Last week’s City Council saw a Referral item to reform, very minimally, the Call for Review process. The argument from City Councilmember Marilyn Ezzy-Ashcraft was that these reviews are very costly for the initial applicant. If citizens were to appeal the matter they’d have to expend money to do so which would put “skin in the game” so to speak, but when a City Councilmember calls an item for review there is no cost which could leads to calls for review that seem arbitrary but for the fact that they’ve recently been almost all initiated by Mayor Trish Spencer.
The reformation was just to have two City Councilmembers agree to call something for review, which makes a lot of sense because when people are unhappy with a decision by the Planning Board or other boards and commissions they tend to complain to ALL the members of the City Council and not just to one individual. Trish Spencer balked at the two person suggestion because she wouldn’t know who to approach on the City Council to partner with her. Of course the idea is not necessarily for a City Councilmember to try to convince another City Councilmember that a call for review has merit but for the City Councilmember to judge independently based on the citizen complaints that a decision might be ripe for a call for review.
The funniest part was the “facts” laid out by Trish Spencer offering the suggestion that the number of calls for review in the last two years weren’t that many because of the number of Planning Board decisions that are made in a given year. Of course that’s not really what it should be compared against, rather the comparison should be against how many calls for review have been made in previous years. Plus, Trish Spencer’s personal research body, the Alameda Citizens Task Force, gave her the wrong number of calls for review for 2015.
Based on my research here are the number of calls for review in a given year since 1998. As you can see no City Council has ever called for review as many decisions as City Councils that have been helmed by Trish Spencer.
- 2017: 1 (so far, overturned)
- 2016: 4 (1 overturned, 3 upheld)
- 2015: 6 (1 overturned, 5 upheld)
- 2014: 0
- 2013: 0
- 2012: 0
- 2011: 0
- 2010: 1 (upheld)
- 2009: 1 (upheld)
- 2008: 1 (upheld)
- 2007: 1 (upheld)
- 2006: 0
- 2005: 0
- 2004: 0
- 2003: 1 (overturned)
- 2002: 1 (upheld)
- 2001: 3 (1 overturned, 2 upheld)
- 2000: 3 (2 overturned, 1 upheld)
- 1999: 0
- 1998: 2 (1 overturned, 1 upheld)
As you can see 2015 and 2016 are the busiest calendar years for calls for review. The next two are 2000, 2001 with three a piece.
The Council voted 3 – 2 to reform the call for review process by requiring two City Councilmembers initiate the call for review process. Both Trish Spencer and Frank Matarrese voted against reforming the process.