Planning Commissioners Academy

March 6-8, 2024

Hilton Long Beach

701 W Ocean Blvd, Long Beach, CA

Thank you for joining the League of California Cities for three days of educational content and networking at the 2023 Planning Commissioners Academy in Garden Grove!

The academy took place Wednesday, Mar. 29-Friday, Mar. 31 at the Hyatt Regency Orange County, where planning commissioners from across the state explored current topics of importance and engaged in various networking opportunities.

Designed for planning commissioners and staff members of all tenures from throughout the state, the Planning Commissioners Academy expands an individual’s knowledge on a wide range of topics relevant to the planning commissioner’s role within their city and fosters relationships and communication with peers. Now more than ever, the opportunity for planning commissioners to learn from and network with each other is invaluable. We hope you join us March 6-8, 2024 at the Hilton Long Beach for our next Planning Commissioners Academy!

For questions about the conference please contact Associate Manager, Event Program, Kayla Boutros.

Academy Information

Explore Previous Academies
Wednesday, March 29

Registration Open

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

Breakfast on your own.

Walking Tour

9:00-11:00 a.m.

Join us on a walking tour of the Downtown Disney District located in the heart of the Disneyland Resort to learn about this entertainment, dining and shopping destination. The walking tour will cover the history of the two Disney parks, the development of Downtown Disney and how it has evolved over time, and the planning efforts underway to update the Disneyland Resort development approvals. Advanced registration required; limited to 25 attendees.

Tour Guide
Linda Johnson, Retired Principal Planner, Retired from the City of Anaheim

Pre-Conference Trainings

10:00 a.m.-noon

Take this opportunity to complete one of your state-mandated biennial trainings before the conference officially kicks off. Sign-in will begin 45 minutes prior to the session, and you must be present for the full two hours to receive the certification of attendance. Entry will be prohibited once sessions begin.

Understanding Public Service Ethics Laws and Principles (AB 1234)

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.

Matthew Summers, City Attorney, Barstow, Calabasas, Ojai, Colantuono, Highsmith & Whatley, PC

Harassment Prevention Training for Supervisors and Officials (AB 1661)

This informational and interactive workplace harassment prevention training will focus on current and emerging issues, 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.

Jennifer Martinez, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer, Hanson Bridgett LLP

The Institute for Local Government is a State Bar of California minimum continuing legal education (MCLE) approved provider and certifies this activity meets the standards for MCLE credit by the State Bar of California in the total amount of two hours (general credits). Provider #13881

Lunch on your own

noon-1:00 p.m.

Opening General Session: Navigating Change Without Losing Focus

1:00-2:30 p.m.

Welcoming Remarks
Debbie Chamberlain, President, Planning and Community Development Department and Community Development Director, San Ramon

Keynote speaker, Berké Brown will guide planning commissioners through a series of motivational concepts and an exploration of how their personal and work values can produce unshakeable resilience in the face of challenges and clarity in the face of change. Participants will leave feeling inspired to serve as true leaders and will be equipped with the necessary tools to navigate the unknowns with confidence while strengthening their community’s bonds.

Berké Brown, Global Speaker, Organizational Coach, and Behavior Change Specialist

Concurrent Sessions

2:45-4:00 p.m.

Fundamentals Session

CEQA: Basics

Hear an introduction about the role of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and 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.

Mark Teague, Managing Principal, PlaceWorks

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

Emerging Issues Session

When the Gavel Strikes: Tips for Efficient and Effective Public Meetings

Public meetings influence how your agency is perceived by the public. Meeting management strategies can make planning commission meetings more effective and promote an image of efficiency and transparency. In this session, a planning manager and a city attorney will share tips for minimizing disruptions, facilitating public participation, and fostering a thoughtful-yet-convivial atmosphere during commission meetings.

Debbie Chamberlain, President, Planning and Community Development Department and Community Development Director, San Ramon

Brendan Kearns, Shareholder, Richards Watson & Gershon
Talyn Mirzakhanian, Planning Manager, Manhattan Beach

4:15-5:30 p.m.

