August 11, 1998
Honorable Frank J. Ochoa, Presiding Judge
Santa Barbara County Superior Court
1100 Anacapa Street
PO Box 21107
Santa Barbara, CA 93121-1107
Board of Supervisors’ Response to the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury 1997-98 Report on Public-Private Partnerships in the County Planning Process
Dear Judge Ochoa:
The following is in response to the 1997-98 Grand Jury Report entitled "Public-Private Partnerships in the County Planning Process."
Finding 1: The public was not fully aware of the use of private money in the preparation of the Orcutt Community Plan EIR until late in the planning process.
Response: The Board disagrees with this finding. As the Grand Jury notes, "The Board gave public notice of its intent to use private money." Notice of a pending Board hearing was given in newspaper display ads in March 1995, and by P&D directly to the Orcutt GPAC and to the Orcutt Area Advisory Group. At a March 14 public hearing, a list of "Key Site" property owners and estimated contributions was discussed. Subsequent public proceedings regarding the Orcutt Plan financing of public infrastructure included further discussion of private contributions to planning studies.
Members of the public who regularly participated in development of the Orcutt Community Plan had opportunity to be fully aware of the use of private donations in the preparation of the plan.
Finding 2: The composition of the advisory committees is perceived as biased because the individual members are appointed by the Supervisor of that district.
Response: The Board partially disagrees with this finding. It is difficult to claim that there is no perception of bias, as some members of the public evidently expressed this perception to the grand Jury. However, to the extent that the finding suggests actual bias, the Board disagrees for two reasons.
First, Board members recommending appointments for General Plan Advisory Committees (GPACs) have typically sought to create balanced committees, incorporating existing residents, owners of undeveloped land, other service providers, and interest groups. Second, the purpose of a GPAC is what its name suggests - to advise the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors, who are vested with authority to recommend and adopt plans. Advice is also given independently of the GPAC by staff, property owners, neighbors and county-wide interest groups. The task of the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors is to sift this advice and make decisions based on the public interest.
By its nature, land use planning is policy laden in the broadest sense in that it involves competing interests and allocation of resources. Board members appoint to GPACs individuals who they believe will add valuable perspectives on the drafting of plans. As advisory bodies, the committees are not expected or required to be neutral arbiters or to reflect the full range of stakeholders interests. The plan adoption process as a whole, including extensive public hearings before the Planning Commission and Board, ensures that any bias is fully exposed, explored and resolved in public.
Recommendation 1: The Board of Supervisors should regularly give the public an accounting of the solicitation of private funds, the purpose of the money, who is doing the fund raising, the amount collected, and how the money is used. [Finding 1]
Response: The recommendation will be implemented. The Board believes that the public was adequately informed about the use of private donations in the Orcutt and Goleta Old Town plans. Nevertheless, now that CEQA has been amended to encourage site-specific analysis as a part of general plan EIRs, the use of private money is likely to become a routine feature of plan updates, and a standard method of accounting for and reporting the use of private money is a worthwhile addition to the orderly conduct of public business. The Planning and Development Director will ensure that the management and budgeting of all future plan updates or amendments includes regular and explicit accounting for the solicitation, purpose, collection, and use of private funds. Existing procedures regarding private funds used to pay for EIRs and staff time spent to review individual projects seeking land use entitlements will continue per the County’s fee ordinance and EIR contractor selection guidelines.
Recommendation 2: The Board of Supervisors should amend the GPAC Guidelines. Advisory committees should be formed with positions for different interests or groups, such as farming, small business, retail, industry, environmental, development, finances, real estate, community, senior citizens, schools. The groups should each name their own representative to serve on the advisory committee, thus taking the decision of who the individual should be out of the political arena. [Finding 2]
Response: The recommendation will not be implemented. The Board believes its appointments to GPACs have been successful in accommodating the unique needs of each community and each individual planning exercise. Standardized guidelines for county-wide application would be difficult if not inappropriate to construct because of the varying nature of the communities and the scope of planning activities undertaken in those communities.
Gail Marshall, Chair
Board of Supervisors
cc: Tim Putz, 1997-98 Grand Jury Foreman
Gary Monson, 1998-99 Grand Jury Foreman