Restoration of the City Planning Commission

Why I believe a planning commission is necessary 

I believe a planning commission, of appointed citizens, can prevent abuse of restrictive zoning ordinances, serving as a watch dog over what the city council tries to advance and enforce.

A planning commission can add more due process and reasonable opportunity for an owner to present their case, more time to come into compliance, or reach an accommodation/compromise when requesting a variance or appealing a code enforcement action.

Planning commissions also review new development and infill development. As eastern Rancho Cordova builds out, plans made a decade earlier will need to be amended, changed to meet the needs of the developers and current residents. A planning commission cannot be directly influenced legally, and gives the citizens a measure of separation and impartiality from developers and special interest.

Infill development along Folsom Blvd will be controversial. A planning commission made of of residents can give citizens more input into what takes shape on  Folsom Blvd and give citizens more time to contribute to how those projects can impact existing neighborhoods.

The General Plan update is fast approaching in 2020, and a planning commission can better ensure that changes to our “constitution of land use planning and zoning” reflects the interests and values of all Rancho Cordovans.

The questions commissioners ask aren’t as predetermined or “steered” like council members questions of developers sometimes are. City staff work for the commission and help clarify things when project proponents are deliberately “vague”.

More Rancho Cordovans asking basic questions about our needs and priorities, how projects and ordinances impact residents, not industry spin, steered conversations which exclude our concerns, ultimately diminishing our property rights is what a commission can bring to Rancho Cordova.

My greatest concern is building institutions that ensure residents have access and control of their government beyond the ballot box. We have to work on our “civic infrastructure”, institutions and processes that protect our rights, and the rights of Rancho Cordovans in the future. That will define and distinguish us from just another base town or tired, old brownfield reuse story.

How it would be organized and what authority it would have  

The structure and role of planning commissions in California cities is well laid out in a publication produced by the Institute for Local Government titled “Plannning Commissioner’s Handbook”

The planning commission is a permanent committee
made up of five or more individuals who have been
appointed by the governing body (city council or board
of supervisors) to review and act on matters related to
planning and development. Most planning
commissioners are lay people without any previous land
use experience. Commissioners serve at the pleasure of
the council or board of supervisors, so commission
membership may change in response to changes in those
bodies. A local agency need not create a planning
commission; in some jurisdictions, the governing body
functions in that capacity.

Authority is derived from California Government Code Section 65101.

Excerpt Plannning Commissioner’s Handbook and City of San Mateo Planning Commission Handbook on duties:
Planning commission duties vary depending on the
jurisdiction. You can learn about your commission’s
particular responsibilities by asking the planning
department. Most commissions have the following
• General Plan. Assist in writing the general plan and
hold public hearings on its adoption. (The governing
body retains authority to actually adopt the general
plan.) Promote public interest in the general plan.
Consult with and advise public officials and agencies,
utilities, organizations, and the public regarding
implementation of the general plan. Also review,
hold hearings on, and act upon proposed
amendments to the plan.
• Specific Plans. Assist in writing any specific plans or
community plans and hold public hearings on such
plans. (The governing body retains authority to
actually adopt specific plans.) Also review, hold
hearings on, and act upon proposed amendments to
such plans.
• Zoning and Subdivision Maps. Review, hold hearings
on, and act upon zoning ordinances, maps,
conditional use permits, and variances. Similarly
consider subdivision applications.
 Individual Project Approvals. Review individual
projects for consistency with the general plan, any
applicable specific plans, the zoning ordinance, and
other land use policies and regulations.
• Report on Capital Improvements Plans. Annually
review the jurisdiction’s capital improvements
program and the public works projects of other local
agencies for consistency with the general plan.

• Hear Appeals of Zoning Administrator Decisions. The Planning Commission hears appeals of Zoning Administrator decisions. In addition, in some instances the Zoning Administrator may refer items up to the Planning Commission for review or Planning Commissioners may call up Zoning Administrator decisions for review.
Coordinate Planning Efforts. Coordinate local plans and programs with those of other public agencies.
Consider Land Acquisitions. Report to the governing body on the consistency of proposed public land acquisition or disposal with the general plan.
Special Studies. Undertake special planning studies as needed.

Cities can operate commissions with the minimum scope of powers a planning commission can have under state law,  or expand their role, allowing for the creation of subcommittees that focus on specific issues, projects or studies, general plan updates.
They can also be integrated into the code enforcement process, working with the zoning administrator of a city and serving as a zoning appeals board, if one does not exist.
Many cities include their planning commissions in economic development efforts beyond just hearing project applications and variance.

The Rancho Cordova Planning Commission helped draft the Folsom Blvd Specific Plan in 2006, which was updated in 2013 without the commission.


We are among only a handful of cities that do not have a planning commission. It is conspicuous and serves to “fast track” a minority interest over that of the majority. Its our right to have a planning commission.  It was promised to us by cityhood advocates and city council members running for office. They have broken their promises.

The city cannot substantiate that we :

  • discouraged development because we had a planning commission
  • discouraged high end or affordable housing project development because of a planning commission
  • discouraged retail/hospitality development  because of a planning commission

The council has had 7 years without a planning commission. What does Rancho Cordova have to show for it?

City of Sacramento successfully developed Golden 1 Center WITH A PLANNING COMMISSION
City of West Sacramento successfully developed Raley Field/Riverwalk/Southport WITH A PLANNING COMMISSION
City of Folsom successfully attracted and developed Intel and the subsequent Broadstone projects WITH A PLANNING COMMISSION
City of Folsom successfully attracted and developed Palladio Mall WITH A PLANNING COMMISSION
City of Roseville successfully attracted and developed Roseville Galleria WITH A PLANNING COMMISSION
Sacramento County successfully attracted and developed Delta Shores Shopping Center WITH A PLANNING COMMISSION

We are the ONLY city in Sacramento County that does not have an independent Planning Commision.

See for yourself:
City of Citrus Heights Planning Commission:
City Incorporated 1996
City of Elk Grove Planning Commission:
City Incorporated 2000
City of Folsom Planning Commission:
City of Galt Planning Commission:
City of Isleton Planning Commission:
City of Sacramento Planning Commission:
County of Sacramento Planning Commission:
County of Sacramento Community Planning Advisory Councils (CPAC)