Minding Our ABC’s: the Planning Commission’s dispassionate mandate
By Adrienne Gladson
Maybe it was my first full-time job at the Orange Main Library that built my confidence with handling the alphabet. Later on, my career as a certified planner also involved blueprint rolls and stacks of documents loaded with lots of additional letter abbreviations. Now, as a member of the Orange Planning Commission, a bowl of alphabet soup is always on our agenda.
CEQA, EIR, GP, NPDES, FAR, CUP, MND and ADU are just a few abbreviations commonly used in the city’s planning world. As planning commissioners, our preparation for any meeting involves understanding lots of acronyms while reviewing staff reports, technical notes and plans. It is an honor for us to serve in this critically important volunteer role, where we routinely sort through this alphabet on your behalf.
Planning commissioners are constantly mindful of the General Plan, zoning codes, legal mandates and ethical responsibilities as we work. We thoughtfully question applicants, staff, technical experts, and invite input from neighbors, property owners, interested parties, and members of the community before we render a decision. To ensure fair process, we have our own ABCs.
A-Applicant - Every project applicant has the right to present his ideas for the use of a particular property.
B-Balance - Creating a balance means to listen to and consider all opinions, and look beyond personal preferences using the established facts and legal mandates when considering the request.
C-Community - Inform the community about environmental, traffic, or noise impacts, design needs, or issues for analysis before action is taken.
Before approving a proposal, we may require adjustments to protect community interests, and prefer them to achieve a win-win outcome. To ensure transparency, we share all documentation and measure the request against required findings that are in place to provide for the common good. To be ethical, we restrict discussion of pending matters outside of public hearings and abide by the Brown Act, which is the California law that governs public meetings and ensures transparency.
Thoughtful deliberation is what you expect from us. Each commissioner is, first, a community member. We bring that background and perspective to the dais. Years of community involvement – in my case, volunteer service with several local non-profits – roots me in Orange. However, in the role of a planning commissioner, the work is very structured and requires ongoing discipline and careful reasoning.
We acknowledge that members of the public know and care about the city, just as we do. I invite you to visit cityoforange.org to review the General Plan and commission agendas. Don’t let an “alphabet soup” of abbreviations discourage participation. The public is always welcome at meetings, as we examine various proposals. My advice, from over seven years on the commission, is to engage in a respectful manner at these meetings, and connect with the project planner to learn more about the process and protocols at the hearing. Your planning commission is united with the city council, residents, homeowners, and businesses to realize our shared community goals of keeping Orange safe, well-planned, and resilient for the future.
Adrienne Gladson is a City of Orange Planning Commissioner.