Planning Commissioners Academy

March 29-31, 2023

Hyatt Regency Orange County

11999 Harbor Blvd, Garden Grove, CA

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. Previous topics included 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 Associate Manager, Event Program, Kayla Boutros.

 

Academy Information

Explore Previous Academies

2022 Academy Session Descriptions

2022 Planning Commissioners Academy Program (PDF)

Wednesday, March 16

Registration Open

9:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Pre-Conference: City Center Walking Tour

10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

Explore San Ramon’s new downtown area on this guided group tour and get an inside look at the latest developments since the 2016 Planning Commissioners Academy. Experience the new 300,000 square foot City Center, designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, which opened in the fall of 2018 and offers a range of dining, shopping, and entertainment options. Learn about planned updates to the Bishop Ranch Business Park with the recently approved CityWalk Master Plan which will guide the development of residential and commercial uses, along with public amenities within the Master Plan area, to complement and support City Center Bishop Ranch. The buildout of the Master Plan envisions the addition of up to 4,500 dwelling units over 25 years; a 169-key hotel; 166,000 square feet of commercial uses, and more than 38 acres of parkland. 

Walking Tour Leads
Lauren Barr, Planning Manager, San Ramon
Jeff Dodd, Senior Vice President, Retail, Sunset Development Company
Jerry Engen, Senior Vice President, Development and Construction, Sunset Development

 

Pre-Conference Workshop: Understanding Public Service Ethics Laws and Principles (AB 1234)

10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

State law requires elected and appointed officials to receive two hours of training in specified ethics laws and principles every two years. Newly elected and appointed officials must receive this training within one year of becoming a public servant. Join us to learn from an expert on how to navigate ethics laws and principles.

Speaker
Nicholaus Norvell, Partner, Best Best & Krieger LLP


Pre-Conference Workshop: Harassment Prevention Training for Supervisors and Officials (AB 1661)

10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

This informational and interactive workplace harassment prevention training will focus on current and emerging issues resulting from the #MeToo movement, and teach officials and supervisors how to identify, prevent, and properly respond to workplace harassment, discrimination, retaliation, and abusive conduct in order to avoid personal and agency liability in compliance with AB 1825, AB 2053, AB 1661 and SB 396.

Speaker
Heather R. Coffman, Associate, Liebert Cassidy Whitmore


Opening General Session

1:00-2:30 p.m.

Creating a City Where People Want to Live: Why Working Together is so Important
Great places and great cities don’t happen by accident, they are purposeful. Full of examples and anecdotes, this keynote shares the important role that planning staff and planning commissioners play in improving the quality of life of their communities. Building relationships, listening, and establishing expectations are important components of an effective planning process that can lead to a meaningful experience for all involved.

Welcoming Remarks

Debbie Chamberlain, President, Planning and Community Development Department, League of California Cities and Community Development Director, San Ramon

David Hudson, Mayor, San Ramon

 

Keynote Speaker
Mick Cornett, Mayor of Oklahoma City, 2004-2018


Concurrent Sessions

2:45-4:00 p.m.

Planning Commission 101: The Nuts and Bolts of Planning
Fundamentals Session

Commissioners will learn the basics about planning laws, typical planning documents, and how they fit together. Speakers who have worked as planning staff, planning commissioners, and consultants will introduce the nuts and bolts of general plans, housing elements, specific plans, zoning codes, subdivision ordinances, design review, and the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Understand the typical project review and decision-making processes that commissioners need to be successful. Participants will also learn how plans, codes, and regulations can be written to ensure that principles of sustainability, equity, and community-building are incorporated in new development.   

Presider and Speaker
David Early, Senior Advisor, PlaceWorks

Speakers
Anders Hauge, Planning Commission Member, Placer County
Marc Roberts, City Manager, Livermore

An Irregular Meeting of the City of Dysfunction Junction Planning Commission
Emerging Issues Session

Enjoy a popular depiction of a planning commission meeting gone awry and learn from its mistakes. 

Speakers
Christi Hogin, City Attorney, Best Best & Krieger, LLP
Michael Jenkins, Of Counsel, Best Best & Krieger, LLP

Concurrent Sessions

4:15-5:30 p.m.

CEQA: An Introduction
Fundamentals Session

Hear an introduction about the role of the California Environmental Quality Act (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.

Presider and Speaker

Mark Teague, Managing Principal, PlaceWorks

Speaker 
Shannon George, Vice President/Principal, David J. Powers & Associates

Tools for the Trade: New Resources for Planning Commissioners
Emerging Issues Session

Planning commissioners must balance the needs of their city, the vision of their community members, and state and local regulations while making decisions that are in the best interest of all they serve. To effectively do this, planning commissioners must be fast learners and seek out resources to become more effective leaders. Join a panel of planning experts to hear about emerging issues and trends in the planning field and new resources that can help you do your job better and with more confidence.    

