The Lighter Side of City Planning California

Gus Romo Development director

City planning is the nucleus of a community where residents with different views on politics regarding California land use can voice their opinions to their local city council and planning commission meeting.

Do a search on YouTube on planning commission or city council meetings to get a wide variety of videos basically showing the good, the bad, and the ugly in city politics.

There are news stories abound about controversial land projects being opposed by citizens, environmental activists, and housing watchdog groups.

This is not one of them, this is the lighter side of city planning California.

In a small city hall during a planning commission meeting a citizen from the audience uses their three minutes of open public comments time to give their opinion for or against a project or ask a question.

The citizens question was, “Excuse me, what is a cup? You have been saying it all night.”

A project being proposed and being brought forward to the planning commission and citizens was asking for a cup or conditional use permit.

Its humorful to see where the confusion was. A city planner forgot their audience for a moment and used language average citizens are not or should be familiar with.

Lesson learned was in any profession, be it urban planning or a short order cook, make sure the people you are communicating understand what’s being talked about.

Later I reached out to Baldwin Park’s Community Development Director Gus Romo (at the time) and shared what I saw and asked if he had come across that in his career, the use of an urban planning acronym being overused or not explained to the general public.

Gus Romo development director gave me a good bit of advice I can only paraphrase, as being to the mind of always explain in layman’s terms, especially in city planning.

Thanks for reading, Land Planning 411

Final Talking City Planning with Gus Romo

Romo Planning Group

Gus Romo, Permitted land use, California community development, city planning, land use planning, Gustavo Romo, Romo Planning Group, planning professionals California, CEQA, contract planning services California, land planning 411

Talking California Community Development, City and Land Use Planning with Gus Romo

At Land Planning 411 we give our readers interested in community development, city planning, and land development five random questions we submit to planning professionals in California.

Today we share our interview with Community Development and City Planning Professional Gus Romo (Gustavo Romo).

Land Planning 411 (LP411): In your own words what do community development, and city planning, mean to you?

Gus Romo, Romo Planning Group (RPG): City planning has always been part of our history. However, in today’s world, it has become a tool to save our environment and educate people about the importance of creating sustainable communities.

LP411: Having been an audience member in many California planning commission and city council meetings I and other people sometimes can get overwhelmed by acronyms like CUP.

Do you personally prepare yourself and planning staff to give presentations limiting acronyms in a way to improve communication between community and city hall staff? And what is a CUP?

RPG: Yes, it’s always difficult for planners to catch themselves talking lingo instead of speaking in layman’s terms. We want to be understood but need to realize that we should always consider how the built environment is perceived and all the social factors that are involved. A CUP is a conditional use permit.

LP411: In land planning news it’s impossible to ignore the legalizing of cannabis and changes to city planning and land use. In a piece the city of San of Bernardino was having trouble keeping up with paperwork because agencies did not know how it all works. It’s a big topic, so can you shine light on any one part of city planning the legalization of cannabis has had on any specific area of the planning process?

RPG: Planners are dealing with similar issues the US was having when Prohibition came to an end. The stigma of cannabis, just like alcohol back then, continues to create animosity. Some people believe that the legalization of cannabis will prove to have the same negative impacts as alcohol (drunk driving, domestic violence, etc.). As Planners, we just need to realize that it’s going to take some time for cannabis to be accepted as a permitted land use.

LP411: What are the main differences in working as a contract planner and a permanent city planning employee? Or are there no differences? This question gets asked many times amongst urban planning students on college campuses.

RPG: The main difference is your employer benefits and the length of the assignment.  As a contract employee, you often work more than one jurisdiction and can be somewhere short-term or long-term.  As a city employee, you typically stay on much longer to see projects all the way from start to completion. 

LP411: Lots of people own raw land. This comes up in many conversations, “I own some land. What can I do with it? Where should they start if they are interested in having their property developed into a residential or commercial use to make money.

RPG: Before purchasing, they need to identify their zoning to see what the allowed uses are as well as the development standards.  They should also find out about the existing infrastructure.  Are all utilities available to the site?  What sensitive uses surround the site?  Is my land clean or potentially contaminated? They should also inquire if the city has any plans in that area to amend the General Plan or zoning. 

Thanks, so much Gus. Please share with us your experience, and a little personal insight about yourself you would like to share not related to urban planning. We are people first and professions second.

RPG: In the world of community development, you tend to deal with a variety of views and opinions.  The politics are rampant.  People disagree about what should be allowed or prohibited in their community. They disagree about how far government should be involved with their land use decisions.  You will have the two extremes and the middle.  Some people want to do whatever they please with their land.  Others believe the government should control every decision people make with their land.  This brings about a lot of excitement at City Council and Planning Commission meetings.  It’s never a dull moment.  As planners, we just must remain objective and keep doing our jobs in an ethical and diligent manner.

Thanks for reading, Land Planning 411