Project Approvals

Planning Commission vs City Council?

As we have talked about in previous posts, the entitlements or discretionary project approvals are decided upon by the political bodies of local government.  These political bodies are almost always the Planning Commission (PC) and the City Council (CC).  If you are in unincorporated County territory, the Board of Supervisors is a term you might hear in place of City Council.

The PC is essentially the arm of local government that focuses on land use and real estate development issues.  Planning commissioners can be elected by the public or they may be appointed by city council members, depending on the city government.  When a development proposal is being considered, the PC is almost certain to hear the proposal and take a vote whether to approve, disapprove, or continue until a future session.

The City Council, almost always elected by the public, is responsible for all city business.  In some cities, the land use decisions are delegated to the PC and the CC may not hear or vote on the proposal.  However, if a PC decision was appealed by the public, the development proposal would be heard and voted on by the City Council.  Or if a development agreement was part of the proposal, which could be a city ordinance, then the City Council would also need to hear and vote.  Whether both PC and CC need to hear the proposals can vary by jurisdiction, so it is always best to ask city staff at the beginning of the process.

One last point is that “public hearings” will generally be referring to these PC and CC sessions.  The city staff and developer will present the development proposal, and the public has the opportunity to speak in front of the elected or appointed officials.

As always, we welcome your comments and questions below.

John Kaye has over 30 years experience within the land development and homebuilding industries, having held senior management positions with The Irvine Company, Koll Real Estate Group, and Brookfield Homes. As a developer, John has overseen the land acquisition, entitlements, and development of master planned communities, residential tracts, urban infill sites, and land assemblages. His experience and skill sets include land acquisition, land brokerage, project management, market analysis, finance, and strategic planning.

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