Below is a guest blog post from Robert Barry, a member of the North Park Community Planning Group. Robert provides some insight about how to serve on a community planning group. You can find more resources on Circulate San Diego’s community planning group resource page.
Remember, community planning groups all elect new members in March, so now is the time to get involved!
So you want to join your community planning group?
As a resident of the City of San Diego, joining your local community planning group (CPG) provides a significant opportunity to become involved in the ongoing planning and development of your neighborhood and community.
If you want to have a role in the land development process and provide advisory input to the City, if you want to participate in the long-range planning of your community, if you want to use your time to improve your local parks, roads, and open space, then you should start attending your community planning meetings.
A key thing to remember is that you don’t have to be elected to the community planning group to become involved. Go to the City’s website and locate your local community planning group to know where and when the monthly meetings occur. Attend a few community planning group meetings to hear some of the discussion items and see how the group acts on them.
As a member of the community, you can also attend community planning group subcommittee meetings to learn the project review process and to get to know and work with the community planning group members.
“80% of success in life is just showing up”
Over time, you will begin to see familiar faces of devoted community residents, business owners, property owners, developers, and City staff that combine to represent the community. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. These community activists have dedicated their time to participate in the process, some for many years, and can be great sources of additional insight as well as historical knowledge of the community.
In a community with competitive CPG elections, those familiar faces in the community will understand your commitment and willingness to participate by virtue of the time you have already invested by simply showing up to the meetings.
If you don’t get elected on the first try, don’t quit!
Some elected CPG members may not serve their entire 2-year term for various reasons. When there is a vacancy on a CPG, the typical way to fill the remaining term for the seat is through a Special Election where the other elected CPG members vote for the candidates. Many long-time CPG members were originally elected in this way, myself included.
How to be an effective CPG member
If you decide to become a candidate for election to the community planning group, please recognize that you will be required to attend at least 2 meetings a month during a 2-year term as an elected planning group member.
Try to see the bigger picture regarding the CPG’s advisory role to the City and how the CPGs fit into the City’s development and environmental review processes.
Learn about the City’s development approval process, including the different levels of project review (Ministerial, Discretionary, required findings, requests for variances, etc.).
Get to know your Community Plan and how it governs the local community.
Remember that everyone’s perspective is important to the community and that listening can be just as effective as speaking when working towards group decisions.
Have fun and enjoy the opportunity to make a difference in your community!