In October, San Diego's City Planning and Community Investment Department introduced electronic polling stations at public workshops for the community-plan updates in North Park, Uptown, and Golden Hill. The polling stations are used to collect "immediate" public input on issues such as development, parking, and density.
According to the department's quarterly newsletter, released on November 19, the survey is not a "scientific" one, but it allows the department to "gain a sense" of the opinions of those attending the public workshops.
But some residents, such as Leo Wilson, chair of the Uptown Planners and Community Planning Committee, feel the electronic surveys are flawed. Instead of gathering feedback from residents, they allow stakeholder groups to influence and skew the process.
"The problem is that community members, who work and lead normal lives, do not have the time to attend successive all-day Saturday and evening meetings," writes Wilson in a November 20 email. "Only those who have a vested interest, and are often paid, can do so."
Wilson adds that many in the community, including a former Golden Hill planning committee member, believe the format of the workshops, the times, and the amount of actual public participation shows that the city is trying to "wear out" the residents.
"They effectively have worn us out," writes Wilson. "The people who should be participating have effectively been locked out because of time constraints."
In a November 19 email to the Community Planning Committee, Wilson warned fellow committee members about the electronic polls.
"The [City Planning and Community Investment Department's] newsletter failed to add that the electronic poll at the Uptown charrette was rigged.
Wilson said that the city department never informed Uptown's planning group, or residents, about the electronic surveys; however, city planners did manage to inform stakeholders such as the now-defunct parking agency, Uptown Partnership.
"It was agreed during the ‘committee of the whole’ process that there would be no voting by the plan-update stakeholder committees. If a unique electronic voting system was going to be instituted at a community plan update charrette, it should have been announced publicly prior to the event."
Director of the City Planning and Community Investment Department, Bill Anderson, failed to respond to this correspondent's request for comment.