Sunday, September 25, 2011

The General Plan is the Future and it is Just Like the Past

Just like in the aftermath of some recent park developments and specific plan drafts, some members of the public are now searching for evidence that their participation was meaningful.
These are excerpts from an email sent to city planning staff in charge of the general plan update by a citizen who has been following the city's instructions on how to participate. From the in box:

Hi Mike [Encinitas Planner],

However, I don't understand how the project which was outlined in the announcement for proposals from 2009, changed so dramatically from what was rolled out on Sept. 1.  Moreover, I couldn't identify a relationship between community volunteers' statements of who we are and where we needed to go, which was supposed to have been the foundation of this process, and the draft plan that has been presented.  Nobody who participated in surveys communicated a need for the types of standards that we have heard about like 5 or 6 story buildings in the mixed use areas--particularly on the scope and scale that has been suggested except for possibly Buddy Boer, the man who spoke at Council on Wednesday and owns the McDonalds that recently burnt.

You spoke of the plan as an iterative process.  As such, I share the concerns expressed by others that we should have the 'red line' version of the plan, in order to make an accurate comparison between the old and the new.  Was a version of this process captured in a project management program or any other way that would demonstrate how and when these changes happened?

LB Note: The city tried to pull a major fast one a few years ago with the Housing Element Update (a section of the general plan). They said they had to do it or face penalties. Well, a lot of citizens mobilized in a short short amount of time and uncovered all sorts of nasties that were embedded "innocently" into the update. Finding those problems were made very difficult by the fact that the city refused to point out what changes had been made to the verbiage and which changes were intended to change the meaning of the document.

That update included a low income zone, which the city refused to map for the public. Instead, the city offered up a list of APN numbers. Please realize that the city spends hundreds of thousands a year on GIS mapping and it would have taken 5 minutes to make the map. Citizens had to generate the maps, which showed the massive extent of the zone. It was just one of many childish tricks that our city was playing in an effort avoid any educated public deliberation of the document. It seemed the city thought it would have been better if the public had remained ignorant.

Unfortunately for them, a half dozen citizens worked hard to inform the public. The public did not like what they saw and filled the council chambers. The city shelved that update at the last minute, perhaps because of the huge public turnout, or perhaps also because several citizens claimed the document contained statements that could be considered as fraudulent.

This draft reminds me a lot of the history of bilingual education in CA.  It certainly sounded like a good idea for how to treat non-English speaking children in school.  When I first read about it, I thought that it sounded like a wonderful program.  In the end, the people for whom it was designed were rejecting it because they said that the program ended up hurting the children when they fell further and further behind their mainstream peers, the longer that their kids participated in the program.  I think that the draft has had the same sort of reception from Encinitas residents who have been told that it came from us.

I just want to end in saying that I do recognize the hard work that was put in, but please provide as complete a set of project management data as you have for me, so that I can make better comments or suggestions about how such a disconnect between what we expected and what we received could have happened.

Participating Citizen

LB Note: Anybody know where to find documentation that outlines the considered options and justifications for each of the changes made to the GP? Anybody know where to find documented responses to the public's comments?  We want to put those links up, if they are online.

1 comment:

  1. The city had tried desperately to scare the public into swallowing the last housing element update, warning there would be terrible consequences if it weren't updated with their version of an "update".

    It did not get updated. I've never heard about any of the dire consequences that resulted.

    At the workshops the million dollar consultant has been asked what the cost and benefits are of not meeting the state's certification requirement for housing. People have reported that he was not willing or able to answer the question.

    I have been present when he dodged and blew off central questions about the "update" process, so I am not surprised to hear this.

    I've got three other independent reports that other important questions are not being answered at these workshops.

    Can't make useful comments if you can't get information and develop understanding. But, do comments get evaluated and weighed (and by who)? What is the evidence?


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