Citizen's Planning Academy

Oct 19 - emily

Sandy Smith, HOME Board Member
Land Use Consultant at Sespe Consulting


One of the major challenges facing most communities is how to explain planning and the planning process in terms citizens can understand. In particular, there are limited opportunities for citizens to learn about planning in a non-threatening environment (i.e., outside the context of a heated public hearing). For forty Ventura County residents, all recent graduates of the County’s first Citizens Planning Academy, that process has become just a little bit clearer.

Sponsored and staffed by the Central Coast Section of the American Planning Association, and generously hosted by Cal Lutheran University at their Oxnard campus, attendees gathered for 8 three-hour sessions, each with a particular focus or subject area. Instructors were brought in from both the private and public sectors to discuss topics ranging from local government financing to LAFCO and SOAR and the issues surrounding transportation planning.

"It was an impressive list of speakers,” noted Jane Farkas, Academy graduate and a project manager for Sespe Consulting in Ventura. "One night we’d hear from Darren Kettle, Executive Director of the Ventura County Transportation Commission, and the next night from Jeff Lambert, Community Development Director for the City of Ventura. It was an incredible opportunity – being able to ask questions and have a dialogue with people that have hands-on knowledge.”

The mission of the academy is to educate citizens on community planning, public involvement, governmental organization and other related issues facing Ventura County and its ten cities. The eight-week session sought to encourage educated and meaningful citizen participation in the planning process.

 

According to Marilyn Miller, APA Board member, and Academy organizer, "when citizens understand how the land use entitlement process works, when they are clear about where the money comes to finance public services, and when they are aware of how many distinct agencies influence a project, they can become more effective at communicating their needs to their elected representatives and staff. As planners, it benefits us to have educated citizen activists, and this is why APA has put so much emphasis into this effort.”

 

The CCAPA intends to duplicate the academy in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties over the next year, and offer another in Ventura sometime in late 2011.

 

For more information concerning future Citizen Planning Academies, contact Marilyn Miller at marilyn.miller@ventura.org

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