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Planning Board Changes Notice Procedure to Cut Costs

By Erica Madison

Financial constraints are forcing the Alameda City Planning Board to change its notification process.

At a Planning Board meeting on Monday Aug., 24 2009, planning managers Andrew Thomas and Jon Biggs presented a proposed amendment to the Municipal Code’s section 30-36.4. The purpose of amending this section is to cut the expenses of the planning staff.

The planning staff’s problem is section 30-36.4, states after the Planning Director has made a decision on a design application, any person may re-appeal the decision within 10 days. However another section, 30-36.3 states that the planning staff only needs to notify the person who submitted the application of the director’s decision. In the past this has caused problems for the surrounding public, such as the neighbors of the applicant, who may have wanted to appeal the planning director’s decision, but were unable to because they were never notified of the decision. Mostly what has happened is people who wanted to appeal decisions would miss their 10 day appeal period, because notification of a decision is not required of the planning staff.

What’s worse is, if the application is a minor design review, the planning staff has no obligation to notify the surrounding public of the fact an application is under review, nor of the Planning Director’s decision.

To correct this problem the planning staff started mailing final decision notices to the applicant and people who live within 100 feet of the proposed construction site. Unfortunately sending out these notices has become a financial burden, because it has caused staff members to apply for lots of overtime.

In an attempt to cut back on the cost of supplying these notices, planning managers Andrew Thomas and Jon Biggs have suggested that 10 days before a decision is made, the site will be posted to let neighbors know of the application and their right to comment on the review. This posting would be in lieu of sending letters twice to the applicant and the neighbors. Instead, after a decision is made one notice will be mailed to the applicant and neighbors within 100 feet of the site.

Once the notice of decision is mailed, a 10 day appeal period will begin. This will give the public time to re-appeal the Planning Director’s decision and give the Planning Board the option of calling the decision for review.

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