Planning Commissioners Academy

March 16 — 18, 2022

San Ramon, CA

Save the Date!

Designed for new and seasoned planning commissioners alike, this conference provides city officials with information about the roles and responsibilities of a planning commissioner, offers a basic legal and practical framework, and helps foster relationships with fellow planning commissioners. Last year's conference covered topics like CEQA, how to prepare findings and conditions of approval, the planning commission’s role and responsibilities, diversity and inclusion, leadership, relationships between commission, staff, and city council, key legislative issues, and more.  


For questions about registration, please contact registrar, Megan Dunn. For all other questions, please contact Education and Events Manager, Christina George.

Please see our event and meeting policies.

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2021 Academy Session Descriptions

Thursday, March 25

You Can't Quarantine Laughter

9-10:15 a.m.

In a hilarious, interactive virtual keynote, Greg Schwem, dubbed “your boss’ favorite comedian” by HuffPost, discusses the role humor can, and should, play as Americans enter a new post-pandemic world. Greg provides real-world examples of companies which have used humor to improve their bottom lines and fend off problems before they became full-blown crises. Greg will also candidly discuss why he feels humor has been disappearing from the corporate world, and why it should return. Prepare to make full use of the chat box. Greg encourages (a little) virtual heckling.

Welcome and Introductions: Joel Rojas, President, Planning and Community Development Department, Development Services Director, San Juan Capistrano

Speaker: Greg Schwem, Business Humorist, Corporate Entertainer, Author

 

Planning Commission 101: The Nuts and Bolts of Planning

10:45 a.m.-12 p.m.

Learn the basics about planning laws, typical planning documents, and how they fit together. The nuts and bolts of general plans, housing elements, specific plans, zoning codes, subdivision ordinances, design review and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) will be discussed. Presenters will walk attendees through typical project review and decision-making processes. Learn how plans, codes, and regulations can be written to ensure that principles of sustainability, equity and community-building are incorporated in new development.

Moderator & Speaker: David Early, Senior Advisor, PlaceWorks

Speakers: William Anderson, FAICP | Marc Roberts, City Manager, Livermore

 

You Got Your RHNA – Now What?

1:30-2:45 p.m.

Cal Cities, the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) will discuss different zoning strategies to accommodate your RHNA. This presentation will include an overview of different strategies for the site identification process, common mistakes HCD is seeing, and debunking myths. The presentation will then be followed by a discussion about specific RHNA scenarios and brainstorming through solutions.

Moderator and Speaker: Jason Rhine, Assistant Legislative Director, League of California Cities

Speakers: Paul McDougall, Housing Policy Manager, CA Department of Housing and Community Development | Sohab Mehmood, Housing Policy Specialist, CA Department of Housing and Community Development

 

CEQA, From the Beginning

3:15-4:30 p.m.

Hear an introduction to the role of CEQA in the planning process, as we cover the basics in this dynamic session. Join us as we pull back the curtain on parts of the process, including the types of documents you will see, how environmental decisions are made, and the responsibilities of staff and the commission at each stage in the process. The tools and approaches taken by those who prepare the documents for your review will also be discussed, with an opportunity to ask questions throughout the session.

Moderator: Eric Nelson, Director, Planning and Community Development Department, Planning Commissioner, Dana Point

Speakers: Shannon George, Vice President/Principal, David J. Powers & Associates | Mark Teague, Principal, PlaceWorks

Friday, March 26

Speed Sessions

9-10:20 a.m.

Moderator: Ernie Schmidt, Immediate Past President, Planning and Community Development Department, Planning Commissioner, Redwood City

 

In the Trenches with Your General Plan

9–9:40 a.m.

The general plan is more than the legal underpinning for land use decisions; it is a vision about how a community will grow, reflecting community priorities and values while shaping the future. It is critical for planning commissioners to understand the purpose and role of general plans. This session will provide an overview of general plan history, content and legal requirements, relationship to regional plans and programs, and current policy trends. This session will also discuss the importance of the general plan and how planning commissioners use the document regularly to make land use decisions and environmental determinations.

Speaker: Dan Amsden, AICP, Director of Planning Services, MIG

 

Value Capture: Zoning and Entitlements as "Currency" Generators for Cities

9:40–10:20 a.m.

In a post COVID-19 digital economy private sector, land use preferences are shifting from retail and hotel to residential and industrial. Many cities have monetized land use by approving projects that emphasized sales tax and TOT. Post-COVID, the private sector will submit projects less accretive to a city’s economic sustainability. How can cities capture sufficient value from future applications? This session focuses on “development currency “tools cities can use to reset local economies including examples of how to maximize community and fiscal benefits through land use, zoning and entitlement policies that capture value and improve quality of life.

