Protect the job of Arroyo Grande’s Planning Commission

November 9, 2015
Arroyo Grande City Council

Arroyo Grande City Council


I am beginning to understand the issues about developer Nick Thompkins and the Arroyo Grande City Council’s consideration to dismiss Mayor Jim Hill’s appointee to the Planning Commission, John Mack. The matter is scheduled for hearing at the City Council meeting on Nov. 10.

First, certain council members — with Planning Commission backgrounds — have appeared to encourage Thompkins to take his project directly to the City Council thereby emasculating the Planning Commission’s final review on the Courtland matter. Thompkins requested the Planning Commission deny the project so that it could be immediately considered by council members friendly to his plan.

Tompkins was obviously upset with Mack’s comments on his project and responded by filing a conflict of interest complaint. The FPPC denied the complaint. Tompkins has additional projects coming before the Planning Commission and has sought cooperation with certain council members to have Mack removed — with alleged implications to embarrass highly regarded Mayor Jim Hill.

Second, those certain council  members have strongly supported Thompkins in his visions regarding the city — befitting his business model — with both positive and negative future implications for the city in terms of infrastructure requirements and the city’s character.

Third, there are certain negative consequences for pursuing the Thompkins/Mack issue since there appears to be no winners by its resolution — neither for Thompkins, Mack, the council or the city. This is an apparent exercise in hostility, what many citizens believe is an inquisition alleging Mack as a virtual heretic (staff report is 88 pages!). It promises to bear negative fruit for all.

By allowing the consideration to dismiss Mack’s appointment to the Planning Commission, those certain council members approving this initiative join what many citizens believe is an attempt by a developer to intimidate the city’s planning process. This poses as a serious negative precedent.

Fourth. This is basically an argument between Thompkins and Mack and the council should not have been involved. Since the council has now involved itself, I suggest the problem is the council is not defining the real problem. The problem involves  the planning process of the city.

In defining the real problem we may avoid a political disaster by addressing the real opportunity presented by the problem. Bear with me as I explain as follows:

I believe every problem presents opportunities, but one must understand the difference between a problem and a disaster. The people did not have a problem standing on the stern of the Titanic as it sank — nor the people on that Russian plane brought down in the Sinai –. They faced a disaster.

The analogy here for the citizens of Arroyo Grande is the Thompkins/Mack issue may spell political disaster for all where, I suggest, if it is treated as a problem, the opportunity presented may be constructive and positive. So, what is the problem?

I suggest what is happening is that Thompkin’s vision for the city may be positive and challenging and Mack’s planning discipline is regulatory and positive . Both should be married and executed in the framework of a new definition of the city’s general plan. Otherwise, the political fulcrum is decisively negative.

I suggest Mack item on the council’s agenda for Nov. 10 be abandoned. The city’s council should act on a new general plan definition. It should be articulated with citizen involvement — serving the best tradition in seeking citizen consensus.

Thompkins should be encouraged and assisted in his sincere business objectives for the city. But the planning process — if it is to have integrity — as exemplified by Mack’s and the other planning commissioner’s guidance — requires staff discipline in the context of citizen cooperation if it is not to be overwhelmed by the city’s legislative body — the city council.

Otherwise, the council’s actions will be interpreted as being overwhelmingly influenced by developer interests — which is obviously apparent to many citizens — in the present Thompkins/Mack matter.

In summary. I suggest that the Thompkins/Mack matter turn into a positive analysis and restatement of the city’s general plan. Forget 12a on the council agenda on Nov. 10. Otherwise, this Council will be approaching if not provoking a controversy paralleling that which occurred in 2014.

Otis Page is a citizen of Arroyo Grande.

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It’s obvious NKT is driving the agenda for Mack’s removal. Harmon, Barneich, and Guthrie??? seem willing to promote the developer agenda based on Tompkins’ claims (and those of his brother-in-law attorney).

The FPPC isn’t willing to take up the matter, despite NKT’s continued barrage of amended complaints. If they don’t deem NKT’s claims worthy of investigating, how is there any evidence of wrongdoing which would support Mack’s removal from the planning commission?

