San Diego Family Feud — Electronic Survey Says!?

In October, San Diego's City Planning and Community Investment Department introduced electronic polling stations at public workshops for the community-plan updates in North Park, Uptown, and Golden Hill. The polling stations are used to collect "immediate" public input on issues such as development, parking, and density.

According to the department's quarterly newsletter, released on November 19, the survey is not a "scientific" one, but it allows the department to "gain a sense" of the opinions of those attending the public workshops.

But some residents, such as Leo Wilson, chair of the Uptown Planners and Community Planning Committee, feel the electronic surveys are flawed. Instead of gathering feedback from residents, they allow stakeholder groups to influence and skew the process.

"The problem is that community members, who work and lead normal lives, do not have the time to attend successive all-day Saturday and evening meetings," writes Wilson in a November 20 email. "Only those who have a vested interest, and are often paid, can do so."

Wilson adds that many in the community, including a former Golden Hill planning committee member, believe the format of the workshops, the times, and the amount of actual public participation shows that the city is trying to "wear out" the residents.

"They effectively have worn us out," writes Wilson. "The people who should be participating have effectively been locked out because of time constraints."

In a November 19 email to the Community Planning Committee, Wilson warned fellow committee members about the electronic polls.

"The [City Planning and Community Investment Department's] newsletter failed to add that the electronic poll at the Uptown charrette was rigged.

Wilson said that the city department never informed Uptown's planning group, or residents, about the electronic surveys; however, city planners did manage to inform stakeholders such as the now-defunct parking agency, Uptown Partnership.

"It was agreed during the ‘committee of the whole’ process that there would be no voting by the plan-update stakeholder committees. If a unique electronic voting system was going to be instituted at a community plan update charrette, it should have been announced publicly prior to the event."

Director of the City Planning and Community Investment Department, Bill Anderson, failed to respond to this correspondent's request for comment.

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Another Right On story of how we are being "handled" by the City in an uncomfortable way!

Anyone that controls how these "poles" are designed can get the results to show whatever they want.

Many have asked for all Planning suggestions to be listed on the web for public comment blog style but the City has refused because they cannot then control the results. Why should the same discussions be discussed over and over again by each and every Group? This is just more "Make Work" for the City Planning and Community Investment Department (and their consultants) which contains some of the highest paid City employees.

Who is Planning for Whom?

BTW: Here is just one example of how these "poles"can be abused:

If these "poles" do not require name and address, these poles can be "gamed" buy a large number of visitors to the meeting that live elsewhere and are there only to promote for their cause!

There is just no excuse for not notifying community groups and community members regarding any kind of vote. The City continues to say they want community involvement and then pull end-around maneuvers like this one, or just ignore citizen input. Developers, on the other hand, hire professionals who get paid for every minute they spend on a project. They have better access to City Staff, too. Planning Group members, for instance, those not in the industry, don't have that luxury.

I completely agree with Leo Wilson on the point of volunteer community members being worn out by the City. This will continue until we get enough people wised up who refuse to accept this any longer. I hope that day comes soon.

Thanks to Mr. Hargrove and the Reader for shedding light on this unacceptable action by the City.

Right On!

The Pension funding debacle will force many to start asking why the City is squandering so much effort & money, when they don't take the input that all these non paid Residents are giving them...

Urban Planning is not a one way street unless public input is only required as lip service...

The City mantra of "adding Density along transit corridors" is in reality, just enlarging linear ghettos in an attempt to limit infill projects in wealthy areas, that usually contain the homes and property of the same NIMBY decision makers that promote enlarging linear ghettos in other locations away from where they live! The same thing can be said of BOTH "Reducing On Street Parking" and "Walkable Neighborhoods".

Of course, if they don't like the outcome of the vote, they just don't use it again and it disappears. Incidentally, if the mayor wants to save money, they could stop serving food at these community meetings. I ran into a homeless guy who attended a different meeting for dinner every night. Well, community outreach!

dougw, As you observed, certain people who show up at the CPUs have "better access to City Staff, too."

Indeed. Many of the people who show up at the CPUs as "community members" are among a group of people who have been granted access to City Staff in private meetings, prior to the CPUs.

In these private meetings with CPCI staff and with paid consultants, local agenda-friendly community members are encouraged and coached on how to push certain aspects of the CPCI agenda. These people, compared to ordinary residents and property owners, have careers that directly revolve around obtaining City contracts and depend on direct financial benefits from City Planning decisions.

