of the solution which includes housing being more affordable even if that means denser. It needs to be done responsibly to ensure developers and speculators don’t ruin the efforts which is also contentious with people who shout for property rights.


Geoff Page July 31, 2023 at 11:07 am

Well said, Kevin.

The problem is, and always has been, public interest. The planning boards were born in an era of heightened awareness of what can happen if the city is not watched and challenged. There were a lot of people who were energized and committed. Frank was there at the beginning. But, people just aren’t now. Maybe it will take something truly awful to re-energize people but I’m not hopeful. SB 10 is a possibility. This is a very different world than the world in the 1970s.

I experienced big pendulum swings in the PCPB that I don’t think the OBPB has ever suffered from. When I got on, a group of energized people rose up against developers and real estate people who dominated the PCPB. They threw the bums out and, for about 6 or 7 years, it was dominated by this alternate group. Then, the other side, those who had been tossed, were energized and they took the PCPB back for several years. They did their best to throttle the board and public opinion. As is always the case with these kinds of people, they faded away and the board drifted to the center where it seems to sit now.

They are boring now and lack of candidates for seats and very low voting results reflect that people are bored. Those of us who have had experience with planning boards for years know the city has grand ideas for participation and expect results the boards have never been able to obtain. Requiring these diversity plans is basically saying all the existing boards have been doing a lousy job of this, or worse, is saying boards intentionally discriminate. It is nothing but busy work and it is insulting as well.


nostalgic August 1, 2023 at 5:15 pm

Copied from a City of San Diego DSD Project Notice:
Community Planning Group considerations are a recommended, but not required, part of the project review process.


Frank Gormlie August 1, 2023 at 7:45 pm

This is exactly what the Rag, myself, Geoff Page and Mat Wahlstrom have been shaking the trees about. Your city council has gutted the basic function of community planning boards.


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