Urban planning community

+ Reply to thread
Results 1 to 19 of 19

Thread: Implementing staff reports with no staff recommendation?

  1. #1
    Member
    Registered
    Apr 2011
    Location
    San Clemente
    Posts
    1

    Implementing staff reports with no staff recommendation?

    I am researching cities in Southern California that have implemented planning commission staff reports with NO staff recommendations in them.

    Could anyone identify or provide information on cities that dont include staff recommendations in their staff reports?

    This will help us as our planning commission and planning staff discuss the possibility of doing this.

    Thanks,
    Greg Vierkant
    Planning Intern
    The City of San Clemente

  2. #2
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 2010
    Location
    I'm gettin' there
    Posts
    927
    I would be rather confused if I saw such a thing. If there is no recommendation, why are you writing a staff report in the first place?
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

  3. #3
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Jukin' City
    Posts
    16,477
    Why are you considering this? IMO, providing a professional opinion, whether it be a development proposal or a new general plan, is a major function of a planner. Plus, it makes additional work for the planners in having to prepare two sets of findings.

    Having said that, look to the California Coastal Commission. I think they prepare two sets of findings. Or at least they did at one point.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Colo Front Range
    Posts
    2,395
    Quote Originally posted by HomerJ9139 View post
    I would be rather confused if I saw such a thing. If there is no recommendation, why are you writing a staff report in the first place?
    Exactly. The minutes contain the discussions of fact. Staff do not need to prepare a report on what was discussed. No findings, no discussion of reasons why.

  5. #5
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Jukin' City
    Posts
    16,477
    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    Exactly. The minutes contain the discussions of fact. Staff do not need to prepare a report on what was discussed. No findings, no discussion of reasons why.
    In that scenario, there's not need for staff.


    When I was working in the Golden State, a written record of the findings of fact supporting the final decision were mandated. Discussion is not necessarily fact.

  6. #6
    Member
    Registered
    Nov 2008
    Location
    San Clemente CA USA
    Posts
    10
    Perhaps I can add to the original post. Our planning commissioners have asked us to prepare a report discussing the possibility of using this alternative report format. They are concerned that public perception is that the staff recommendation means their decision is already made prior to the public hearing. A commissioner stated they think this format will makes everyone review the project in greater detail and understand the required findings for approval or denial and perhaps they rely too much on staff’s professional analysis and recommendation. Staff still provides an analysis of a project and a detailed report we just leave out the final recommendation.

    We are interested in knowing your thoughts, if anyone jursdictions has tried this and if you have what are the pros and the cons.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2004
    Location
    Where Valley Fever Lives
    Posts
    7,146

    Ahh....

    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    Exactly. The minutes contain the discussions of fact. Staff do not need to prepare a report on what was discussed. No findings, no discussion of reasons why.
    That falls apart as soon as you get a couple of whacko/ignorant Planning Commission members starting to violate fair housing standards or other private property rights, religeous freedoms, free speach, or even exacting improvements beyond the impact of a development. The list could go ON AND ON AND ON AND ON.......
    Skilled Adoxographer

  8. #8
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2009
    Location
    Colo Front Range
    Posts
    2,395
    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake View post
    When I was working in the Golden State, a written record of the findings of fact supporting the final decision were mandated. Discussion is not necessarily fact.
    Hmmm. Maybe I'm not getting it, but PC is making decisions without staff input, and then asking staff to write a report on PCs decision? So the PC is making decisions without considering full written analysis of staff? Srsly? And the public finds this OK? This is the issue?

  9. #9
    Unfrozen Caveman Planner mendelman's avatar
    Registered
    May 2003
    Location
    Staff meeting
    Posts
    8,188
    At the last two places I worked, staff reports in conjunction with applications for variances in front of the Zoning Board of Appeals did not provide recommendations. The idea was that variance cases were pretty straightforward (either it met the variance criteria or it didn't) and staff reports were simply a report of the facts of the request. Now, Plan Commission review was/is different and an explicit recommendation was always provided, which I think is very necessary.

