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So You Want to Be a Planning Commissioner?

San Francisco provides a case study of the immense challenges and scant rewards that await you in a job as a planning commissioner—planning outcomes suffer as a result.
October 15, 2019, 1pm PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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San Francisco, California
Rafael Ramirez Lee

"Planning commissioners might just have one of San Francisco’s hardest jobs," writes Sasha Perigo in a column for the San Francisco Examiner

"The appointed Planning Commission oversees San Francisco’s Planning Department and has the final say on what gets built in San Francisco and where. In the midst of a severe housing crisis, commissioners face a lot of angry people and have a lot of work."

For their trouble, planning commissioners are "practically unpaid," adds Perigo.

The massive amount of work that goes into attending and preparing for meetings means that many people who get appointed as planning commissioners are often semi-retired or have a great deal of flexibility in their job. That leads to problems of representation. "The Planning Commission is disproportionately white and male compared to San Francisco’s population and is composed of a majority homeowners," for instance.

The discussion is in the new this week because San Francisco Mayor London Breed named a new appointee this week, land use lawyer Sue Diamond, who is well regarded in the city. But the hire still fits a mold of white, well educated, and wealthy. Perigo suggests that planning outcomes suffer when the representation on the commission doesn't mirror the demographics of the city.

Full Story:
Published on Tuesday, October 15, 2019 in San Francisco Examiner.
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