Fundamentals Session

Planning Commission 101: The Nuts and Bolts of Planning

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), and will walk commissioners through typical project review and decision-making processes. 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.

Moderator and Speaker
David Early, Senior Advisor, PlaceWorks

Don Anderson, Chairman, Westminster Planning Commission
Marc Roberts, Member, California Planning Roundtable

4:15-5:30 p.m.

Emerging Issues Session

Planning for the Future: Creative Strategies and Lessons Learned

Cities across the state are struggling to meet increased housing needs in their communities. Planning commissioners often help bridge the divide between community members and city councils who set policy direction. To help address this, many commissioners are seeking training, resources, and tools to not only do their jobs better, but help set their cities up for success. Join a panel of experts from local government, state government, and the private sector for a roundtable discussion covering creative policies, community engagement techniques, financing tools, and other innovative strategies to help meet community, regional, and state priorities.

Melissa Kuehne, Senior Program Manager, Institute for Local Government

Bryan Dopp, Planning Commissioner, Rancho Cucamonga
Sohab Mehmood, Senior Housing Policy Manager, CA Department of Housing and Community Development
Sandra Moberly, Community and Economic Development Director, Mammoth Lakes
Andrea Ouse, Community Development Director, West Sacramento
Mark Teague, Managing Principal, PlaceWorks


Networking Reception

5:30-6:30 p.m.

Make new friends and catch up with old ones while enjoying delicious appetizers and tasty beverages during the evening networking reception. It’s the perfect opportunity to form support networks inside your profession.

Thursday, March 30

Registration Open

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

Networking Breakfast and Visit with Sponsors

7:45-8:45 a.m.

Joint Session

Processing Housing Development Applications under SB 330

9:00-10:15 a.m.

In this interactive session, learn about the constraints and requirements in processing housing development applications under SB 330. SB 330 amended the Permit Streamlining Act by imposing new timing requirements in considering housing projects and amended the Housing Accountability Act by imposing limits on an agency’s consideration and approvals/disapproval of housing projects. In addition, SB 330 created a new streamlining process and vesting mechanism by creating a preliminary housing application. This session will highlight what staff and planning commissioners need to know and be watchful for in processing and considering housing projects.

Debbie Chamberlain, President, Planning and Community Development Department and Community Development Director, San Ramon

Patricia Curtin, Land Use Attorney, Fennemore Wendel
Barbara Kautz, Partner, Goldfarb & Lipman LLP
Amara Morrison, Director, Fennemore Wendel

Concurrent Sessions

10:30-11:45 a.m.

Fundamentals Session

Relationship Between Planning Commission, City Council, and Planning Staff

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.

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

Debbie Chamberlain, President, Planning and Community Development Department and Community Development Director, San Ramon
Ray Marquez, Council Member, Chino Hills
Eric Nelson, Department Director, Planning and Community Development Department and Planning Commissioner, Dana Point

Emerging Issues Session

CEQA: Advanced

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.

Mark Teague, Managing Principal, PlaceWorks
Shannon George, Vice President/Principal, David J Powers & Associates

Networking Lunch

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

Joint Session

Planning Commissioner Jeopardy

1:15-2:30 p.m.

The session will run in a show game format similar to Jeopardy. Attendees will be presented with an answer and will be given an opportunity to respond in a question format. The Jeopardy hosts will work through five different categories with difficulty ranging from 100 points to 500 points. Categories will include: Brown Act (with emphasis placed on Social Media), Conflicts of Interest, Housing, Parliamentary Procedure, and Constitutional Issues. Winning participants will be eligible for prizes!

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

Henry Castillo, Associate, Best Best & Krieger
Albert Maldonado, Associate, Best Best & Krieger

Concurrent Sessions

2:45-4:00 p.m.

