North Park sign
North Park is one of 43 Community Planning Groups in San Diego. File Photo

A grand jury recommended in a report released Wednesday that the city of San Diego consider consolidation of neighborhood planning groups, and whether to develop methods to diversify group membership.

There are 43 Community Planning Groups in San Diego; each represents a neighborhood or neighborhoods. Elected officials within each planning group represent their communities regarding discretionary land use proposals that fall outside the scope of individual community plans within the San Diego General Plan. A planning group may address, for example, a development proposal that would increase vehicular traffic in an area that favors pedestrian transportation and quiet green spaces.

Planning group recommendations are presented to the City Council, which typically factors them into the approval or rejection of a proposal.

In its report, the San Diego County Grand Jury recommended that Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office review planning group boundaries to determine if consolidation is necessary, and to consider closer monitoring of planning groups.

The panel also encouraged the city Planning Department to determine whether additional recruitment methods should be developed to diversify planning group membership. Despite eight- and nine-year term limits, the grand jury found that 5 percent of planning groups have at least five members who have served nine or more years.

“In communities that have little development activity, interest in CPG membership is often low. This inactivity makes it difficult to attain and maintain membership numbers and a diverse membership,” the report says. “…To address these issues, the city and the CPGs need to increase awareness of the importance of membership diversity.”

The report was spurred by a citizen’s complaint alleging that planning groups delay hearing items in order to restrict growth in their communities. The grand jury instead found that delays are often due to limited citizen interest in volunteering for planning groups.

Apart from improving recruitment efforts, the report says consolidation of certain planning groups, especially those within limited activity areas, could increase participation in specific groups and ensure greater diversity. City policy requires — but does not provide guidelines on how to achieve — diverse planning group membership.

Delays also come from insufficient knowledge of policy and development procedure during planning group meetings, the grand jury found. Additional Planning Department involvement, including in the attendance of planning group meetings, could alleviate delays by more quickly addressing disputes between planning groups and developers, according to the report.

“If a Planning Department representative is not involved when these issues arise, the resolution is generally delayed at least until the next CPG meeting, one month later, while the matter is submitted to the Planning Department,” the report says.

State code requires that the City Council formally respond to the grand jury’s report within 90 days.

Each grand jury has a one-year office term.

–City News Service

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