    As to the reason for this thread, I think Pech's commission is being silly. The point of having professional staff is to analyze the application and proivde their experienced, professional opinion/recommendation to the reviewing body. I think the commission and, likely, the general public needs to understand that having ethical professional staff providing a detailed analysis and recommendation on a proposal is a very good thing for the municipality.
    Last edited by mendelman; 21 Apr 2011 at 9:27 AM.
    I'm sorry. Is my bias showing?

    Let's not be didactic in this profession, because that is a path to disillusion and irrelevancy.

    Six seasons and a movie!

  10. #10
    Cyburbian HomerJ's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 2010
    Location
    I'm gettin' there
    Posts
    927
    Quote Originally posted by mendelman View post
    As to the reason for this thread, I think Pech's commission is being silly. The point of having professional staff is to analyze the application and proivde their experienced, professional opinion/recommendation to the reviewing body. I think the commission and, likely, the general public needs to understand that having ethical professional staff providing a detailed analysis and recommendation on a proposal is a very good thing for the municipality.
    Agreed. From what I'm hearing, this sounds like a PC I would not want to deal with. Why even have professional staff if you don't want their input? I don't know the full story here, but I see this as a situation where staff should take a firm stance. The planners are a non-biased professional resource and the planning commission will have political motivations driving their decisions. I think it is walking a pretty dangerous line when the PC is allowed to ignore staff recommendations.

    Besides, they are just recommendations anyway, the PC already has the right to question them. What is this going to accomplish? If the purpose is to prove to the public that the PC can make its own decisions, why not have one of the planners create a file tracking every scenario where the PC went against staff recommendations? I would be willing to bet there are plenty of past instances where this occurred.
    Last edited by HomerJ; 21 Apr 2011 at 9:31 AM.
    Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Joe Iliff's avatar
    Registered
    Aug 1997
    Location
    Clowns to the left, jokers to the right
    Posts
    1,438
    I think I can understand the Plan Commission's concern.

    At a former community, the Chair of the Planning Commission had a preamble she read at the beginning of the meeting that described who the Commission was, how the meeting would run, and what would happen next. One of the statements she read described how staff may make a recommendation to the Commission, but the Commission has to decide for itself what action to take or recommendation to make to City Council (depending on the item). And this would happen after the public hearing.

    Also included if the Commission is only making a recommendation, that City Council makes the final decision. And asking everyone to have an open mind to the ideas and views of others, treat others with respect, etc. Staff also made a point on each item to tell the Commission and the public whether Commission was making a final decision or only a recommendation to Council. Maybe having something like that read at the meeting, or printed up for people to read would help.
    JOE ILIFF
    ________________________________________________________________________
    Debt is normal . . . Be weird!
    Dave Ramsey

    "Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think."
    Martin Luther King, Jr.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian ThePinkPlanner's avatar
    Registered
    Jul 2009
    Location
    South of Canada
    Posts
    345
    If a community believes that its review board members are merely following the whims of a pre-determined decision made by staff, I would say that maybe that community has the wrong board members.

    I feel it is my duty to provide a report to board members as to whether certain aspects meet the letter and intent of the regulations. The letter of course being easier to establish compliance.

    Still, to appease any perception of our omnipotence, I do my best to use the word staff as often as possible in my report. I'm also careful to provide thought and discussion provoking questions to the board members with the letter of the regulations and comp plan for guidance.

    My final recommendations are usually provided and most often very clear- approve, deny, approve with conditions. But I also often close with a series of items that should be discussed before any decision could be made.

    If I was a board member, I would appreciate staff's recommendation. And I would know that I'm grown up enough to make my own decision regardless of the recommendation of their report.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian btrage's avatar
    Registered
    May 2005
    Location
    Metro Detroit
    Posts
    6,419
    Quote Originally posted by ThePinkPlanner View post
    Still, to appease any perception of our omnipotence, I do my best to use the word staff as often as possible in my report. I'm also careful to provide thought and discussion provoking questions to the board members with the letter of the regulations and comp plan for guidance.

