Planning Groups: The Foundation to Building Better Neighborhoods

By Rita Mahoney, ColRich and Melissa Stayner, LGC Valley Geotechnical

Weigh-in on Development Decisions for Your Neighborhood

Community Planning Groups

To ensure that all perspectives (voices) are considered at the Community Planning Group level, the Building Industry Association (BIA) and other groups are trying to encourage more diverse participation in San Diego’s land use and planning decisions.  With CPG participation from BIA members, input on planning and transportation is more likely to embrace development-friendly resolutions that will help in the fight for housing affordability.  As a benefit, those involved with CPGs are often the first to know about new and exciting projects that bring housing and retail opportunities to the community.

Development in San Diego, and particularly the process of obtaining the necessary approvals to develop land, can be messy.  As many of you know, the most successful and welcomed developments often incorporate ideas from the community.  The City of San Diego has a long-standing culture of community involvement in the process of land use decision-making.  Citizens who want to participate in the planning process are able to form “officially-recognized” Community Planning Groups (CPGs). The City Council recognizes one official planning group in each community.

Unfortunately, participation in CPGs is not widespread.

Historically, the structure of CPGs has allowed certain voices to become magnified, while excluding others–mainly the young, financially challenged, caregivers, and students with busy schedules.  These excluded community members are often the people who most need housing and transportation.  In some ways, this exclusion occurs because the individual CPGs create their own bylaws which dictate the mechanics of their election processes and how they organize their meetings and agendas.

CPGs that are not open to change, typically neglect input from all citizens and often do not promote policies that benefit all members of the community.  When arguments about community character or unfounded traffic concerns dominate the discussion, the prospect of attainable housing suffers.  Beyond those buzz words, it is factual that existing homeowners can actually benefit if no new homes are built due to basic economic laws of supply and demand.  In the long run, fewer homes built means their homes are worth more.  NIMBYs (Not in my backyard) benefit.  What many community members fail to realize is that renters are fiscally injured by these tactics as rents artificially inflate due to the constraints of developing in an existing community.

CPGs are intended to include property owners, residents (both land owners and renters), and business owners.  The CPGs are designed to solicit input and facilitate public participation in the development of the built environment.  CPGs provide a space for community members to serve their City. Their input frequently impacts development and infrastructure projects in their community. Planning Commissioners and City Councilmembers rely heavily on the recommendations of the CPGs in their decision making process.

Getting Started

We need you to get involved!  To run for a CPG seat, one simply needs to be either be a landowner, business owner, a resident (either workplace/business operator or residential renter) in the geographic area of the CPG.  It’s easy to find out how you can become a part of the Planning Group for your neighborhood.  The Build SD PAC maintains an interest list for CPGs, and will help you to navigate the process.  You can start by emailing Rita Mahoney (ritam@colrich.com) and Melissa Stayner (mstayner@lgcvalley.com). 

If you are interested, first find out which Community Planning Group area you live or work in. Next, check on the terms of candidate eligibility for your local CPG here: https://www.sandiego.gov/planning/community/cpg/bylaws– search for the section called, “Elections”.   This will provide information regarding the timing and procedure for election to your CPG.  We encourage you to run for a seat on the group at your first opportunity to do so.  Election timing for CPGs will vary, but they generally occur in March.

Finally, be an active citizen.  Remember that Community Planning Groups are designed to be the conduit for the voice of citizens about their neighborhood development!  You need not have land development expertise to participate, rather, a simple dose of neighborhood pride and civic duty is all that is required to become engaged!  So, if the opportunity for running for a CPG seat has passed for this year, you can still start your engagement NOW.  Attend meetings, meet other members, and be ready to jump in when the timing is right.  Many CPGs have subcommittees where land use decisions are made and community members can hear and vote on projects without having to be a board member of the CPG!  Serving on a subcommittee is a great way to learn about the role of planning groups in the development process, get familiar with the local topics, and prepare for the next CPG election cycle!

The future of our industry depends on voices like yours being heard at Community Planning Groups!  When our voices are heard, more housing gets built and we all benefit – from developers and contractors to consultants and suppliers, and everyone in between.  BIA and the Build SD PAC are here to help make that happen.