So what happens now that we have submitted our comments regarding the Vacant Lot?
With over 200 concerned citizens who submitted letters to the Land Use/Environmental Planner Terry Powers, I began to wonder what the next step in this process of determining what will eventually be allowed to be built on the vacant lot. Does anyone actually read our comments and concerns? I contacted Terry Powers regarding this issue and he had Gig Conaughton walk me through the following steps that will occur. Below is the response to my questions on this subject:
May 22nd, 2009
Dear Ms. Biszantz,
My name is Gig Conaughton. I am the Public Affairs Officer for the Countyâ€™s Department of Planning and Land Use. Terry Powers told me you contacted him and he sent me your questions about our environmental review process. Weâ€™re more than happy to tell you about that process. Just so you know, it is guided by California environmental law, the California Environmental Quality Act, which you can find in California â€™s Public Resources Code at: www.leginfo.ca.gov/calaw.html.
Here are the answers to your questions!
1) Who reads the (comment) letters?
The DPLU and DPW Project Managers and subject area specialists read, review and respond to the letters.
2) How are they weighed in importance?
Under CE QA, we look for comments that identify an environmental impact that was not previously identified in the project analysis. County policy, based on CEQA guidelines, defines such comments as:
Â· Statements alleging inadequacies in the identification of environmental effects,
Â· Statements alleging inadequacies in the ability of Mitigation Measures or Design Considerations in clearly avoiding environmental effects,
Â· Statements alleging problems with the ND process.
Â· Statements alleging inaccuracies in the documentation.
Â· A recommendation for proposed changes to the project or proposed mitigation to reduce significant effects of the project.
Â· Substantive statements demanding that an EIR be completed support with facts.
3) How do we as writers see how your department responds to each letter?
Once we complete our review of the submitted comments and complete our responses, all responses and the original comments become part of the public record. Anyone can request to see this information which is available at our Project Processing Counter here in offices at the County Department of Planning and Land Use, 5201 Ruffin Road , Suite B.
4) Does your committee respond individually?
The County does not have a committee that reviews public comment. Project Managers and supervisory personnel from the various departments involved — generally DPW and DPLU — review the letters. Each letter is reviewed individually and is assigned an alphabetical letter and number for each comment.
5) Do you review them for a couple of months?
CEQA does not create a legal deadline for local jurisdictions to respond to comments. However, San Diego County DPLUâ€™s goal is to respond to all comments within 13 days after the close of the public comment period. Having said that, our response can take longer or even be shorter, depending upon the number of comments and their content.
6) What is the factor that decides if you go ahead and issue a ND or conduct an environmental (Impact Report) study?
CEQA spells that out for local jurisdictions. If all potentially significant environmental impacts from a proposed project can be adequately mitigated, CEQA requires a Mitigated Negative Declaration to be prepared and made available for public comment. If any potentially significant environmental impact CAN NOT be adequately mitigated, or a fair argument based on substantial evidence is presented contending that a project may have a significant environmental impact, CEQA requires an Environmental Impact Report.
7) How can a project be approved when no one can even see what the final drawing and project is going to look like?
Discretionary projects can not. CEQA requires a public environmental review process. The proposed Pauma de la Reina project would have been allowed â€œby rightâ€ and been exempt from CEQA except for the fact they needed a grading permit because they proposed to do more grading than they could â€œby right.â€ That permit triggered this review. Under CEQA, the County has all the information it needs, including architectural renderings, to judge the proposed Pauma de la Reina project.
8) What is the average residentâ€™s ability at this point to influence positive changes on the project for the community?
They are exercising that ability now under CEQAâ€™s public comment process. The County renders land use decisions in compliance with CEQA and all pertinent regulations. To date staff has received 170 comment letters from the community.
9) Do we get to hear a response to all the questions raised in the letters from residents?
Again, once we complete our review of the submitted comments and complete our responses, all responses and the original comments become part of the public record. Anyone can request to see those. They are available at our Project Processing Counter here in offices at the County Department of Planning and Land Use, 5201 Ruffin Road , Suite B.
Thank you very much,
Public Affairs Officer
Department of Planning and Land Use
County of San Diego
I hope this is helpful for anyone who had the same questions that I did! I am not really sure what it all meant and I feel like I need a dictionary for all the terms they use. It sure confuses me!
I wrote in my newsletter that we should really create an email database for when we need to organize and meet quickly our council can email us. You can send your email to
firstname.lastname@example.org and it will be forwarded to the board.