Moderator
Melissa Kuehne, Senior Program Manager, Institute for Local Government


Speaker

Eric Nelson, Department Director, Planning and Community Development Department, League of California Cities and Planning Commissioner, Dana Point
Jenni Byers, Community Development Director, Lakeport



Peer-to-Peer Connections

5:30-6:30 p.m.

Take this opportunity to network with your peers from throughout the state after a full afternoon of educational sessions.

 

Thursday, March 17

Registration Open

7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

Networking Breakfast

7:45-8:45 a.m.

Understanding and Navigating SB 9 (Atkins, 2021) in Your City

9:00-10:15 a.m.
Joint Session

SB 9 (Atkins, 2021) allows “upzoning” of single-family neighborhoods irrespective of zoning codes, community input, and environmental review. As planning commissioners, you may have questions: Does SB 9 override Common Interest Development or Homeowner Association restrictions? How can municipalities preserve local control? How does SB 9 interface with Accessory Dwelling Unit laws? Must a city approve eight units on a single-family lot (a duplex and two granny units on each parcel after a lot split)? Or may cities approve only four of those units? Discover the answers to these questions and more as we assist planning commissioners in navigating the intricacies of implementing SB 9.   

Moderator
Eric Nelson, Department Director, Planning and Community Development Department, League of California Cities and Planning Commissioner, Dana Point

Speakers
Joan Cox, Partner, Burke Williams & Sorensen
Barbara Kautz, Partner, Goldfarb & Lipman LLP


Concurrent Sessions

10:30-11:45 a.m.

Relationship Between Planning Commission, City Council, and Planning Staff
Fundamentals Session

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, Department and Member Services Manager, League of California Cities

Speakers
Debbie Chamberlain, President, Planning and Community Development Department, League of California Cities and Community Development Director, San Ramon

Eric Nelson, Department Director, Planning and Community Development Department, League of California Cities and Planning Commissioner, Dana Point

David Sander, Council Member, Rancho Cordova

CEQA: Advanced
Emerging Issues Session

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. Dive into why CEQA documents look the way they do, the role of findings, and what to do with late-hit letters. Finally, some of the more technical sections of the document will be demystified.

Presider and Speaker
Mark Teague, Managing Principal, PlaceWorks

Speaker 
Shannon George, Vice President/Principal, David J. Powers & Associates

 

Networking Lunch

11:45 a.m.-1:00 p.m.

Streamlined Housing Laws and New Housing Legislation

1:15-2:30 p.m.
Joint Session

Learn about the recently adopted laws SB 35 (Weiner, 2017) and SB 330 (Skinner, 2019) that provide for expedited processing and approval of qualifying housing projects, review recent court cases interpreting SB 35 and the Housing Accountability Act, and provide an update on new pro-housing legislation signed by Governor Newsom, including SB 9 (Atkins, 2021) and SB 10 (Weiner, 2021). Planning commissioners are tasked with understanding how to consider and process streamlining applications. Speakers will review whether planning commissioners have the authority to approve or deny such projects and the findings that need to be made if they deny a project. Lastly, understand how the legislature has limited decision-making roles in making decisions on streamlining applications.

Moderator
Debbie Chamberlain, President, Planning and Community Development Department, League of California Cities and Community Development Director, San Ramon


Speakers
Amara Morrison, Partner, Wendel Rosen LLP

Patricia Curtin, Attorney, Wendel Rosen LLP

Coffee Chat

2:30-2:45 p.m.

Concurrent Sessions

2:45-4:00 p.m.

How to Prepare Findings and Conditions of Approval
Fundamentals Session

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
Joel Rojas, Immediate Past President, Planning and Community Development Department, League of California Cities and Development Services Director, San Juan Capistrano

Speakers
Patricia Curtin, Attorney, Wendel Rosen LLP


Speed Sessions

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

Post-COVID-19 Zoning Playbook: Value Capture Meets Quality of Life
Emerging Issues

The post-COVID-19 world’s economy is being driven by consumer preferences and online retail, private sector investment has shifted from retail and office to residential and industrial. Urban is moving to suburban, and rooftops (housing) now yield more economic impact given work and consumer buying activity. To counter losses, sales tax, zoning, and entitlements can generate currency when used to capture value via entitlement agreements that use density and financing tools in exchange for amenities and infrastructure. Learn about the “development currency and value capture” tools that cities can use to reset local economies and maximize community and fiscal benefits through land use, zoning, and entitlement tools.    

