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Planning group bylaws unveiled

La Jolla’s city-recognized planning group is rewriting its rules, and the changes might make the group more accessible to residents.

The La Jolla Community Planning Association has been working for months on revisions of its bylaws, the rules that cover all facets of the group’s operating procedure, including membership, elections and trustee conduct. The city wanted to have all 42 community planning groups, which provide local input in the form of advisory votes to city planners and the City Council, update their bylaws this year.

It appears that La Jolla will be one of the first planning groups to complete the revision, with the final public forum on the matter scheduled to be held Thursday, Sept. 21, at 6:30 p.m. at the La Jolla Recreation Center.

Community Planning Association trustee Lance Peto is chairing the subcommittee in charge of the bylaw revisions, and he said the intent of the Sept. 21 forum is to allow the planning association’s full board of trustees to discuss proposed bylaw revisions with input from residents. If all goes well, the new bylaws could be put up for a vote before the planning association at its meeting Oct. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at La Jolla Recreation Center.

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A draft of bylaw revisions that have already been proposed is available for review at www.lajollacpa.org.

One possible change that has received significant consideration would make it easier for someone to become a member of the Community Planning Association. The group’s current rules require a person to attend three meetings before becoming a member, which allows the person to nominate and vote for the planning association’s 18 trustees.

That rule was the subject of criticism at the planning association’s May meeting, a crowded and contentious affair that saw hundreds of La Jollans turn out to hear the association discuss proposed revisions to development rules in Bird Rock and the Village.

City Attorney Mike Aguirre spoke at the meeting and said the three-meeting rule made it harder to become a voting member of the Community Planning Association than it was for a person to cast a vote for the president of the United States.

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The City Attorney’s involvement was prompted by a lawsuit filed against the planning association by a group of residents led by Sally Fuller and attorney Steve Haskins. The group alleged that the association had canceled meetings, changed meeting agendas, withheld attendance records and discussed votes prior to meetings in an effort to control voting outcomes.

The group reached a settlement agreement with the planning association largely based on the condition that the planning association revise its bylaws, which the city had already asked.

The current draft of the bylaw revisions would revise the membership rule to require attendance at only two meetings, rather than three.

“The CPA has been accused of being closed in terms of welcoming in the public,” Peto said. “We want it much more open. There has been a lot of concern about that, so we tried to reach a compromise. The community felt two meetings was a reasonable compromise.”

Another change from the old set of bylaws will deal with protocol for investigating violations of the bylaws by association trustees. Peto said the current draft of the bylaw revisions includes three pages of procedures for dealing with violations. There are no such guidelines in the current bylaws.

That portion of the revisions was drafted entirely by the City Attorney’s office, which has had a representative monitoring the bylaw revision forums, answering questions and sharing input.

“The City Attorney’s office drafted that portion, so there is no controversy,” Peto said. “I’m glad they took it out of our hands.”

Much of the new set of bylaws has already been designed by city planners. The city provided a shell format for community planning group bylaws in an effort to create some uniformity between the groups throughout the city.

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Peto said that while many of the new bylaws will mirror those of planning groups throughout the city, the bylaw revision subcommittee is finding some leeway to customize certain rules.

One of the suggested rules from the city would require subcommittees to be composed by a majority of planning association trustees.

Peto said allowing a subcommittee to be composed mostly of non-trustees would allow for a more open process and encourage more community participation. He said he hoped to hear from city staff on a possible revision of the rule before the Sept. 21 forum.

For more information, visit www.lajollacpa.org.