Public Participation in the Community Planning Process

Keep in mind that these are simplified versions aimed at providing the user with a general understanding of the planning process and do not contain all the steps involved nor do they provide detailed explanations for the steps illustrated.

  • Research: If it is determined that a plan/planning tool (Community Plan, Specific Plan, Community Design Overlay District, Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, etc.) is needed for an area, the first steps toward developing a new plan or updating an existing one is for planners to: review existing plans, maps, and relevant data, conduct field and land use surveys, identify issues and opportunities, and to develop clear project goals and objectives.

  • Focus Groups: Once a project work program has been developed and background research completed, the plan or "project" is defined. Planners meet with local stakeholders through focus groups with established community organizations (certified Neighborhood Councils, Homeowner Associations, Chamber of Commerce, property and business owners, etc.) to facilitate discussion on the project. Public participation plays an important role in the planning process by bringing planners and the public together to work on identifying community goals, setting priorities, determine objectives, and provide insight and direction on the community’s vision for their neighborhood. If your Neighborhood Council has established a committee which deals with land use and planning issues, that group would be a focus group.

  • Public Workshop: After focus groups are conducted with selected community organizations, a public community workshop is held to showcase the ideas of the focus groups as well as solicit additional opinions and ideas from the public at large. The nature of workshops vary and depend on the project being proposed. Some may entail a presentation by planners, including exhibits and maps, while other planners may facilitate discussion at different workstations. The primary purpose is to have the community help shape the proposed project. Certified Neighborhood Councils will be notified of the workshop.

  • Preliminary Plan: All information and ideas generated from the focus groups and public workshops are compiled and reviewed. Planners take this information into consideration and analyze it with earlier research to draft a Preliminary Plan.

    Environmental Clearance: Environmental Clearances are required for all planning projects. It is the scope and breath of the project that determines which type of environmental clearance is required. Planners prepare the environmental clearance and in most cases it is posted for a specified amount of time to allow for public review and comment.

  • Open House: An Open House is held to present and distribute the Preliminary Plan to the public and answer questions. Participants are asked to attend a future Public Hearing if they have any comments or changes they want to state for the official public record. Certified Neighborhood Councils will be notified of the Open House. If requested, a planner could attend a certified Neighborhood Council meeting to make a separate presentation of the plan.

  • Public Hearing: A Public Hearing is conducted to allow the public to provide formal testimony regarding the Preliminary Plan. Both verbal and written testimony is accepted at the Public Hearing. Representatives of certified Neighborhood Councils are encouraged to attend to state your Neighborhood Council’s official stance on the project.

  • Proposed Plan: All comments received at the Public Hearing are taken into consideration when the Proposed Plan is written.

  • Area Planning Commission: The Proposed Plan is presented for review and comment to the appropriate Area Planning Commission (APC).

    Other City Agencies: If the project requires the review and approval of other city agencies (Board of Public Works, Cultural Affairs Commission, Cultural Heritage Commission, etc.), the project is presented to the appropriate decision-maker of that city agency for review and approval.

    City Planning Commission: After the APC and other applicable city agencies have reviewed the Proposed Plan, it is presented to the City Planning Commission (CPC) for their approval and recommendation to the City Council. This public meeting is another opportunity for the public, including Neighborhood Councils, to provide comments on the project. If the project (e.g. a Streetscape Plan) doesn’t have any ordinances associated with it, the CPC is the final approval body and the plan becomes effective after CPC approval and adoption.

    City Council: The Planning and Land Use Management Committee (PLUM) is the first step toward City Council approval. The Proposed Plan, as recommended by the CPC, is presented to PLUM for their recommendation to the City Council. After PLUM, the Proposed Plan with any PLUM changes is presented to the City Council for their approval.

  • Adopted Plan: The Proposed Plan, along with any City Council changes, becomes final and effective after it is adopted by the City Council and signed by the Mayor.