City planners may get huge pay raise for meetings 

Planning commissioners stand to receive 300 percent pay raises if they arrive at the start of meetings and stay to the end. Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin has drafted an amendment to a city ordinance that would make members of the Planning Commission the highest paid sitting members of a city commission at $200 per meeting, up from $50 per meeting.

Peskin said he has been meaning to bring forward the proposal for the last few years, saying the raise is "long overdue."

"It’s probably the most time-consuming commission of all," Peskin said. "It’s like a full-time job."

The Planning Commission votes on proposed developments, holds hearings on project appeals and oversees the development of new zoning plans.

The commission holds about three to four meetings per month, which usually start at 1:30 p.m. and run into the evenings, sometimes past 8 p.m. In addition, commissioners often visit properties that are the subject of their votes, and they study documents to prepare for meetings.

The amendment comes in the wake of new attendance policies adopted by city commissions and boards at the request of the Board of Supervisors, which wanted to solve the problem of spotty attendance for some of the commissions. Mayor Gavin Newsom has also requested that those who sit on local commissions and boards shoot for a 90 percent attendance record.

Planning commissioners are in the higher tier when it comes to compensation, at $50 per meeting. Only the more labor-intensive commissions and boards come with stipends. There are more than 50 commissions and boards in city government.

With seven planning commissioners and about 40 meetings a year, the cost to The City could increase from $14,000 a year to $56,000.

Peskin said the stipend increase would help open up the Planning Commission to more than just those who are retired or wealthy. He also said the raise would be an incentive for the seven commissioners to arrive on time and stay for the duration of the meeting.

Christina Olague, Planning Commission vice president, said the increase is justified since the commission meets every week and its meetings are probably the longest compared with other city commission. "I think this is fair. It’s a huge responsibility," Olague said.

Olague acknowledged that some commissioners don’t always stay for the full meeting, but overall, she said, regular attendance is "not really a problem."

Under the new proposal, planning commissioners could still receive $50 per meeting if they only attend part of the meeting, but will only receive $150 more if they arrive for the first action item on the meeting’s agenda and stay until the end of the public hearing on the last item on the agenda.

The legislation comes before the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee for a hearing on Wednesday.

The new rate would become effective April 5, if the Board of Supervisors ultimately approves it.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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Monday, Sep 15, 2014

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