Speaker
Larry Kosmont, Chairman and CEO, Kosmont Companies

 

Wildfire Planning in the General Plan
Emerging Issues

Senate Bill 1234 (Kehoe, 2012) revised the safety element provisions in California state law which requires all cities and counties whose planning area is within the State Responsibility Area or Very High Fire Hazard Severity Zones to address and incorporate specific information regarding wildfire hazards. This includes the risk, policies, and programs to address and reduce unreasonable risks associated with wildfire. The specific requirements are codified in GC § 65302(g)(3) and 65302.5(b). Learn about this important law before a wildfire occurs in your city.     

Speaker
Brian Barkley, Fire Captain, CAL FIRE

 

Burning Questions, No Judgement
Emerging Issues

Have a question that you are afraid to ask in a public meeting, or feel that you should already know the answer to? Join us in a safe environment to receive answers to your most burning questions and hear questions from your colleagues.

Speakers
Debbie Chamberlain, President, Planning and Community Development Department, League of California Cities and Community Development Director, San Ramon
Robert Combs, Planning Commissioner, Danville

What Planners Need to Know About City Finance Today

4:15-5:30 p.m.
Joint Session

Learn the essentials and the latest hot topics in city finances in a session specially geared to city planners and planning commissioners. Hear about the rules and trends in taxes, fees, and other city revenues; the relationship with the state budget; and problems and prospects for reform. Explore the valid relationship of city finances with land use planning, and get your questions answered about the most pressing fiscal issues facing cities.    

Speaker
Michael Coleman, CaliforniaCityFinance.com

Friday, March 18

Registration Open

7:45 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

Networking Breakfast

7:45-8:45 a.m.

Legislative Update

9:00-10:15 a.m.
Joint Session

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

Speaker
Jason Rhine, Assistant Director of Legislative Affairs, League of California Cities

Closing General Session

10:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

How Planning Commissioners Can Be Leaders for Equitable and Engaged Communities
Fogbreak will share how Planning Commissioners can promote equity and be inclusive leaders. In this one-and-a-half-hour talk, organizational change and leadership expert, Berké Brown, will present a research-based and human-centered approach to meaningful leadership. Equity, diversity, and inclusion have become words that are used so often that sometimes the meaning behind them loses their power. If we dig deeper and understand that it is truly about being humane and empathetic, we can turn the tide from “checking off boxes” to making small but impactful actions that create equitable communities. Berké Brown will share and lead a workshop about the tools and strategies — derived from the model of procedural justice — leaders can use in everyday interactions with community members to make this vision a reality.

Closing Remarks
Cindy Silva, President, League of California Cities and Mayor Pro Tem, Walnut Creek
Debbie Chamberlain, President, Planning and Community Development Department, League of California Cities and Community Development Director, San Ramon

Keynote Speaker
Berké Brown, Partner, Fogbreak Justice

Adjourn

12:00 p.m.

*Schedule subject to change

 

2022 Academy Session Materials

 

Previous Academy Session Materials

2021 Session Materials
2020 Session Materials
2019 Session Materials

 





Call for Proposals

Cal Cities is seeking thorough, thoughtful, and complete proposals that tell how your session can help planning commissioners improve their communities, leadership abilities, and knowledge within their roles. Submissions from any individual, group, business, or organization on any topic are welcome. The call for proposals for the 2023 Planning Commissioners Academy is closed.

We encourage you to take advantage of this exciting opportunity to share your ideas, knowledge, and expertise with this important audience!


General Information

Who Can Submit

Submissions, from any individual, group, business or organization, are welcome through Sept. 21. Please remember that all sessions require a well-conceived presentation, good visuals, and a great deal of rehearsal!

How It Works

Only proposals submitted online through the proposal form will be considered. As there is a limit to the amount of words allowed within the title and description of each proposal, it may be helpful to draft the proposal in a word-processing program first, then paste the final version into the online form.

Target Audience

This educational event is designed to keep planning commissioners up-to-date on issues of importance to them and their cities. 

 

All About Proposals
Securing a spot on the program is highly competitive, with approximately 25 percent of proposals being accepted. You can increase your chances by preparing a thorough, thoughtful, and complete proposal that tells how your session would help planning commissioners and those who work within city governments to improve their careers and communities. When preparing your proposal consider the following elements:

  • Is the topic new and/or critical for city government?
  • Will it draw a wide audience?
  • Will this issue stimulate action and further important discussion?
  • Does this session apply to both seasoned and new planning commissioners?
  • Will members leave the sessions having learned something new? Are there key takeaways?
  • Does this session reflect the diversity of California cities (political affiliations, north/south, large/small, urban/rural)?

Tips for Successful Proposals

  • Think big
  • Vary the viewpoint
  • Pare down the panel
  • Speaker skills matter
  • Plan for a crowd
  • Try something new
  • Interact with the audience
  • Fill in the blanks
  • Quality counts

Types of Proposals

More than 95 percent of each year's conference programming comes directly from the open call for proposals. Sessions may be scheduled as a general session or concurrent session at Cal Cities' discretion. Select one of the available formats listed below that best fits your topic and desired outcomes or propose an alternative session format.

