At its last meeting the City Council postponed a decision on whether to approve the Draft General Plan before or after its Christmas break.
It will set up an approval schedule at a special meeting Dec. 4.
While some councilmembers say the plan has been studied to death and they’re ready for the vote – it’s been discussed by 12 commissions, local businesses, nonprofit organizations and hundreds of individuals – others want to delay adoption and study it more thoroughly.
The Planning Commission and staff have spent two and one-half years developing the plan, which will govern the city’s development, transportation and environmental management for 20 years.
The council has held two public hearings on the plan and is scheduled to discuss it during its next three meetings, but that could change Tuesday.
State law only requires the adoption of the housing element by Dec. 31. There are no deadlines mandated for the plan’s seven other elements, so the council can legally delay adoption.
Some councilmembers and planning commissioners say there is ample time to review the draft plan and approve it by the last council meeting of the year on Dec. 13. Others want more time to thoroughly review its details before approving it.
“There are huge implications here,” Councilmember Polly Armstrong said. “The Planning Commission has been dealing with this for (more than two) years, what’s the rush all of a sudden?”
Armstrong added that recent events have made it difficult for councilmembers to properly review the plan. It was submitted to council on Sept. 11, but since then, Armstrong said the council has been preoccupied with local responses to the terrorist attacks, the Afghanistan resolution and the referendum on a controversial redistricting plan.
Councilmember Dona Spring disagreed, saying the draft plan has become a “moving glacier” and it would be unfair to commissioners and citizens who helped develop the plan to drag its approval out.
“The Planning Commission has been working on this for nearly three years and some of the commissioners feel very offended the plan they’ve worked so hard on may be stalled,” she said. “We have three meetings to discuss the plan and we should make a good faith effort to approve it in that time.”
Spring added that several remaining issues that councilmembers have raised to the city’s planning staff, such as a moratorium on any downtown public parking studies in the next two years and downtown building heights, can be worked out easily in the next three weeks.
Planning commissioners are equally divided on the draft plan’s schedule for approval.
Commissioner Susan Wengraf said there is a great deal of information in the plan, much of which is very subtle. “There’s so much detail in the plan,” she said, “I think the council should take their time with it, especially since so much of their time has been diverted with recent events.”
Commissioner Zelda Bronstein took a position similar to Spring. The council has had the plan for three months and there’s no point in dragging out the process, she said. “They’ve been apprised about the plan all along, they’ve submitted questions to staff now is the time to take action,” Bronstein said. “If they put their minds to it they can do it in three weeks.”
She noted that, except for two policies, the Planning Commission approved the plan by a unanimous vote, which should be evidence that the plan has been thoroughly thought through. The two policies the Planning Commission couldn’t agree on were the parking moratorium and a policy supporting the appeal of California’s Costa Hawkins vacancy decontrol law.
Mayor Shirley Dean said she saw no reason to rush. “The fact of the matter is the City Council has final approval of the plan and we have to be comfortable with it,” she said. “We are the ones who will be held responsible for the next 20 years so I want to know what I’m voting for.”
The council will hold a special meeting on the Draft General Plan Dec. 4 in the City Council Chambers at 2134 Martin Luther King, Jr. Way at 7 p.m. The meeting will also be broadcast live on the KPFA Radio, 89.3 and Cable B-TV, Channel 25.