Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Sunnyvale CC Limits Building Permit Appeals

The Sunnvyale City Council meeting of 11/25/2014 took the following actions on item 3 - appeals of building permits to the city council.

The major item - removing the right of citizen appeals to the City Council for "variances to codes" permits - was defeated.  If passed appeals on variances (height, density, etc.) could only have gone to the planning commission which approved it.

The secondary item - requiring 2 city council members (instad of just one) to bring an appeal of a building permit before the city council was passed.

Other items were relatively innocuous and passed.

CM Davis and others noted that there had been few if any appeals to the city council brought by council members in the last year so it was a solution looking for a problem.  Mayor Griffith replied it was necessary to stop future council member actions bringing endless numbers of appeals to the CC thereby bringing actions to a halt.  CM Whittum noted that most cities nearby allow one CM to bring an appeal.  Several CMs noted that it was much more difficult to get a second CM to agree without violating the Brown act (which essentially outlaws "back-room" deals).  The city lawyer said CMs would have to exercise caution in that regard.

CM Meyering noted "spamming" of appeals had never happened.  He then proposed a limit of 1 appeal per year per individual councilmember and only after that requiring two CMs to bring an appeal.  That would forestall any future "spamming" of appeals (which have never happened anyway) while letting the occasional one through.  That was voted down.

CM Meyering (who is a lawyer) noted that courts had required rationales for some of the provisions being voted on and the items provided no rationales.  In reply to which the city attorney said the CC could pass any ordinance it wanted.

The city staff portrayed these as all innocuous measures which would essentially change nothing.  Others see it as a start to dismantling the appeals process.  The measure was difficult to parse.  One friend ran it by a lawyer who said it allowed a lot more than it appeared without appeal beyond the planning commission or director who approved it to begin with.

We will have to see what develops.  It may be a foot in the door, or a probe to see how much staff and developers can get away with.  It may, in fact, actually *be* innocuous - but that has the smallest likelihood.  Why bring up a solution to a problem that has never happened if you don't have something in mind?

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