For instance, following private meetings with paid CPU consultant Mark Steele and CPCI's Bernie Turgeon, a business owner from a South Park restaurant (who does not own the property in which his restaurant exists), a local resident who owns a construction company but who is in serious financial straits, and a North Park (not even a GGH resident) architect/developer, among other South Park Business Group members and realtors and property investors, attended the Greater Golden Hill CPU and were armed and ready to push land-use changes that would increase density. They were assigned to different tables, the better to propagandize and masquerade as ordinary attendees; they looked bored with having to hang with the few real community members, and ended up looking happier in a huddle together at the end. Very obvious. Bill Anderson looks bored the whole time, floating around the room doing not much. He must really hate these things.

Other City-friendly attendees at the GGH CPUs included friends and family imported from Tijuana and Chula Vista by the staff of the GGH Community Dev Corp, just to pack the room with City-friendlies who added that all-important "diversity" quotient; people who are dating Council district representatives and have lived in GGH for only a brief time, but suddenly take a leading role in proclaiming exactly what is necessary to alter GGH for the better; people posing as GGH residents but who are really employees of certain large firms (e.g., Carrier Johnson) that routinely appear before the City Planning Commission for development project approval; and so forth. The list of plants in the audience is long.

It's true, very few ordinary people know about these CPUs (there is no substantive public outreach) or can make the time to attend; the meetings are thus populated by a small group of City allies, those who stand to benefit by supporting exactly what the City has already decided will happen.

It is a colossal waste of money and it is a stinking joke. What more could you expect in GGH, represented by Hueso and Gloria? By the way, Todd, you threatened that the CPUs would be canceled if Prop D failed. What are you waiting for? An audit?

BlueSouthPark You have done a great job of describing how we are being manipulated by those that are supposed to be working for us! Adding to that, most of these folks are at the top of the City pay scale and then you realize that not only are we being "used" but they are ripping US off at the same time; it's no wonder they all love to keep scheduling MORE MEETINGS! They just keep having meetings until they get the desired "vote" they want, then no more meetings because "it's been decided"...!

More CD3 Examples:

At a Housing meeting, a large number of housing Developers showed up and spread themselves around to each table promoting for LESS required parking in order to lower the cost of building Low & Low Mod housing while at the same time add Density along Transit Corridors while shifts the on street parking into the nearby neighborhoods.

A number of years ago at a Planning Mobility Meeting, a large number of "new" folks appeared that all were very vocal for a trolly in NP, when questioned it turned out that they were all from LA and SF who came to promote for the trolly! I suggested to the Planning Staff that if lots of folks showed up from Russia and wanted to cut all the palm trees in NP down, would they be allowed to "take over" NP?

NP's MAD Board is now composed of Rep. from a few local boards and not elected by "District", which explains why the MAD has and continues to spent most of its money in one small part of NP (the Business District)...

The Neighborhoods that typically do not have a large meeting representation always get "dumped" upon by the NIMBY's that live in wealthier areas and can afford to attend meeting after meeting after meeting! This can be corrected by Appointing local Boards by "District" instead of "at large" as it is done now. When Boards are elected "at large," then they can easily be stacked by all these "Meeting Junkies" voting for their friends, year after year. NP is "ruled" by about 20 folks that attend most meetings, are on most Boards and have good communication with the Council Office and City Staff; regular residents have no chance to oppose these folks unless they gather in great numbers and become very vocal at meetings and in the Media! This happened 9 years ago when the City wanted to raise Density along 30th St. from 3 to 5 Stories and again at the very last NPPC meeting, when a petition with about 150 residents signatures was presented to NOT ALLOW Bluefoot Bar and Lounge to expand it Late Night Hours to 7 days a week.

Until our City Councilmembers reconfigure the Local Planning Comm., the PAC's and the Mayors Advisory Boards to give true fair "equal" representation by small District, we will continue to be "used" and ripped off at the same time!

"Stakeholder" is a term to be wary of.

When used by the city staffers it's manipulated to include those who are friendly to the plans, and to exclude or minimize any opposition.

The Grantville "charette" (charade?) was an example of this, with developers and other "stakeholders" rubber stamping what the residents so clearly opposed.

Dorian, this is a great article, and Founder and BlueSouthPark have provided even more examples of how this public input voodoo hexes the communities of San Diego.

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