CALIFORNIA CITY – An agenda item proposal to take away responsibilities from the city planning commission was met with pushback from council members and residents during a city council meeting Sep 28.
Councilmember Kelly Kulikoff brought the proposal to the council Tuesday, following several weeks of canceled planning commission meetings and a backlog of development projects that span several years.
Kulikoff said he did his own research and found several other cities in California with smaller populations do not have planning commissions. He suggested the council take over planning commission duties to help speed up workflow.
“California City is putting too much authority on the planning commission,” Kulikoff said. “It’s causing delays in development.”
However, several other councilmembers said they disagreed with taking on the extra work, and vouched that the commissioners are doing their best in a unfortunate situation.
Councilmember Jim Creighton said there was “no reason” he could see to disband the commission. He listed it would make the council meetings longer and could raise attorney costs if both the city attorney and the attorney for the commission were needed to attend the meeting.
“The council serves as an appellate to the planning commission, when they deny a project it comes to us,” Creighton said. “Where would the appeals go?”
Creighton added removing the planning commission could also be a legal issue where the council would have to change the municipal code.
Several planning commissioners agreed with Creighton, saying they are not responsible for the delays in the planning department. The city has been without a city planner for over six months, and Cal City has only recently picked up in development.
Commissioner Jay Dunham said the commission is filled with people who care about California City, and they all want to see development projects move faster.
“It takes hours to do the job well, and I’m fortunate to sit on the commission with people who want to put in those hours,” Dunham said.
Chair Carolinda Fleming echoed the sentiment, calling the proposal “premature”. She noted the city has just entered a contract with Interwest to help with the planning department and commissioners should be given a chance to show improvement to the department after working with the consultants.
“I think we should take a step back and allow Interwest to review our stuff and get us back on track,” Fleming said. “We are willing, ready and able. We are putting in the work.”
Local developer D.J. Twohig said he disagreed a lack of employees at city hall was contributing to the issues in development. He said he is in favor of winding down the commission to allow for a speedier process.
“It’s not a staffing issue,” Twohig said. “There’s no reason to have development projects derailed six months to a year.”
Twohig suggested giving the commission 90-days to review and respond to a project, before it moves to the council.
Resident Tami Marie said only developers are in favor of getting rid of the planning commission, accusing Kulikoff of using the proposal for personal gain in his own work.
Kulikoff said he was open to simply “removing duties that don’t fit” within the planning commission, as opposed to disbanding them completely.
“There’s a logistics problem in Cal City,” Kulikoff said. “We can’t tiptoe around it, we need a solution, or we are disregarding the developers. There’s no revenue with no projects.”
The council agreed to direct staff to bring back the agenda item in January, after Interwest has worked with city staff and the commission.