    My final recommendations are usually provided and most often very clear- approve, deny, approve with conditions. But I also often close with a series of items that should be discussed before any decision could be made.
    This is how I approach it. I am very clear about my recommendation, but list certain discussion items that could open the door for a different conclusion.

    There are times when I make a recommendation, but also specificially list alternative options.
    "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany"

  14. #14
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
    Registered
    Feb 1998
    Location
    Greensburg, Kansas
    Posts
    2,950
    I often add either in the report or presentation that these are the points that staff found during our review. Other issues or points may be found during the public hearing and deliberation.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Otis's avatar
    Registered
    Mar 2002
    Location
    Upper left edge
    Posts
    3,805
    I've worked with them both ways. In the county that surrounds Otisville and where I was a planning commissioner for a number of years, the staff reports do not contain recommended decisions. But they do draw attention to issues that the planning commission needs to be aware of or address. The idea of no reco was to avoid the appearance of the decision being a done deal. A well crafted staff report can help to avoid this, but there are many people who only see the reco and think the result is foreordained. In Otisville itself, we provide recommendations. The planning commission was aghast at the idea of no recommendations when I suggested in several years ago.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian
    Registered
    Mar 2009
    Location
    Salt Lake City, UT
    Posts
    194
    Among Utah communities, it is common for Staff not to make a recommendation. Often, the local jurisdiction just wants Staff to give them the facts and not make a recommendation. An example of "if you don't plan on incorporating others' opinions into your decision, don't bother asking for them".

  17. #17
    Cyburbian ursus's avatar
    Registered
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Northern Utah
    Posts
    3,817
    Quote Originally posted by smccutchan1 View post
    Among Utah communities, it is common for Staff not to make a recommendation.
    That hasn't been my experience, but I've only worked for three and you've probably consulted for dozens, so I'll concede the point before we start

    I have had occasion where I want to - or am directed to - withhold a rec and just provide findings. I'm not ever bothered thinking that the Commission might disregard my recommendation, I just don't want them to make a rec or decision without supporting it with findings of fact.
    "...I would never try to tick Hink off. He kinda intimidates me. He's quite butch, you know." - Maister

  18. #18
    Member
    Registered
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    1

    Examples

    Quote Originally posted by smccutchan1 View post
    Among Utah communities, it is common for Staff not to make a recommendation. Often, the local jurisdiction just wants Staff to give them the facts and not make a recommendation. An example of "if you don't plan on incorporating others' opinions into your decision, don't bother asking for them".
    Does anyone have any links to examples of staff reports from cities that do not include recommendations?

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
    Registered
    May 2002
    Location
    Flint, Michigan
    Posts
    1,025
    I've heard lawyers at planning conferences suggest that Planners NOT make recommendations on their reports. Their reasoning was that the Planner's job was to provide the factual background and their recommendations could be construed as influencing a board's/commission's decision.

    Personally, I've produced a couple staff reports for my Board of Adjustment without a recommendation, and each time, they read that as if I were recommending denials.
    Maintaining enthusiasm in the face of crushing apathy.

+ Reply to thread

More at Cyburbia

  1. Staff reports and media
    Career Development and Advice
    Replies: 6
    Last post: 14 Jul 2011, 4:12 PM
  2. Staff reports
    Land Use and Zoning
    Replies: 4
    Last post: 04 Feb 2009, 2:38 PM
  3. Posting staff reports on-line
    Land Use and Zoning
    Replies: 16
    Last post: 17 Apr 2008, 8:18 AM
  4. Staff reports
    Friday Afternoon Club
    Replies: 40
    Last post: 18 Feb 2005, 4:31 PM
  5. Replies: 15
    Last post: 07 Sep 2003, 7:36 PM