What is the point of public comment? Specifically, the “public comment period” during advisory committee meetings and city council meetings? One would think the point is to consider the public’s input before making decisions that will have significant impact on those most affected, right? But this is clearly not the case.
Last week roughly two hundred residents of Northern San Rafael showed up at the San Rafael City council meeting (a huge turnout by any standards). Over 90 percent of them were there to oppose the proposed development of 620 high-density, four-to-five story a
During the public comment period, which lasted two hours, the City Council heard compelling arguments as to why they should delay approving this proposal until after they’d considered the concerns of the people most impacted by such a plan. They were presented with petitions signed by hundreds of residents opposing it. They were even presented with a modified proposal from Quiet And Safe San Rafael, a large group of Northern San Rafael homeowners and HOA leaders who’d taken the time to propose a compromise between the needs of the city and SMART, but also address the concerns of the neighborhoods directly affected by the proposed development.
And yet, in the end, San Rafael City Council voted unanimously (5-0) to approve the plan with no changes - a virtual slap in the face.
Moreover, the advisory committee tasked with developing the plan over the last two years heard similar public comment at their meetings. In fact, the overwhelming majority of comments they heard were specifically aimed at reducing the proposed development. Again, public comment was wholly disregarded by the committee (with one minor alternative that was steamrolled by city council) and they approved all the proposed high-density housing.
So I’ll ask again. What is the point of hearing public comment when it is categorically ignored? I believe it is incumbent upon City Councils to be transparent by letting it’s citizens know up front that, while their comments may be heard, they will not be listened to and in the end will have no bearing on their decision making. So much for a government, “by the people, of the people and for the people”.
President of San Rafael Meadows Improvement Association