Planning Commission Duties

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Date of Record: 2008-03-06

I. DUTIES

The following are the various duties of the Planning Commission:

A.  Variance actions (final unless appealed to CC) 86.52

B.  General Plan Conformance (findings made in conjunction with development in Civic-Use Zone and discretionary permits such as Special Use Permits) 86.36; 86.55

C.  Determination of Use (Planning Commission finds whether a particular use is within the scope of permitted uses in a particular zone. Final unless appealed) 86.02

D.  Determination of Development (finds whether a particular project complies with applicable standards. Final unless appealed) 86.02

E.  Interpretation (Final unless appealed) 86.02

F.  Coastal Permits (Final unless appealed) 86.70

G.  CEQA

1. Review Initial Study

2. Review Environmental Impact Report

H. Special Use Permit

1. Major SUP (Recommendation to CC) 86.55

2. Minor SUP (Final unless appealed) 86.55

I.  Parking Plan Review (Recommendation to CC) 86.55

J.  Subdivisions 82.00

1. (Major) Tentative Map (Recommendation to CC)

2. (Minor) Tentative Parcel Map (Recommendation to CC)

K.  Zoning Ordinance (Recommend amendments/new zoning provisions to CC)

L.  Zoning Map (Recommend amendments to CC)

M.  General Plan (Recommend amendment/new elements to CC)

N.  General Plan Land Use Map (Recommend amendments to CC)

O.  Appeals (Land Use/development standard determinations made by staff are appealable to the Planning Commission and City Council) 86.02

II. SPECIAL PROJECTS

A. The City Council may refer special projects/assignments to the Planning Commission for research, evaluation and recommended action.

B. The Planning Commission may originate a need for special projects within the Commission's scope of authority. Prior to committing City resources and staff workload to such projects, the Commission requests City Council to endorse the project and assign it to the Commission or other appropriate body.

C. The City Council prioritizes special projects that are part of the Department of Community Development workload. This prioritization determines the level of resources staff will provide with such assignments.

III. COMMITTEES

A. The Planning Commission may create temporary ad hoc sub-committees composed of one or two Commissioners and members of the community for special projects.

B. The Planning Commission may request authorization from the City Council to establish a formal committee to address general issues.

IV. AUTHORITY OF THE PLANNING COMMISSION

The City is authorized by the State of California to regulate land uses within its jurisdiction. The City Council may delegate a portion of that authority to a planning commission.

A planning commissioner is a "local government officer" and a "public official" who is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of the City Council. A Commissioner may be removed from office for any reason (without cause, notice or hearing) so long as the reason for removal is not an unconstitutional one.

The Commissioner is required to file a Statement of Economic Interest, take the constitutional oath of office, and not hold another governmental position which is incompatible with the position of planning commissioner.

In the area of land use, the authority of the Planning Commission is only lawfully exercised in accordance with the standards and procedures contained in the Municipal Code. The Planning Commission is authorized to:

a. Make recommendations to the City Council regarding land use ordinance,; and

b. Exercise discretion in determining whether to approve, disapprove or conditionally approve applications for land use permits.

In the area of staff management, the Planning Commission is authorized to act as a body to give directions to the City personnel who provide staff support for the Planning Commission. Directions to the staff must relate to the performance of the responsibilities of the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission does not hire or fire City staff.

In the area of administration, the Planning Commission is authorized to conduct meetings in accordance with State law. The Planning Commission can adopt reasonable procedures which implement and are not in conflict with State law, the Municipal Code, or the procedures, policies and directions of the City Council.

V. TYPES OF PLANNING COMMISSION DECISIONS

The Planning Commission makes decisions which fall within one of the following categories: legislative, adjudicative or administrative.

In the legislative category, the Planning Commission makes decisions relating to general rules, regulations and procedures without rendering a decision relating to a particular property or project. In taking a legislative action, the Planning Commission will usually conduct a public hearing and thereafter recommend to the City Council an addition, deletion or change to the land use standards contained in the Municipal Code.

In the adjudicative category, the Planning Commission considers a particular piece of property or project, usually in response to an application for approval of a proposed project. In rendering an adjudicative decision, the Planning Commission must apply the provisions of the Municipal Code in accordance with the Planning Commission's authority and make determination relating to the property owner's entitlement to develop the owner's property as proposed.

VI. DUE PROCESS

Procedural and Substantive Requirements In making adjudicative decisions on land use applications, the Planning Commission must satisfy the requirements of procedural due process and substantive due process.

Procedural due process requires that the Planning Commission give reasonable notice of the hearing to people who have a significant property interest that may be impacted by the adjudicative decision. Further, i8ntersted persons must be given an opportunity to be heard at the public hearing. The hearing to consider a land use application must be conducted in accordance with procedures that are fair to all persons. The length of the process should also be paced so as to be fair to all persons.

Substantive due process requires that when a land use application is being considered, the Planning Commission is fair, impartial and unbiased. Each Commissioner should avoid saying or doing anything prior to the hearing (and also prior to the Commission's deliberation) that may give the appearance that the Commissioner has made up his/her mind prior to the close of public input portion of the hearing. Conclusionary statements regarding the proposed project should not be made until the Commission is deliberating the matter following the close of the public input portion of the hearing.

Also, substantive due process requires that the Planning Commission's adjudicative decision not be arbitrary or unreasonable. An adjudicative decision is justified if it has a substantial relationship to a public interest (such as health, safety or welfare) and correctly applies the standards of the City. If the decision impacts the exercise of a First Amendment right (speech or religion), the Planning Commission must demonstrate that the impact of the decision is justified by a compelling public interest and is no more impactful on the First Amendment right than is absolutely necessary.

Informational Basis for Adjudicative Decisions When considering a land use applications, the Planning Commission should make its adjudicative decision based solely upon the information that is contained in the administrative record of the Planning Commission's hearing. The administrative record includes:

a. The application documents;

b. Written Staff reports;

c. Oral Staff reports and Staff responses to questions;

d. Letters submitted to the Planning Commission;

e. Other materials in the agenda packet regarding the application; and

f. Information presented orally and in writing during the public comment portion of the hearing on the application.

Outside Information "Outside information" is any information, contention or argument regarding an application to which a Commissioner has been exposed prior to the hearing on the application; when such information, contention or argument has not been also presented to the Planning Commission in the agenda packet documents or the oral staff report introducing the matter.

Contacts that can deliver "outside information" to a Commissioner outside a hearing include:

a. Phone call from an interested person;

b. A letter from an interested person not included in the agenda packet made available to the public;

c. A site visit by the Commissioner;

d. Conference with an interested person;

e. As a member of the audience, the Commissioner attends a public gathering at which the matter is considered; or

f. As a member of the governing body of a non-City organization, the Commissioner conducts a gathering at which the matter is considered.

At the Planning Commission hearing where the land use application is considered, after the oral staff report is presented but prior to receiving comments from the applicant or the public, each Commissioner should disclose on the record any "outside information" to which the Commissioner has been exposed that is not also contained (as of the time of such disclosure) in the administrative record.

Disclosure of the full substance of the "outside information" should be made, whether or not the Commissioner receiving such "outside information" finds that the information is factual and regardless of whether the Commissioner intends to rely on that "outside information."

In this way, when the hearing on the application is opened to receive public comment, the applicant (as well as other members of the public) have the opportunity to respond to and rebut all of the "outside information" to which the Commissioners have been previously exposed. The "outside information" is thus converted into information contained in the administrative record.