In 2013: Resolve to get more involved in making your community more livable

Want cycletracks in your community? Get involved and ask for them! Photo:

Planning Committee Boards – What are they and why you should be involved

If you are interested in how land use decisions (including decisions involving when and where bicycle infrastructure gets implemented) are made in your individual community and and you want to participate in the process of influencing these decisions, i.e. you care about where you are going, then you need to know the way to get there.

The City of San Diego has over 40 recognized advisory committees called Planning Committee Boards that serve as the voice of a community on decisions that affect land use and transportation issues in that individual community. So for example, the City Heights Area Planning Committee does the following:

It reviews the General Plan, the Community Plan, and various construction projects that are proposed for City Heights. – Jim Varnadore, Secretary for the City Heights Area Planning Committee

The City of San Diego’s land use and policies are regulated by some federal laws but, for the most part, the state gives our local government the authority to define the citywide land use and policy in a document called “General Plan”. Smaller cities have smaller General Plans but since San Diego is quite sizable and diverse, the General Plan is subdivided in smaller Community Plans (San Diego has about 40 of those: City Heights, Clairemont Mesa, North Park, Ocean Beach, etc.). All of the community plans must work together and cannot contain policies or recommendations that contradict any other community plan. Combined together, they constitute the Land Use Element of the General Plan.

Engaged members of a community advocating for community gardens. Photo:

These Community Plans are not created by City staff alone but also by Community Planning Groups, which are made up of individuals interested in the development in their communities. Having community members involved in the long term vision planning is vital to ensure that the land use policy plans are based on the individuality of the communities themselves – no one knows your community better than you: the individual that lives there and deals with its issues constantly. Needless to say, the particular issues that the participating community members bring up are the ones that are dealt with!

The Community Planning Committee (CPC) is composed of representatives from the Community Planning Groups and was instituted to ensure communication among the various planning groups and to get their input on citywide issues. As the CPC page on the City of San Diego’s webpage states: CPC meetings “often include presentations by City Planning Division staff and other speakers on topics of interest to the CPC. The meetings are an opportunity to network with other community leaders and discuss important policy or development issues with City Planning staff. Positions taken by CPC about important issues provide a key link with decision makers at City Hall and in the various City Departments. In addition, the CPC has formed subcommittees to review the various issues in depth, and has made recommendations of great value to City decision makers.” As you may now be well aware, the planning process is a key part of the decision making process in the city and it is important to get involved for that reason alone.

Ready to get involved in your community group and to influence citywide decisions related to bicycle infrastructure? Go to the Planning Division page of the City of San Diego’s website and find out which community you belong to (defined by where you live) and when your Community Planning Group meets and how to contact a specific planner in your community (pdf). If you can’t figure out who your community group is, leave a comment and we’ll help you out or refer you to someone who can.

College Area Community Council board members

After you learn which planning committee represents you, attend their monthly meeting in January to get a taste of the sort of issues that are presented for approval before the planning committee boards. Elections to the board are held in March and the barrier to entry to serve is very low: attend one meeting this month or in February which makes you eligible to serve on the board. If you want more bike infrastructure in your community and want a more direct access to your elected City Councilmember, attending a Planning Committee meeting is an easy way to meet your representative (or their staff) and get a first hand glimpse of how these boards work. If you are unable to serve on the board, continue reading this space to learn of opportunities where you can still voice your support for bike projects and influence the existing board of the dire need to transform our city, one community at a time, into one that is more livable and much more pleasant to experience from atop a bicycle saddle than it currently is.