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Contact: Colin Parent

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – February 12, 2018

Circulate San Diego Publishes Report calling for democratic reforms for Community Planning Groups

Transportation and land use think tank Circulate San Diego published a report today titled “Democracy in Planning,” on how the City of San Diego can improve democratic representation through the City’s Community Planning Groups.

The City of San Diego officially recognizes about 50 neighborhood Community Planning Groups, which are elected annually through town hall style elections. Community Planning Groups provide input to local governments for land use and transportation decisions.

While community input is a hallmark of planning, some Community Planning Groups often oppose the siting of new homes, despite our housing crisis. Some have been credited with opposing new bicycle lanes or transit routes, even while those are necessary for the City of San Diego to meet its goals under its Climate Action Plan.

Individual Community Planning Groups are given broad autonomy for how they structure elections and qualifications for service. As outlined in Circulate San Diego’s report, while many groups strive to make elections accessible to all, some require residents to have attended a prior meeting even to exercise their right to vote in board elections. Other groups limit ballot access to less than an hour each year. These kinds of restrictions on voting dramatically depart from ballot access rules for other types of democratic elections, like for City Council, Governor, etc.

“Community Planning Groups are a crucial part of San Diego’s land use and transportation decisionmaking,” said Colin Parent, Executive Director and General Counsel of Circulate San Diego, and one of the co-authors of the report. “We need to reinvest and reform the community planning process to ensure that every community member has a fair opportunity to be heard.”

The report recommends that the City Council of San Diego reform its policies that govern community planning to promote fair representation through a number of means, including:

  • Prohibitions against policies that restrict the right of community members to vote in and stand for elections.
  • Agenda reform to ensure land use and transportation items are heard at the beginning of meetings, not after hours of reports.
  • Changes to term limits and continuing education to ensure new members have an opportunity to serve as informed citizen planners.

Circulate San Diego has long been invested in the success of Community Planning Groups. Since 2014, Circulate has held more than a dozen trainings as a part of our #PlanDiego initiative for how community members can join their Community Planning Groups. Circulate maintains a resource page for anyone who is interested in running for their Community Planning Group in the March 2018 elections.

The report was funded in part by TransitCenter, a foundation that supports advocacy, research, and leadership development for transportation reform across the United States.
“Democracy in Planning” is heavily researched, identifying best practices from throughout the country, and featuring numerous citations. It is available online at  Attached to this release is a PDF of the report, and an image of the cover.