The War on Planning Groups

| October 4, 2023 | 0 Comments

Imagine if all democratically elected officials had to “apply” to keep their jobs. And the candidates they defeated were invited to apply for those jobs. And the “winners” were chosen behind closed doors.

This is called “overturning elections,” and it’s exactly what is happening to San Diego’s 53 community planning groups, including District 3’s five groups: Downtown, Greater Golden Hill, Mission Valley, North Park, and Uptown. 

For nearly 60 years, planning groups have exemplified the power of local democracy. Like my mother before me, I was elected to the North Park Planning Committee, and I know from direct experience that these all-volunteer groups work tirelessly to represent the will of their communities.

A few years ago, the City’s power elite abruptly declared war on planning groups, complaining that group members just weren’t the right sort of people.Every member has now been asked for personal information that includes age, race, and income. 

City Hall will use that information to either bestow official “recognition” on these elected groups OR withdraw it and replace them with hand-picked groups that NEVER WERE ELECTED!

This assault on local democracy was done at the direction of “strong mayor” Todd Gloria. And our City Council either helped lead the charge or stayed quiet on the sidelines.

“Complaints that planning groups ‘kill off housing’ have no basis in fact. These advisory groups have never had the power to curb growth. They can only make recommendations that convey the general will of their communities. City Hall can and routinely does ignore that input.

“The real problem here is that elected officials and their allies in the building industry are easily bruised. Even after a string of victories (proliferation of accessory dwelling units, passage of Senate Bills 9 and 10), they continue to fret. They want total public acquiescence, and they will brook no opposition.

“Stifling the messenger to block the message never works. Community residents who are feeling the strain of disastrous land-use policies will not be silenced. As North Park’s three-year battle over the 30th Street bike lanes has shown, when politicians try to shut out constituents, our resolve strengthens, and our voices get louder.”

I am running for the D3 Council seat to challenge City Hall’s culture of autocracy. If elected, I will support our planning groups, provide the resources these volunteers badly need, and fight any efforts to overturn their elections.

Starting with the Sept. 28 Greater Golden Hill meeting, I will attend every D3 planning group meeting to thank the members and personally attest to the value of their work.

Kate Callen, North Park resident and community activist

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