Speaker: Larry Kosmont, Chairman & CEO, Kosmont Companies

 

How to Prepare Findings and Conditions of Approval

10:45 a.m.-12 p.m.

As a planning commissioner, your decision to approve an application is based on whether you can make the required findings and draft conditions of approval that can be implemented. Learn the reasons why findings are so important in rendering a decision on a project and what conditions of approval are and how to prepare them.

Moderator: Debbie Chamberlain, First Vice President, Planning and Community Development Department, Community Development Director, San Ramon

Speaker: Patricia Curtin, Partner, Wendel Rosen LLP

Wednesday, March 31

City of Dysfunction Junction: How to Conduct an Effective and Respectful Planning Commission Meeting

9-10:15 a.m.

Enjoy a mock planning meeting skit, where you will learn some do’s and don’ts for when you are seated on the dais.

Moderator: Caitlin Cole, Conference Program Manager, League of California Cities

Facilitators: Christi Hogin, Attorney, Best Best & Krieger | Michael Jenkins, Of Counsel, Best Best & Krieger

 

CEQA, In the Weeds

10:45 a.m.-12 p.m.

This session assumes some familiarity with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Hear an in-depth discussion on the process of crafting mitigation measures, long and short-term impacts, and how the CEQA landscape changes with legislation, court decisions, and agency preferences. We will delve more into why CEQA documents look the way they do, the role of findings, and what to do with late-hit letters. Presenters will seek to demystify some of the more technical sections of the document.

Moderator: Eric Nelson, Director, Planning and Community Development Department, Planning Commissioner, Dana Point

Speakers: Shannon George, Vice President/Principal, David J. Powers & Associates | Mark Teague, Principal, PlaceWorks

 

Relationship Between Planning Commission, City Council, and Planning Staff

1:30-2:45 p.m.

As a city official there will be various competing values and priorities that drive you and your colleagues within your city. Your success on the planning commission requires an effective relationship with your planning staff and city council, where everyone’s values are respected and represented. Learn how to work together while cultivating each of your diverse roles.

Moderator: Meghan McKelvey, Manager, Department and Member Services, League of California Cities

Speakers: Debbie Chamberlain, First Vice President, Planning and Community Development Department, Community Development Director, San Ramon | Eric Nelson, Director, Planning and Community Development Department, Planning Commissioner, Dana Point | David Sander, Council Member, Rancho Cordova

 

The Planning Commission's Role and State Limits on Its Discretion

3:15-4:30 p.m.

The Planning Commission, implementing the City’s General Plan and Zoning Code, decides which projects are built in the city. The Commission’s decision to approve or deny a use permit or variance is often an exercise of discretion. The State Legislature recently limited the Planning Commission’s discretion through both the Housing Accountability Act and Housing Crisis Act as to certain kinds of housing projects. This presentation will explore the bounds of the Planning Commission’s discretion and the limits of State law, with a particular focus on new state legislation.

Moderator: Joel Rojas, President, Planning and Community Development Department, Development Services Director, San Juan Capistrano

Speakers: Aleks Giragosian, Senior Counsel, Colantuono Highsmith & Whatley, PC | Matthew Summers, City Attorney, Ojai and Barstow, Colantuono Highsmith & Whatley, PC

Thursday, April 1

Legislative Update

9-10:15 a.m.

Learn about recent bills that have passed, as well as top issues that are trending in the legislature, and the significance for city planning commissioners.

Moderator and Speaker: Jason Rhine, Assistant Legislative Director, League of California Cities

Speakers: Nicole Enright, Senior Program Manager, Institute for Local Government | Melissa Kuehne, Senior Program Manager, Institute for Local Government

 

From Dangerous Discourse to Extraordinary Engagement: Changing the Conversation on Inclusion

10:45 a.m.-12 p.m.

Diversity is a fact. Inclusion is a choice. If 2020 has taught us anything, it's that it is important to take a good, hard, long look at how we are doing business and truthfully examine how to do business better. Inclusion has moved beyond a buzzword and is now an expectation of our communities, our organizations, and our teammates. It is incumbent upon us to ask and effectively answer two questions: "Who else needs to be included in our conversations?" and "How can we effectively engage them?" This session will give you a new personal lens into conversations around diversity, equity, and inclusion, and it will equip you with specific strategies for changing how you do business to be more inclusive.

Closing Comments: Joel Rojas, Department President, Development Services Director, San Juan Capistrano

Speakers: Eric Bailey, Managing Partner, Extraordinary Balance | Nicole Lance, Managing Partner, Extraordinary Balance

 

2021 Academy Session Materials

 

2021 Academy Access for Registered Attendees

In addition to access to all live sessions, session materials, and virtual networking opportunities, registering for the conference grants you access to all session recordings for later viewing for a limited time. View the session recordings.

 

Previous Academy Session Materials

2020 Session Materials
2019 Session Materials