WEB EXCLUSIVE: Cotati considers changes to planning commission selection processs
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By Dave Williams  October 10, 2013 03:09 pm

The Cotati City Council, at its last meeting on Oct. 9, discussed the possibility of altering the way it selects members for the planning commission.

Currently, each planning commissioner in Cotati is appointed by one councilmember for a term coinciding with the term of the appointing councilmember. All planning commissioners are required to be residents of Cotati and registered voters.

No final decision has been made, but the council was leaning toward implementing a process where the city would advertise an opening, accept applications for the council and allow individual members to pick their commissioners, who would then be subject to ratification of the council. The planning commissioner’s term still would coincide with the term of the appointing councilmember.

Councilman John Moore, whose wife Lisa is on the planning commission, requested a discussion of the appointment process for the commission, which administers and implements land use policies established in accordance to the Cotati Municipal Code.

Up until 2009, planning commissioners were appointed by the mayor then ratified by the rest of the council. 

“I thought previously when you had the appointment by mayor and ratification of the council, it afforded many applicants to come forward who might be highly qualified,” John Moore. “Now, it could be pretty much anybody.”

Councilman John Dell’Osso said he’s OK with the current selection process but wasn’t opposed to some changes.

“It (the current process) shouldn’t prevent the other four people on the council from suggesting people in town to me, which is kind of a ratification,” Dell’Osso said. “I know I wouldn’t be embarrassed to go to another council member and say, ‘talk to this so and so, or at least you should talk to this person.”

The process was changed in 2009, according to former council member George Barich, to allow for more diversity on the council. Barich feels the process should remain intact.

“The system in place was unfair because it allowed majority to impose their will on the minority of the council,” Barich told the council. “They (the council back then) wanted the minority to have their representatives on the council to represent their constituents and philosophy about planning.”

The Cotati council at the time consisted of Janet Orchard, John Guardino, Pat Gilardi, Barich and the late Robert Coleman-Senghor.

Cities in Sonoma County have varying ways of placing members on their planning commissions. Petaluma, Sebastopol and Healdsburg planning commissioners are all appointed by their city councils, while Cloverdale and Sonoma commissioners are appointed by the mayor and ratified by the council. Individual councilmembers in Rohnert Park and Windsor appoint planning commissioners, but then those appointments are subject to council ratification.

Cotati and Santa Rosa both have individual council members appoint planning commissioners. Santa Rosa and Cotati are appointed by individual Councilmembers. 

The current Cotati Planning Commission consists of: Jami Brady, appointed by Moore; Ben Ford, appointed by Mayor Mark Landman; Neil Hancock, appointed by Dell’Osso; Lisa Moore, appointed by Councilwoman Susan Harvey; and Stephen Onines, appointed by Councilwoman Wendy Skillman.

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