Role of the Planning Commission
Planning commission duties vary depending on the jurisdiction. Most commissions have the following responsibilities (See for example Cal. Gov’t Code §§ 65103, 65353, 65400, 65401, 65402, 65854 and 66452.1.):
• General Plan. Assist in writing the general plan and hold public hearings on its adoption. (The governing body retains authority to actually adopt the general plan.) Promote public interest in the general plan. Consult with and advise public officials and agencies, utilities, organizations, and the public regarding implementation of the general plan. Also review, hold hearings on, and act upon proposed amendments to the plan.
• Specific Plans. Assist in writing any specific plans or community plans and hold public hearings on such plans. (The governing body retains authority to actually adopt specific plans.) Also review, hold hearings on, and act upon proposed amendments to such plans.
• Zoning and Subdivision Maps. Review, hold hearings on, and act upon zoning ordinances, maps, conditional use permits, and variances. Similarly consider subdivision applications.
• Individual Project Approvals. Review individual projects for consistency with the general plan, any applicable specific plans, the zoning ordinance, and other land use policies and regulations.
• Report on Capital Improvements Plans. Annually review the jurisdiction’s capital improvements program and the public works projects of other local agencies for consistency with the general plan.
• Coordinate Planning Efforts. Coordinate local plans and programs with those of other public agencies such as the Coastal Commission.
• Special Studies. Undertake special planning studies as needed.
The Planning Commission plays a central role in the planning process in three important ways. First, it acts as an advisory board to the City Council on all planning and development issues. Second, the commission assures that the general plan is implemented by reviewing development applications on a case-by-case basis. Third, the commission functions as the decision-making body for housing and commercial project applications for new construction, remodels and conditional use permits. The Planning Commission’s actions are final but can be appealed to the City Council, which can uphold the commission’s decision, overturn it, modify it, or send it back for further study.