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City of Pacifica – Creating a Blueprint for a City

Case Story

Community: City of Pacifica

Population: 37,691

Summary:

In September 2008, Pacifica launched its General Plan Update with the desire to stimulate the economy, engage the community, and set a vision for Pacifica for the next 25 years. Pacifica, a coastal city located south of San Francisco, is a long and narrow city comprised of pocket neighborhoods.  The city’s last general plan was completed in 1980.

A challenge for the proposed planning process was to ensure the engagement of residents from each of the city’s geographically isolated communities.City planning officials designed an engagement plan to solicit input from each of these communities, and recognized the need to utilize various methods of engagement to ensure the full range of community ideas and perspectives were incorporated into the new general plan update.     

Engagement strategies included the development of a General Plan Outreach Committee, three community forums, and interviews with selected individual stakeholders and groups throughout the city. More than 250 individuals have participated in the general plan update process. Utilizing such a variety of public engagement methods allowed Pacifica to actively connect with a broad cross-section of the population, many of whom had not been previously engaged. 
 

Program Highlight:

  • The formation of a General Plan Outreach Committee (GPOC), with a community member from different neighborhoods was asked to join.
  • The city engaged multiple stakeholders by interviewing randomly selected leaders from community organizations, business owners, major landowners, city council members, school board members, and water district level staff among others, which were conducted in a group setting to help trigger responses.
  • To solicit public input throughout the planning process, Pacifica facilitated three community forums at the beginning stages of the General Plan Update process, involving more than 240 residents.
  • The result is a plan reflecting neighborhood and citywide priorities and a vision that will shape Pacifica for the next 25 to 30 years.
     

Lessons Learned:

  • The city’s ability to tailor outreach and engagement opportunities to a variety of community members and groups helped to ensure the general plan update process was relevant and easily understood by a wide cross-section of the community.
  • Transparency about the plan and planning efforts encouraged participation and trust in the planning process and allowed the city to limit the spread of unsubstantiated planning-related rumors.
  • It is helpful to use plain language to describe the general plan, planning terms, and the overall general plan update process.
     

Resources to Learn More:

Pacifica General Plan Update Project:
http://www.cityofpacifica.org/depts/planning/general _plan_update_project/default.asp
 

The Rest of the Story…

A challenge for the proposed planning process was to ensure the engagement of residents from each of the city’s geographically isolated communities. City planning officials designed an engagement plan to solicit input from each of these different communities, and utilized various methods of engagement to ensure the full range of community ideas and perspectives were incorporated into the new general plan update.     

The project began with the formation of a General Plan Outreach Committee (GPOC), with membership from each community within the city.  The GPOC continues to meet periodically during the planning process to ensure that the representatives have accurate, timely information to connect with their neighbors and pass along updates.

Each of the three facilitated forums had a specific focus, as follows:

Forum #1:  To identify priorities among the community by asking what they like most about Pacifica and what they want to preserve, and about their main concerns and things they would like to see change.

Forum #2:  To review and comment on the results of the first public forum and the city’s development of responsive plan priorities and language.

Forum #3:  To review and comment on updated plan priorities, focus areas and related plan; prioritize areas of development opportunities.

In addition to providing opportunities for productive dialog, the forums were particularly helpful in correcting misinformation. For example, some property owners heard rumors that the city had already taken action and was going to develop projects on their property.  City planning staff assembled the public input from these different sources to create a draft updated general plan that the community was able to further review and refine.

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