The Petaluma City Council voted April 13 night to eliminate the city's planning staff because of a lack of development activity and a $4.5 million budget deficit.
Elimination of a planning department would be a remarkable turn of events anywhere in California, but the fact that this is occurring in Petaluma is downright shocking.
Read more about the Petaluma situation in this month's Local Watch story.
As just about every planning student knows, Petaluma was the first city in California where voters approved a growth control initiative. That was in 1972, and land use planning has been a local priority ever since. Petaluma voters have rejected proposals to alter the 1972 limitations, and they approved an urban growth boundary in 1998. More recently, the city has focused on downtown redevelopment, and those efforts are so successful that travel writers are now visiting.
I spoke with Petaluma Community Development Director Michael Moore for this month's story about planning department cutbacks. Moore told me his staff had been cut in half, and he was clearly worried about the future. As of June 30, he won't have a job.
According to a Press Democrat story, the city's planning functions will be handled by consultants and former city employees working on a project basis. I understand money is short these days, but I have to wonder whether Petaluma residents who are well-versed in land use policy are going to accept a vacant planning department.
- Paul Shigley