Fundamentals Session

Planning Commission: Roles, Responsibilities and Restrictions

Planning commissioners will walk away having learned the answers to the following questions: What is the role of the planning commission as defined by state laws, city charter or local ordinance? What is the planning commission’s role in policy making versus policy recommendations? What are the responsibilities of the planning commission that it must understand and implement as a local agency body? What are the restrictions placed on the planning commission, such as new housing laws, Brown Act, Public Records Act, and conflicts of interest regulations?

Anita Gutierrez, Second Vice President, Planning and Community Development Department and Development Services Director, Pomona

Jolie Houston, Los Altos City Attorney, Berliner Cohen
Nick Zornes, Development Services Director, Los Altos

Extended Speed Sessions

Benjamin Yee, First Vice President, Planning and Community Development Department and Planning Commissioner, Fremont

Emerging Issues Session

Surplus Land Act: Know the Impact Before You Transact

2:45-3:15 p.m.

California is faced with a housing crisis. The state has revved up enforcement to accelerate the production of affordable housing including the use of public agency-owned land. Effective in 2020, the Surplus Land Act (SLA) requires all public agencies to follow a process to sell or lease any public property by first offering it to a state-controlled list of affordable housing developers. Learn how the SLA process impacts local land use and how to navigate the sale/lease/licensing of public agency property to pursue public-private projects that are compliant with state requirements and produce preferred community and economic development.

Larry Kosmont, Chairman and CEO, Kosmont Companies

Emerging Issues Session

Burning Questions, No Judgment

3:30-4:00 p.m.

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 and receive answers to your most burning questions.

Debbie Chamberlain, President, Planning and Community Development Department and Community Development Director, San Ramon
Robert Combs, Planning Commissioner, Danville

Joint Session

Objective Standards: How to Apply Objective Standards to Comply with State Law and Retain Local Control

4:15-5:30 p.m.

Recent state housing legislation requires that certain housing projects be reviewed only against objective standards such as “objective zoning standards,” “objective subdivision standards,” and “objective design standards.” As a result, objective standards are the only basis that a jurisdiction may use to deny or reduce the density of certain projects. This session will present alternative approaches for developing objective standards that comply with state law and ensure the appearance of new development is compatible with a jurisdiction’s vision. Learn how to measure design objectively, how to differentiate between a design guideline and a design standard, and how to apply a variety of approaches for developing standards that are measurable and verifiable.

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

Julia Malisos, Principal - Planning/Community Design, WHA
Isaac Rosen, Associate, Best Best & Krieger

Friday, March 31

Registration Open

7:45 a.m.-10:00 a.m.

Networking Breakfast

7:45-8:45 a.m.

Joint Session

Legislative Update

9:00-10:15 a.m.

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

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

Joint Session

Closing Keynote: State-Local Relationships in an Era of Hyper-Politics

10:30 a.m.-noon

Closing Remarks
Benjamin Yee, First Vice President, Planning and Community Development Department and Planning Commissioner, Fremont

Land use was once the exclusive province of local governments, but for a variety of reasons, including climate change and housing shortages, the state has assumed an ever-larger role in deciding how land is developed. No one knows how far this trend will reach, and it creates tension between state and local officials, because land use decisions often have impacts on local government revenues.

Dan Walters, Political Columnist for CALmatters, Author



2023 Academy Session Materials


Previous Academy Session Materials

2022 Session Materials
2021 Session Materials

Thank You Sponsors

Speaker Center

In the Speaker Center, you can find resources for all speaker-related details including deadlines, audiovisual requests, presentation submission directions, panelist agreements, and key event contacts. 

Agreements and Presentation Submissions

Below are key presenter deadlines and a link to the Speakers Agreement. Please read and complete the required fields to acknowledge your acceptance of the League of California Cities’ presenter guidelines. Providing your digital signature allows Cal Cities to move forward in planning and promoting your session, as well as publish your name and affiliation on our website and in marketing materials. Your contact information will remain strictly confidential.

Should you have any questions, please contact the education department.