  • Keynote Speaker
    Keynote speakers are high-profile and designed to bring everyone together for a general session / and may set the tone of the event. This format permits approximately 45-60 minutes of an engaging presentation by a single speaker. Depending on time restrictions, the presentation may be followed by approximately 15 minutes of questions and answers with the audience or a moderator. 
  • Panel Discussion
    Panels consist of a moderator and a maximum of three speakers who participate in a 60 minute  engaging presentation and discussion followed by approximately 15 minutes of questions and answers.
  • Speed Sessions
    Fifteen minute bursts of information on one topic by one speaker followed by five minutes of questions & answers. Typically, these engaging presentations are based on focused projects or personal experience.
  • Facilitated Group Discussion
    A 75 minute interactive conversation on a topic led by a single facilitator. You may include a maximum 15 minute presentation on which the issue/concern is framed and, then, guide a discussion among the attendees with prepared questions. At the conclusion of the discussion, the facilitator must spend time summarizing key findings, suggestions, and points. 
  • Alternative Format
    Be creative! If your session does not fit one of the above formats, this is your opportunity to propose something different. Please be sure to provide the time, room setup, and other important details. Alternative formats will be accommodated based on interest level, space, and set-up availability.
Requirements, Review, and Policies 

Submission Requirements and Review

Submissions will be reviewed by a program planning committee.
Cal Cities reserves the right to modify accepted proposal session titles, descriptions, presenters or other elements as necessary to insure balance, quality and enhance marketability. If an originally accepted speaker cancels, the session may be disqualified. Additional speakers not included in the original proposal are not permitted to be added without review and approval.

Successful Proposal Considerations

The following criteria may be considered during the review of submissions:

  • Relevance - What are the practical applications of your ideas? Have you included reasoning and documentation to support your conclusions, recommendations and outcomes? Conference attendees prefer presentations focused on outcomes or results. Make the definition and background portions of your presentation brief. Highlight problems encountered, options available, choices made, documented pre- and post-change effects and lessons learned.
  • Content expands attendees' knowledge - Will your presentation expand knowledge beyond entry-level basics? Most conference participants are elected officials, appointed officials, and seasoned professionals. In general, direct your presentation to an intermediate or advanced audience.
  • Originality - Does your presentation advance existing ideas or present new ideas? Has this material been presented elsewhere? You might apply proven techniques to new problems or identify and apply new approaches, techniques or philosophies. Assess the degree to which an application is a new tool. Avoid highlighting a named product or service…focus instead on the general attributes, benefits and drawbacks of a given application, process or tool.
  • Examples - Do you have an appropriate number of examples? Documenting comparative results convinces participants that your ideas have been tested in the real world.
  • Timeliness - Will your presentation still be up-to-date and cutting-edge in six to nine months when the conference occurs? Will your topic have implications in the future? How relevant is your topic in the context of pending legislation, regulations and technology?
  • Inclusion of good, solid insights - What attendees want to learn is the reality versus the hype, the positive and negative attributes, problems encountered but not often discussed, realistic expectations for the operational use and adaptability to a changing environment. They are searching for guidelines and models to simplify or manage their own application or installation.
  • Logical conclusions - Are your conclusions supported by data? Attendees place a high value on supporting data in assessing the value and applicability of presentations. Include adequate and convincing details.
  • Identification of outside resources - Have you included sources of information, benchmark data or other examples?
  • Avoidance of product/vendor commercial - No commercials and/or proprietary information for particular products, services or vendors are permitted.
  • Completeness of proposal - The quality, completeness and accuracy of the proposal will be considered during session selection process.
  • Preferred Speaker Qualifications - Panelists should reflect the diversity of California with a north/south, large/small, urban/rural representation when possible.
    • Five or more (5+) years of public presentation experience.
    • Two or more (2+) years of experience related to working in or presenting on the topic or idea.
    • More than two (2) successful speaking engagements to large audiences at a regional or state level in the past two years.
    • Must not pose a conflict of interest with subject/business area or must disclose such information in each speaker bio submitted.
    • No commercialism.

To ensure a variety of perspectives, Cal Cities policy limits the number of times an individual, group, business or organization can speak at a single conference. In addition, each panel should have no more than one panelist per city/county, firm, company or organization (exceptions may apply).

  • Overall - In the end, you must make your case for the importance of this topic and its relevance to participants.

Registration and Speaker Policy

The League of California Cities is unable to provide complimentary registration or any reimbursement of expenses, travel, or other compensation. We recognize and deeply appreciate your interest and commitment. The success of our program depends on the efforts of practicing professionals willing to volunteer their time to professional education.

Privacy Policy

We value your privacy and will never share any of your personal information nor sell your e-mail address to an outside party.