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Suggestions for Providing Effective Testimony at a Planning Commission Public Hearing

The City of San Ramon Planning Commission strongly supports and encourages public involvement in the land use planning process. One way that residents can take advantage of is the opportunity to speak or testify at a Planning Commission meeting. The Planning Commission meetings are public meetings and provide time on the agendas for public comment as well as the opportunity to speak on specific issues.

Many people consider speaking in public to be very intimidating; however, there are ways to make it easier. You may want to consider attending a public meeting or public hearing to familiarize yourself with how the meeting is conducted, especially with respect to the process for public testimony. Attending a meeting will also give you the opportunity to hear the public comments or testimony of other residents. Using the information provided below can also help to make your testimony both effortless and effective.

Practical Information: The San Ramon Planning Commission meets in Council Chambers at City Hall. Information about the Planning Commission Meetings, including times, meeting locations, agendas and staff reports can be found on the City’s website at www.sanramon.ca.gov. Green speaker cards are provided for members of the public to fill out if they are interested in speaking.

Public Hearing Procedures: The procedure for the public hearings is as follows:

  • planning staff will introduce the item and make a presentation, usually 10 minutes;
  • the applicant will present their proposal which may include a PowerPoint presentation and other graphics as necessary. The applicant will be given up to 15 minutes for their presentation.
  • Planning Commission will have the opportunity to ask questions of planning staff and the applicant;
  • the public hearing is opened to receive testimony for those wishing to speak on the item before the Planning Commission, usually 3-5 minutes per speaker at the discretion of the Chair, depending on the number of speakers;
  • applicant has the right to rebuttal testimony, which is usually 5 to 10 minutes, depending upon the amount of testimony received; and
  • public hearing is closed and the item is brought before the Planning Commission for discussion and action.

If you are interested in speaking to the Planning Commission, you should do the following:

  • fill out a green speaker card and hand it to the Recording Secretary, who sits at the end of the dais;
  • following a presentation by staff and the applicant and questions from the Planning Commission, the Planning Commission Chair will open the public hearing;
  • when called to speak, introduce yourself, giving your name and address (if you are representing a group such, you should identify the organization, too); and
  • state or introduce the issue on which you are speaking.

General Tips for your Testimony:

Prepare: Be sure to prepare what you are planning to say because there is always a time limit for public statements or testimony, usually 3-5 minutes. The time limits may be more or less depending on the number of people who wish to speak.

Know your facts: Whether speaking during the public comment period or a public hearing, know the facts of the projects upon which you wish to testify. Contact the staff planner if you have questions about the topic about which you are testifying.

Write out your statement or testimony: If you do attend a public meeting or hearing, you will observe that many people who testify do so from written testimony. Writing out your testimony can help to organize it and may reduce some of the emotion that you might feel about the topic or issue.

State your position: When making a statement or testimony, clearly state the issue, your position on that issue, and what you would like the commission to do. It is helpful if you suggest solutions to the situation(s) or issue(s) you are speaking about. It is also helpful if you are courteous and professional to the commission and others during your statement or testimony.

Be concise: Since a hearing on a controversial matter may last for several hours, a concise presentation is helpful. A clearly presented argument can be very forceful.

Other suggestions: If you are planning to speak during a public hearing, listen to the testimony of others who speak before you and try not to repeat what they have said (you can, if appropriate, simply testify that you “support the testimony that has just been given”).

PowerPoint or other Presentations: If you are planning to provide a presentation to the Planning Commission please contact Planning Services Division prior to the meeting. If you are speaking on behalf of a group a time limit will be set for your presentation, otherwise the time limits for individual speakers will apply. You will be required to provide handouts of your presentation for the Commission.



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