Will it ever end?

At tomorrow’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the supes will consider a staff request to slow down the General Plan Update. Yes, slow down a process that has already lasted longer than anyone anticipated. The county has now cycled through several different boards over nearly 14 years of updating a planning document that’s supposed to cover a 20-year timeframe. And the target end date (now penciled in as October 2015) is still a year and a half off.

So why is staff asking for a delay? Because some very important homework is due soon, and it’s not nearly finished.

Kevin Hamblin, the county’s director of planning and building, laid out the trouble last week in a letter to the board. The work that urgently needs doing is the general plan’s Housing Element, which has to be turned in, reviewed and approved by the California Department of Housing and Community Development no later than July 1. In order for county staff to have any hope of meeting that deadline, Hamblin argues, it needs some of the less pressing assignments cleared off its desk for a bit. 

“I see a specific need to adjust the schedule in order to not completely overwhelm the advanced planning staff,” Hamblin wrote.

The Housing Element is currently in the hands of the Planning Commission, which until recently was occupied with re-reviewing an entirely different element. With all this general plan activity, the commission has been working under a meeting schedule that Hamblin calls “relentless.” 

The board, meanwhile, is about to delve into the mapping section of the General Plan Update, which would also be very taxing on planning staff. Plus, if the Planning Commission makes significant changes to the Housing Element — a likely scenario, according to Hamblin — then staff will also have to deal with amending and recirculating the corresponding Environmental Impact Report. 

All these things together, Hamblin says, create “a potential perfect storm for the advanced planning staff, which would be completely overwhelming.”

The July 1 deadline has been in place for quite a while — since last year at least, Hamblin said in a phone interview. The requested delay, if adopted, would put off the board’s review of the Conservation and Open Space Element until late September.

The request is scheduled to be considered at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.