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Council OKs protection from lawsuits for volunteers, staff

The City Council voted unanimously March 23 to indemnify members of community planning groups in San Diego from lawsuits.

The ordinance passed by the City Council would provide for the defense of community planning group members in the event they are sued for work they are doing on behalf of the city.

The City Council also requested that staffers look into extending indemnification to members of community planning group subcommittees and return to the Land Use and Housing Committee within 90 days.

Councilman Todd Gloria said the goal of indemnifying community planning groups is to “encourage people to volunteer their time and energy to improve their community.”

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The effort follows litigation filed against some members of a community planning group in La Jolla.

“It is a reasonable extension of a desire the city has had for a very long time to protect and indemnify volunteers who come down and help you do the business that you do,” Jim Varnadore, chair of the City Heights Area Planning Committee, testified.

There are more than 50 community planning groups in the city. The groups are made up of community members organized to advise on land-use issues going before the Planning Commission and City Council.