Petaluma Is A House Divided…4-3

The recent “restructuring” of the planning function by the City Council is an extremely significant, if not controversial, action. Corey Young’s report in the Argus Courier provides the details for those who may have missed this event. 

Strong passions were exhibited on both sides during the “debate” preceding the 4 to 3 Council vote to eliminate the current Planning Commission as well as the Site Plan and Architectural Review Committee (SPARC).

As a consequence,  a new Planning Commission will be appointed to review development applications. The City Clerk is currently taking applications for seats on this new commission.  The deadline is June 29, 2009. Thereafter, the City Council will select the members of the new commission from the applicant pool

Given the intensity of the debate, it is clear there is a rigid 4 to 3 split over the appropriateness of this action. At one level, it is a continuation of the so-called pro development and anti development debate.  At another level I detect strong odors of the old West Side versus East Side perceptions in the wind.

I accept the proposition that the decision to restructure the planning function was motivated by a genuine desire to streamline the process. It is silly to debate whether or not it should have been done… 

It’s done!

Now what?

Appointing a new Planning Commission is not going to be a simple matter. 

  • Will the Council attempt to preserve the institutional memory as well as the work on applications in process by appointing those who served on the now abolished committees?
  • Will they instead appoint new people to these positions?
  • Will they merely appoint a mix that reflects the 4 to 3 Council split?

The new commission must have credibility if it is to have a chance to succeed.

Given the genuine passions on both sides, I see no reason not to expect the 4 to 3 divide to continue to manifest itself when it comes to selecting the members of the new commission.  The result will be a single entity with no more “credibility” than before. It will be seen as “fair and honest” by the 4 (and their supporters) and an anti development power grab by the 3 (and their supporters). 

In short, no matter how well intended, I fear that the public perceptions generated by the process will outweigh and overcome the motives and objectives of those seeking the change. 

This should give serious pause to those public-spirited applicants for the new commission.

I understand and respect the passions and views of both sides.  However it is just another game of winners and losers. Given the nature of  our political processes, this is to be expected.

The only chance to avoid this result is if both sides holster their rhetorical guns and try to find a way to create a new commission that will not be perceived as being loaded one way or the other.

Otherwise, it will be … Business as usual…Some will win.  Some will lose. The rest of us will keep score.   


7 thoughts on “Petaluma Is A House Divided…4-3

  1. Frank: Eagle-Eyes noticed your title and immediately notified The Trio. “Me” agreed, Some will win; “Myself” thinks some will lose; “I” will keep score; while Hammerhead believes it will end up as Business as usual, when all is said and done. BTW, nice looking site.

  2. Excellent assessment Frank. I think you’re right on all points. Streamlining makes sense if it improves the process and results in a fair and (politically) impartial “commission”. Also, with all the money and time spent on our General and Specific plans I sure hope every development decision doesn’t have to flow through the City Council. That would be a step backwards and a huge waste of the money and time spent on those plans plus more costly time when the council has many other fish to fry. We need to preserve the character of our town but we also need to move forward with development that meets the plan’s specs (designed to preserve our heritage) and produces revenue to run our town. Tom Corbett

  3. E-MAIL POSTED ON BEHALF OF JH–Frank: I agree with you. However, if the applicants forms were presented to the council with their name, sex and address blacked out, would there be a better chance of getting a better mix, based on their backgrounds and prior occupations, etc? This of course would have to be a last minute procedure change, otherwise some of the council members might possibly know what certain applicants have written.

  4. I like your last suggestion!

    I must say that I’m in agreement with your views. Is this a “power grab”? Depends on what side of the fence one sits doesn’t it? If it is not and is only being preceived that way, sometimes something that is preceived can become reality.

    East/west devide? Not so much I don’t think. All four on the pro-side live on the west side. The three on the opposition side also live on the west sided (although one of the three had lived on the east side until a few years ago). However if it is an east side/west side mentality, you could have something there………

    We’ll see how the voters preceive things in the next election. One of the majority of four’s seat will be up for grabs along with two of the three in opposition. Will the current majority be short lived, or will it gain in strength? It’ll be fun to watch!

    • I don’t know if it will be “fun” to watch–on the other hand, it could make for one of the best programs on Petaluma Cable in July. By the bye, I think your comment did a better job of analysis than I did!

  5. Pingback: New Planning Commission–A Perfect Political Storm? - Petaluma Spectator - Petaluma 360 - Petaluma, CA - Archive

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