But let’s remember, Guthrie and Barneich both only agreed to an independent investigation into the Adams/McClish matter after much public outcry. They were hoping the public would be satisfied with the internal investigation Carmel’s office did. They were also responsible for the fact that no written report was ever generated…how convenient.

Guthrie, Barneich and now Harmon would be smart to remember that they serve at the pleasure of the public. The public is their boss, not developers.

Harmon’s lack of transparency is obvious. She appears to have become what she claimed she was running against.

Barneich will follow Harmon, let’s hope Guthrie has better sense than to neuter the planning commission like this.


Commissioners would be smart to remember that they too serve the public as a whole and not a small vocal mob. They would be smart to remember that they serve at the councils pleasure also. There rolle is not one for settling old scores.


Each commissioner is one vote.

Just because you don’t like how he voted is not a reason to vote him off the island.

Volunteers are hard to come by.

I hope no others on the council resort to these tactics.


There is a difference of opinion and desire between the City Staff ( many who do not live in AG), developers and the existing community. Those who live here do not like the high density, substandard streets and under parked developments that spills into our existing neighborhoods and commercial projects.

The developers have only one thing in mind : MONEY.

Always remember this.

MONEY is what the developers want, not quality of life, environmental sustainability, or conformance with the existing homes or neighborhoods.

If the City wants to change the definition for a single family residence, then permanently change the General Plan. Otherwise, stop the PUBLIC OUTCRY because Mr. MACK wanted to follow the rules.



As always, you are able to tease out not only truth and facts, but to bring the true issues to the forefront.

Certain council members continue to show their bias and demonstrate their inability to cooperate and collaborate with the public—these same council members continue to lack the foresight needed to lead this city.

The three council members attempting to remove Mr. Mack are sending an additional message to the public besides having a lack of desire to collaborate, they are sending the message that 1) dissenting opinions do not count, 2) that they are unwilling to work with our mayor, and 3) that they have no intention of including others in decsions or the decision-making process.

Our current mayor deserves better than this; he is transparent and working for change on several fronts and doing it mostly alone. If these three members continue to demonstrate a lack of support for a new mayor, elected by a majority, then they need to understand the public has a right and a duty to remove them from their seat on the council. Blind alligence is not what I am referring to either (for the naysayers out there)—I am referring to true collaboration and a spirit of support that is lacking overall.

I am curious to see how the council members will respond to your opinion Otis—your ideas about a meeting of the minds and bringing people together is truly revolutionary—they don’t know how to do this and will most likely turn their backs on this idea like they have on other occassions when they had an opportunity to work with people rather than against people.

Thank you Otis for another insightful opinion piece that brings to light even more fully why citizens in AG need to continue to attend meetings and support council decisions that are up front, honest, in the open, and that truly move AG forward.


Ms. Harmon, Ms Barniech, Mr. Guthrie and Ms. McClish are all on Team Tompkins it appears. Ms. Harmon thinks she is RIGHT as right can be, and Ms. Barniech is being steered by on ex council member, and her dislike for the mayor.

It will be interesting to see where Mr. Guthrie’s moral compass is pointing come Tuesday.

I have a football type pool going with friends to see what council member talks the longest on this, who will second the motion, if Ms. Harmon decides to not go through with this decision,how many residents speak in favor or against Mr. Mack, and lastly who votes aye or nay.

I think Mr. Mack does a nice job as a commissioner, and he does ask some tough questions, and it comes from experience you can tell. Lan George is always just interested in solar and saving the environment, Terry Fowler Payne just comes out of left field most of the time, Glenn Martin brings some good questions to the table, John Keen 99% of the time is just going to approve the project. He has been on this commission to long, we need fresh bodies on there.

Mr. Mack has been a fresh welcome addition to this commission. He has the knowledge, experience, and knows the ins and outs of building commercial buildings.

People need to remember Mr. Mack is one vote of 5. And Mr. Tompkins was rejected in the past by other council members, a different mayor, and different commissioners.

