San Bernardino County's
Planning Department & Commission
Demonstrates Their Ineptness
San Bernardino County Planning Commission in session at the Board of
Supervisors' meeting chambers on October 17, 2013.
October 26, 2013
Planning Commission's public hearing on solar is a contrived sham.
• Editorial •
Planning Commission members
unwilling to embrace valid solar input.
The county's Land Use Services Department's proposed modifications
for solar energy zoning codes that are being developed under the solar moratorium was
presented before the San Bernardino county's Planning Commission for public hearing and possible
The hearing on October 17, 2013, was held in the Board of Supervisors'
Covington Chambers at the county's headquarters on Arrowhead Avenue in the city of
The hearing was linked via video to Hesperia and Joshua Tree
to allow public input from those distant sites.
Community Alliance presentation.
During the hearing on the proposed solar amendments to
Chapters 84.29 (Renewable Energy Generation Facilities) and 810.01 (definitions of the
Development Code), the Newberry Springs Community Alliance representative was the only
public member to speak at the San Bernardino location.
He highlighted six of seven recommendations contained in a letter
previously forwarded to the Planning Commission from the Community Alliance. The seventh
issue in the letter was recognized by Terri Rahhal, county Planning Director, at the start of
the hearing in her introduction, and will be adopted into the draft. That issue dealt
with local Community Service Districts being notified of solar applications being filed before
Many speakers provided valuable ideas.
Other speakers included two via video from Hesperia and
a dozen from Joshua Tree. Nearly all of the speakers requested that due to the
importance and the major impact of the solar amendments, that the proposed draft be returned
by the commissioners to Planning for the public's requested refinements and
None of the speakers spoke against the concept of the proposal;
generally stating excitement that the county's Planning Division had submitted a good
initial draft; but the speakers pointed out a number of deficiencies in the draft.
Inclusion of Rural Living zoning overhelmingly disliked.
One major concern that most speakers addressed is the inclusion
of commercial solar facilities being placed in Rural Living (RL) zones. The speakers
clearly expressed that industrial-type solar facilities have no place in residential zoned
Another major problem noted by a couple of the speakers is that the draft
is littered with ambiguous operational terminology that leaves the draft wide
open to challenges of subjective interpretation. The terminology is far from the
necessity of being legally concise.
Undefined, open-ended terminology.
Undefined terminology such as less
desireable, less environmentally sensitive, significant effect, appropriate, desirability,
sufficiently separated, sufficiently small size, sufficiently screened, adversely affect,
minimize, unobtrusive, not detract, proximity, significant degree, substantial, and
substantially impair are some of the subjective terms that the draft depends
upon, that are dependent upon one's point of view as to what is actually meant.
Proposal does not adequately protect the national parks.
Seth Shteir of the National Parks Conservation Association spoke of
the desert's annual 3-million visitors to the national parks, their experience of
wildnerness and open vistas and how the draft does not adequately protect the national parks
in the county that in 2010 stimulated over $100-million in tourism expenditures.
Planning Commission vote.
Upon the public speakers providing a wealth of suggestions on how
the draft proposal could be improved, the Planning Commission appeared dumbfounded as to
what to do next. In consulting with Terri Rahhal, who was present throughout the hearing,
the Planning Director advised the Commission of their options; however, she pushed her self-serving
interest in having her submitted draft forwarded, as is, to the Board of Supervisors.
No professional pride to get it right.
Terri Rahhal's desire to push her draft to the Board of Supervisors
in such a messy state, with so much valid public input missing, was pure sloppiness.
If Rahhal had any pride in her work, she would have withdrawn the draft upon hearing of the
public's valid comments; and she would have made the corrections. Instead, she has forced a
substandard draft, without public consensus, before the Board of Supervisors who will have to
endure the repeat performance of citizens who will once again have to return to present their
valid suggestions to hopefully have the county wake-up.
Each county Supervisor appoints one member of the Planning
Commission. Every member of the Planning Commission demonstrated a lack of capacity to
fulfill the duty called upon them.
As for the Planning Commissioners, they only appeared anxious to do
something to end the meeting and go home. How any of these lame excuses of a public
representative got appointed is highly questionable. What they demonstrated on October 17
(not only on the solar issue but also on a previous Big Bear issue) was a deplorable detachment
to public service and public due process.
Comments made by the commissioners prior to their vote were as though
they were not even listening to the public speakers. They were unresponsive
to all of the public suggestions made.
Third District's Supervisor James Ramos' appointed Commissioner,
Paul Smith, read a list of desert statistics that he had acquired from a number of
stories that he had read at
DRECR.com; but he joined the other desert
commissioner, Randolph Coleman of the First District, and the other commissioners in kissing-up
to Terri Rahhal by approving the draft, as is, for submission to the Board.
The Planning Commission hearings are a public sham.
For the concerned public who spent hours studying the draft and preparing
their presentation, and driving to a hearing site, and who had to wait for an overextended time
for prior agenda items, the hearing was another example of how San Bernardino County's government
doesn't work; and how those in appointed positions are so inept and connected with county staff
that public benefit is often lost to indifference and the convenience of staff expediency.
The solar draft that the commissioners voted to accept and forward for
Board approval is loaded with ambiguous terminology and lacks public consensus.
County Planning Director Terri Rahhal has screwed-up on this solar
code enhancement. Starting out with a good draft, largely done by an outside consultant,
the public has identified omissions, errors, and recommended some excellent suggestions to take
the draft from a good start to a great finish.
Unfortunately, Rahhal has shown a lack of pride in making her
presentation better. Rather than acknowledging that the draft should be much better and
taking the draft back for further development; Rahhal has rushed it forward upon a lame
commission that doesn't mind sending an untidy, incomplete proposal to the Board of
Supervisors to handle the mess of unhappy constituents that will be still trying to
have the solar code amendments done right.
Planning Commission agenda - October 17, 2013. - (PDF - 3 pages)
Related past blog:
County solar workshop.
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