Aug 162015

The Palo Alto City Council will consider the possible reform of the Citizen’s Advisory Commission to the Comprehensive Plan as an agenda item at their August 17, 2015 meeting.

Join  Palo Alto residents who support reform of the CAC.  Sign our petition.

The following letter was sent to the City Council in support of CAC reform:


Dear City Council,

I thank you for considering my and many others’ concerns about the Comp Plan Citizens Advisory Committee and acknowledge that some changes have been made, such as assigning co-chairs and allowing the public to speak before the meeting.

However, I still have some serious concerns after reviewing the proceedings of the August 11 CAC meeting.

The staff report lists “an ambitious schedule of CAC meetings and City Council meetings which will only be possible if the Comprehensive Plan Update is truly just an update, and not a complete revision or rewrite of the current Comprehensive Plan.”  It also state that “Members of the CAC will be asked to review materials provided in advance of meetings, and will be primarily engaged in reviewing and commenting on (rather than writing) draft plan language.”

The August 11 meeting was devoted to the Community Services and Facilities Element, the statistics of which are:

  • 1998-2010 Community Services and Facilities Element had 32 policies and 27 programs
  • 88% of the existing policies and programs are being carried over to the amended element;
  • 10% of the existing policies and programs are deemed complete;
  • 63% of the old policies and programs were edited;
  • 25% of the old policies and programs were carried over with no change and
  • 21 new policies and 52 new programs were added

How can this possibly be considered just an update?  And how can 20 people in one meeting cover 21 new policies and 52 new programs?  The answer is they can’t and they didn’t.    There was no step-by-step discussion of the new policies and programs.  Who will ultimately vet these?  And what will happen when we get to the really critical transportation and land use issues?

Asking people to give general comments on proposed goals and policies doesn’t make the best use of the committee’s time.  If new and revised policies and programs are proposed to be included in the revised Comp Plan, the committee needs to specifically review them for appropriateness.

Some committee people don’t even actually know what the Comp Plan is or its purpose.  How can they make informed decisions?  And does every elected/appointed official need to be introduced at each meeting?

I again ask that full minutes be provided within a week of the meeting so the public can understand and comment on the points discussed and any decisions made.

I still support adding a few more people from South Palo Alto to better represent city-wide concerns, but it’s also obvious that the real problem is the disorganized and rushed schedule of meetings.  We’ve dawdled for many years over updating the Comp Plan and now we’re in the position of rushing through many extremely critical issues that impact this city’s future.

Would it not make more sense to divide the group into subcommittees to discuss specific elements and then have a larger discussion on how those elements interrelate?  That worked well with the Cubberley CAC.

I ask that you have a discussion about what you really want the CAC to accomplish and find the best way of doing so.  “We solicited public input” just isn’t sufficient for such a serious issue.

I’ve read the Comp Plan; most of its vision is fine.  We seem to think every new idea must be enshrined in it, when it should be a master plan, not a blueprint.

Please understand that I care deeply about the city I have lived in for 40 years, half of which I have been an active community participant – MRA (20 years), PAN (17 years), 2 Housing Element committees, the Cubberley CAC, the website design committee, several council campaigns and numerous emergency preparedness activities.  I am not anti-housing, -growth, -development.  To borrow from a PAN forum, “It’s a Question of Balance.”  And our city is way out of balance between development and quality of life.

So why am I not on the committee?  Because I foresaw the very issues I’ve mentioned and because my strength is detailed analysis of issues, something not likely to happen in these meetings.


Sheri Furman

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