What is most troubling about this whole ordeal is Ms. Harmon never contacted Mr. Mack to try to get his side of the story before announcing at a council meeting she wants him removed. And she used to be a probation officer? Yikes, how many times did she revoke someone’s probation because she is the one who is large and in charge?


Barbara, Barbara, Barbara!


Her rush to judgment is disturbing.


she is a former parole officer…..the only thing she knows is drama.


Is this another case of same ol’ Arroyo Grande…different day? I hope not.


It 5 it Agenda Review

This is where the Council would vote to eliminate the agenda item.


I’m afraid Council member Harmon is another lost cause, just like members Barneich and Guthrie. Our only hope is to replace Guthrie and Barbeich at the next election and to not make the same mistake we made when we voted for Ms. Harmon. I’m now aware voting was Ms. Harmon was more of voting for anyone other than Mr. Costello and we hoped she would actually represent the citizens but we were deceived. If we are successful then the true city residents will have three votes, with member Brown as mostly positive representative, on the council who will actually listen to the citizens and vote in their best interest not that of “special” individuals.


Harmon alluded to the fact that she had more info than anyone else at the meeting when she made the motion to remove Mack.

Still wondering how she knew about the NKT complaint to the FPPC BEFORE it was received by them. Maybe that’s what she wants to fill the rest of the council and the public in on–just how she and Barneich were the only ones “in the know”.


Why wonder agag1, she is in cahoots with him I think.

I think you are going to hear about some conflict of interest with Bimbo Barniech in the near future, and it won’t be a “perspective” of conflict.

Elections are one year from now, and I am sure the two of council members think the public will forget about this when the time comes to us to vote.

Barbara Harmon has now shown her true colors.


people who live off the public dime/welfare like harmon and barneich just think differently about things. dependency is a disease.


Certainly no one thinks that a city council person lives off the public. Aside from a good insurance deal which not all people take, the job is minimum wage at best. With that comes a lot of ugly words and mud slinging.

That comment is just plain wrong


your analytical ability is non existent. Think now, think. Where do they derive their income. You can get it! That is right, public welfare!


We are all waiting for “the rest of the story”

Will they say it?

Will they kick someone off a commission because he should not speak his own mind? They have no other documented evidence to kick him off.

The motion will read something like this:

“All those who do not want to play with Johnnie, come on this side of the play yard”


Once again Mr. Page, you cut to the chase and nailed it on the head.

Mr. Mack has scrutinized the projects before the Planning Commission with an even hand. He has made suggestions and comments in an effort to help bring better projects to the Council.

It is the Council who has the final say, not one member of an advisory body.

If the only projects Mr. Tompkins seems willing to build all require a general plan amendment then perhaps he should consider working within the city guidelines or be prepared for tough sledding.

Removal of a volunteer seems more than a bit harsh for a complaint the FPPC isn’t even going to pursue.


Well stated and articulated, Mr. Page.

I believe there are NO winners here.

The Council should PULL the ITEM unless they are prepared to summarize why they “really just do not like Mr. Mack”. (political suicide)

Councilwoman Harmon should reach out to the Mayor and/ or City Administrator and request the item get removed. She would be the hero!

Kevin Rice

What, exactly, do you mean by, “PULL the ITEM”? That term is usually associated with taking an item off the “consent” agenda and putting it up for separate discussion.

At what point in time (e.g., now, during the meeting at some point) would the the item be “removed”? Are you suggesting the mayor or an administrator can and should arbitrarily delete an item from the agenda without council consensus, or, at least without a public consensus? Should members of the public, having now seen the agenda, expect opportunity to weigh-in, or not (if the item is deleted)?

I’m just curious how you feel this should proceed. It is my opinion that an item, once on the agenda, should come up and be dispensed with at the time the public expects. I don’t feel a sole person can delete items from an agenda once a majority has placed it there, and they shouldn’t after the public is noticed and expects a hearing.


The Council can approve an amended agenda at the beginning of the meeting. The item could be easily removed since when the 3 of 5 members voted to place on agenda they did not know the disposition of the FPPC complaint. Now they do!

Council can amend agendas to delete items if they need further study, are incomplete or not relevant. All three pertain to this item.