Planning Department wants to limit public comment by limiting access to information necessary to study the projects prior to public comment deadlines.

Letter from Sue Hestor

I request that the Planning Commission set a WELL-PUBLICIZED public hearing to take input from the public and staff and how the current Rules work, or don’t work, re public input and awareness on projects before the Commission.  Because of notice requirements governing Rules amendment, I request that the initial public hearing be set no earlier than January 8, 2015.

The current Commission Rules govern submission of documents that are provided to the Commission and in staff reports.  They also basically eliminate 2-week reports which are necessary for transmission to the Commission of informed timely WRITTEN comment by the public.

When documents must be submitted to go to the Commission

The Rules establish a Wed 5pm deadline (8 days before hearing) for the public to submit documents that will go into the Commission packet (and be put on line) for a project.  Appendix A, A. Submittals.  The Wednesday deadline for submission by the public is reiterated on each week’s Board agenda, in documents provided to appellants when a DR is filed, etc.

Due to out-sourcing printing of packets, staff has set a new deadline of MONDAY 5pm – 10 days before the hearing.  (I could not attach the 10/3/14 Department instruction – please ask staff to provide it)

At a minimum the Board Rules should be amended to comply with current Department practice.

Written public comment on non-DR cases virtually eliminated by current Rules

To submit written comment on a project, or on staff analysis of the project, the public must INTUIT the staff report and analysis, developer’s final plans and argument – before they are available.  Public comment must be submitted TWO DAYS BEFORE THE REPORT IS AVAILABLE.  There are almost NO 2-week-before-hearing staff reports.  A2-week report is NOT for the Commission’s benefit, but for the pu blic.

For all intents and purposes the latest Rule revision eliminated the public’s ability to comment on a complicated NON-DR cases.  Staff recommendations and developer’s plans/submissions become available AFTER the deadline for submitting public comment to the Commission.  In practice the reports are only available to the public FRIDAY afternoon, while public comments are due TWO (now FOUR) DAYS before the report is available when the agenda comes out.

As a result “minor” Discretionary Review cases get substantially MORE information, including full plans, and time than

office allocations,
complicated and massive Conditional Uses and
projects under area plans,. including very large residential projects.
It is all backwards.

What is made available is an UN-INDEXED staff report – often over 100 pages long.  Coming six DAYS before the Commission hearing.  Without a usable index telling the public WHAT is there and WHERE (what page).  The project sponsor has ALL of this – and often has drafted critical sections of the staff report.

There is a THEORETICAL requirement that some projects may have a staff report 2 weeks in advance of hearing.  The cold hard reality is that very few projects are required to have a staff report – AND RECOMMENDATION – two weeks before the hearing.  Final proposed plans are often not available until issuance of the staff report.

When Area Plans are adopted – e.g. Eastern Neighborhoods plan based on 2007–2008 data (economic recession) – the implementing legislation sets up expedited environmental review resulting in almost NO EIRs or Neg Decs.  The usual way information about a project and its impacts comes out to the public.

The Commission must ADVERTISE for public input.  The last Rules change was adopted the Thursday before Christmas with only me in the audience.

The Commission needs to amend its Rules to conform with current Department practice.

The Planning Commission stands in the shoes of the public and protect the right of public participation.

I ask that this be printed out and inserted into the record of the Planning Commission.

Sue C Hestor
870 Market St #1128
SF 94102


Is this the new norm for city departments? They cut off the date for public comments prior to releasing documentation on the projects to the public for comment?  Are we now living in 1984 or is it Alice in Wonderland? Are our clocks running backwards? Does that mean we are all getting younger?

Didn’t the Supervisors just spend a long time working out a system that was ratified by them? Can the Planning Department ignore the Supervisors directions?

It appears a request for continuance is in order.

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