HMB City Council pushes ahead with HMB Planning Commission restructuring

By on Tue, December 27, 2005

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’re sorry it took a week to get this story online because of the holidays.  We won’t tag this one "Why wait till Wednesday?", but we still beat the Review by a day.

The Half Moon Bay City Council moved ahead with its plans to restructure the city’s Planning Commission at its December 20 meeting.  By a vote of 3-to-2, it directed the City Manager to bring back a draft ordinance that would reduce the size of the planning commission from 7 to 5 members and align the terms of the commissioners to run concurrently with those of the Council members who appointed them. Council member Patridge, Fraser, and McClung voted for the motion, and Grady and Gorn voted against.

Thirteen out of the eighteen speakers argued against changing the structure the planning commission. Included in this group were five sitting planning commissioners [HMB Planning Commission] (Joe Falcone, Jack McCarthy, James Kellenberger, Kevin Lansing, and James Benjamin). Four members of the public argued in favor of the proposed restructuring. Included in this group were George Muteff, the fifth-place finisher in the November 2005 City Council election [Muteff’s page] and Chris Mickelsen, President of the Coastside County Water District and Chair of the Governmental Affairs Committee of the Half Moon Bay Chamber of Commerce . A full list of speakers with quotes from their public testimony can be found at the end of this article. 

Before to voting on the motion,  Patridge responded to accusations of playing politics by saying "Everything we do up here, most of the time, is politically motivated." Bonnie McClung said "This Council needs to be reflected on the planning commission—-five works better than seven in terms of staff time." Marina Fraser said "There is a real problem with the planning process. People are disgruntled." Later she asked "Do we really need seven people’s opinions on the planning commission? I think it should go to five."

David Gorn said that he thought the majority was pushing a pre-cooked solution, not addressing a real problem. He said "Independence of the planning commission is why the staggered terms are there. When this was brought up eight years ago, there was a referendum. To bring it around again eight years later seems wrong."  Jim Grady said "The planning commission’s purpose is the rule of law. It is not there to represent any perspective of the community. It navigates the details of the California Coastal Act for the City."

Click "read more" to see summaries of the statements of members of the public speaking before the City Council.

List of speakers for agenda item 10 at December 20, 2005 meeting of Half Moon Bay City Council

Joe Falcone, Half Moon Bay planning commissioner speaking as an individual
"The planning commission applies the law to projects. It does not make the law. In performing its duties like a court, the planning commission benefits from its diversity of representation, both in terms of occupation and in representing the various neighborhoods of the City,"

John Van Almen, Half Moon Bay
"We have lot of problems that need solving. So what are we doing discussing petty politics and personalities? This was not an issue during the campaign for City Council—-no one heard anything about it. This is going to cause a referendum, as sure as anything."

Mike Kimsey, Half Moon Bay
"The Council should keep a balance between development and environmental interests…Any decision by the planning commission can be appealed to the City Council, which ensures that balance."

Dale Dunham, Half Moon Bay
"No new administration, at least not on this planet, knowingly and willingly retains appointees of the opposition."

Ken King, Half Moon Bay
"What I just heard isn’t true—-the Federal boards and commissions are all staggered and independent…Our planning commission does due diligence. We cannot afford to have such qualified people not involved in our community."

Jack McCarthy, Half Moon Bay planning commissioner speaking as an individual
"The idea of staggered terms from the City Council and 7 members of the planning commission is the best way to do things around here."

George Muteff, Half Moon Bay
"Don’t be intimidated or swayed by threats and drama. I think that the commissions should all be appointed by the current City Council and the terms of appointment should coincide with the terms of the Council members."

Chad Hooker, Half Moon Bay
"The number of planning commissioners is much less important than the work that they do, The work is dependent on how the meetings are structured…I feel strongly that the terms should remain staggered to avoid the politicizing of the planning commission and to provide continuity beyond the next election…You can only look down the road if you can see past next November by a year or two. We presently have that arrangement and it should stay in place."

Dennis Paul, Half Moon Bay
I support the current structure of 7 members and terms staggered from those of the City Council.

James Kellenberger, Half Moon Bay planning commissioner speaking as an individual
"It is our duty as a planning commission to ensure that all development conforms to the law, and we do not make the laws…One of the basic tenants of the process is to make sure we have a diversity of people to view projects as they come before us and to make intelligent decisions….The staggered terms from those of the City Council prevents a crass politicization of the planning process.

John Lynch, Half Moon Bay
"Back in the days of antiquity, I was a member and Chair of the Half Moon Bay planning commission. I don’t know why you want to change something that is not broken…This is Deja Vu, just like in 1998…I can guarantee you that there will be a referendum.

Krista Alexander, Half Moon Bay
"I think that 7 accomplished people dealing with such difficult and complex issues would be far better than 5 people. Staggered terms protects their objectivity and the results that their research yields."

Brian Ginna, Half Moon Bay
"I support the effort to make the commission 5 members instead of 7. Having only 5 would be more efficient and more responsive to the needs of the citizens. Quite simply, the spirit and letter of the law should rule, not personal bias."
Kevin Lansing, Half Moon Bay planning commissioner speaking as an individual
"Any member of the planning commission can be removed at anytime by a majority vote of the City Council . But that process requires the Council to state clearly what it is doing and explain its motives for doing so. That is exactly what transparency in government means. The proposal put forth by Council members Patridge and McClung is the exact opposite of transparency—-the City Council would not be explaining its true motives to the public."

James Benjamin, Half Moon Bay planning commissioner speaking as an individual
"I agree with Chad Hooker. I am unaware of any streamlining benefits of reducing the size of the planning commission….The simplicity of things back when the City was formed in 1959—-before the existence of the California Coastal Act and the Endangered Specifies Act—-do not justify a return to that era."

Leonard Woren, El Granada
"The average person looking at an agenda needs to be able to understand what is to be discussed without having to do other research. The way this agenda item was worded does not meet that requirement."

Robert Clinton, Half Moon Bay
"I would like to see 7 members because, as with any kind of organization, you get more input. I would like to see people on some kind of staggered terms. You need diversity and you get diversity by having 7 members."

Chris Mickelsen, Coastside County Water District
"This community can no longer tolerate a planning commission that consists of members who are openly hostile towards just about any project that is brought to them…You need to show some respect towards sister agencies. And not be attacking our engineers and our sound planning for fire safety. If you could do it with a 5-member planning commission, that would be fabulous."