The Board of Supervisors will consider altering the General Plan Update’s guiding principles section and one supervisor has warned that doing so will trigger an overhaul of the update’s entire contents.
The guiding principles are value statements that outline what the update is trying to achieve. Approved years ago under different political circumstances, they’re controversial and there’s been debate about the public input process that shaped them.
Things have changed dramatically with recent elections and near the end of the board’s March 25 hearing on the update’s Infrastructure Element, supervisors considered whether future hearings should include a remodel of the guiding principles section.
An ad hoc stakeholders group is making recommendations on the update’s policies and Ben Shepherd, one of its members, said the group can include the guiding principles in its review process if supervisors want.
Supervisor Mark Lovelace, who is at odds politically with the rest of the board, described the principles as a “work order” for planning staff. He said tinkering with them will lead to an overhaul of the entire update. The principles were planned to be looked at again, he continued, but the intent was to make sure they’d “reflect what has been approved” and not trigger a “changing of the work order midstream.”
He added, “If we come up with a whole new set of values midstream, we’d have to revisit everything that that’s based on.” But other supervisors believe it will be useful to take up the section again. Board Chairman Ryan Sundberg acknowledged Lovelace’s portrayal of the consequences but suggested they’re acceptable. “I would still like you to look at the guiding principles,” he told Shepherd. “If we’re off course, then we’re off course – if we’ve got to change direction, we’ll change direction.”
Lovelace reminded that the section was approved nine years ago and has driven the work to date. “If you want to revisit them and restart, know what you’re getting yourselves into,” he warned.
Supervisor Estelle Fennell didn’t see the move as being problematic, saying that a “fresh look” could be beneficial.
The board majority agreed to revisit the section.
Earlier in the meeting, supervisors reviewed various infrastructure and development-related policies, approving several supported by the county’s Fire Chiefs Association.
But the board ran into a conundrum when it considered a policy on determining infrastructure and service standards to be required for new development. The policy calls for an ordinance to set the standards.
That’s procedurally problematic because in an earlier hearing, the board majority agreed to delete references to level of service requirements and limit the scope of service standards, contradicting the recommendations of planning staff and following those of the development-friendly sector of the ad hoc group.
Lovelace was the lone dissenter on those matters and he questioned how an ordinance can be drafted without policy references to back it up.
“It becomes a question of, which is the tail and which is the dog,” he said. “If we leave those things out early on in the policy and then we get to the implementation, at some point we say, well, we don’t have a policy specifying those things … and eventually we get down to the line where we’re not going to do anything because we didn’t specify anything.”
In a procedural bind, supervisors agreed to take up Supervisor Virginia Bass’ suggestion to “flush this out a little later.”
Planning staff will reword the level of service ordinance policy and bring it back for more discussion on April 8. Also up for review are the remaining 36 policies in the Infrastructure Element.
Another thing staff will bring back is a new schedule for the update’s approval. The current schedule’s May 22 end date won’t be met and its extension will be one of several in the board’s review of the update.