Important deadlines 

Dec. 19: Complete the  Speakers Agreement and note any specific audiovisual requests. On the day of their presentation, speakers are provided a one-day complimentary registration (not including meals or special events), which needs to be completed via the form. If you would like to register for additional conference days or activities, please contact Megan Dunn.

Feb. 28: Discounted hotel rate cut off. Once you register for the conference, you will be prompted to book a hotel room.  

March 22: Deadline for advanced conference registration.

December-March: To ensure each speaker is comfortable with their responsibilities during the presentation, please hold at least one conference call with all of the panelists in your session. The session planning chair, typically the person who submitted the proposal for the conference, is responsible for connecting with the other speakers to hold a session planning call. 

March 20: Submit your final presentation to Cal Cities via the presentation submission page

Presentation Guidelines

Our goal is to provide exceptional educational experiences, networking opportunities, and innovative tools that will make attendees and their cities more successful. Studies show that adults learn best when they are actively involved in the process rather than passively listening or watching. Most attendees are knowledgeable about the subject, and therefore are interested in hearing what others know and what their experiences have been. Accordingly, we urge you to plan your presentation with these suggestions in mind.

The most common complaints on session evaluations from prior seminars are:
  • "The presentation was a 'sales' pitch for a particular product or service."
  • "I couldn't read the slides."
  • "One speaker took so much time that the others were not able to give their full presentations."
  • "I'd like more practical knowledge."
Please consider the following as you prepare for your presentation:
  • Relevant content for experienced audiences that stretches thinking and provides new approaches.
  • Content that is delivered in an engaging way and draws on the experience of the attendees.
  • Examples and case studies of real success (and successful failures).
  • Try to add stories, anecdotes, testimonials, or demonstrations that emphasize your point. We all remember a good story, and thus more easily the lesson with it.
  • Provide tools and information that the audience can implement.
  • If there are other speakers in your session, coordinate with them in advance to decide your speaking order and ensure that all presentations fit into the assigned time allotment. If you do not have the contact information for your co-presenters, please contact us at
  • Selling from the podium creates conflict of interest problems. Cal Cities educational sessions should never be an advertisement. Therefore, presentations may not include any commercialism for specific products or consulting services.

Submitting Your Session Materials

Presentation materials are an important element of Cal Cities educational programs. Please submit your presentation in either a Microsoft-friendly format or as a .pdf file no later than Monday, March 20. Submitting your materials by this date guarantees they will be posted in time for the conference. Session materials are offered electronically only.   


Session Layout and Structure

The League of California Cities encourages our presenters to use the most engaging educational platform possible when speaking at the Planning Commissioners Academy. We recognize that each session has a unique format and presentation style based on the preferences of the speaker(s) and content being presented, but the following three examples are provided as a general guideline in planning your session.

Panel Discussions: 75 minutes, with up to 3 speakers
Moderator (5 minutes)     
  • Welcome
  • Frame session
  • Introduce speakers
Speaker(s) #1, #2 and #3 (20 minutes)   
  • Summary of relevant experience
  • Learning objectives
  • Core session content
  • Summary of key points
Moderator (10 minutes)   
  • Facilitate Q&A
  • Final comments
Concurrent Session: 75 minutes, 1 speaker
Moderator (5 minutes)     
  • Welcome
  • Frame session
  • Introduce speaker
Speaker #1 (60 minutes)            
  • Summary of relevant experience
  • Learning objectives
  • Core session content
  • Summary of key points
Moderator (10 minutes)   
  • Facilitate Q&A
  • Final comments

Speed Sessions: (20 minutes)

Speaker #1 (15 minutes)

  • Self-introduction
  • Frame session
  • Fun and engaging presentation

Final thoughts (5 minutes)

  • Facilitate Q&A
  • Final Comments
As a reminder, sessions may not include any product/service demonstrations or commercial presentations for specific products or consulting services. Please contact the education department with any questions, concerns or assistance needs you may have.



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.