Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Planning Department Changes that Impact Neighbors

Dear Neighbor

San Francisco's Planning Department has recently made process "improvements" in May 2018.  The Board of Corbett Heights Neighbors feels that these changes make it even more difficult for neighbors to be involved in the planning process.   We feel it's important to be involved to protect the character of our neighborhood and to protect the adjacent properties for negative impact.  If you agree, please send a letter to the Planning Commission like the draft below.

The Planning Commission meets next week so please email them by Tuesday May 29 

Subject: Opposition to proposed Process Improvement by Planning Staff
President Hillis and Members of the Planning Commission:
I am writing to convey my deepest concerns regarding the proposed Process Improvement as introduced by the Planning staff on May 17.
While I am very supportive of the Planning Department's objective of improving the planning processes, I am opposed to the proposed changes and disappointed by the total lack of community outreach and unwillingness to elicit or listen to neighborhoods. The recurring theme is the unwillingness to encourage citizen participation and the net result is further erosion of public trust in the Planning Department. Consequently, neighborhoods end up pursuing other options such as approaching Supervisors.
Among the problems with the staff's proposal for Process Improvement I can cite the following issues:
  • Reducing neighborhood notification period to 20 days is a significant step in removing public from the process. It is hard enough to understand the impact of a project and plan the course of action to oppose it in 30 days. Reducing this period to ONLY 20 days will seriously undermine public participation in the process.
  • Replacing the current packet of notification material with postcards will not serve the public. Not everyone has access to computers and even if they do, they don't have the necessary training to navigate through the Planning applications to download the plans.
  • Issuing over-the-counter permits with no neighborhood notifications for pop outs will encourage serial permitting and will conceal the true impact of a project on the surrounding neighbors. Nowadays, pop outs are almost always part of large alteration or demolition projects. This change will enable developers to hide the true scope of their out-of-scale projects from the neighbors because they'd be able to obtain permits for the last portion of such projects over the counter with no notifications to the neighbors. The anticipated 2 FTE savings will be more than overshadowed by the time spent handling complaints and appeals.
That is why I respectfully request that the Planning Department be directed to initiate community outreach before finalizing any proposal for Process Improvement.