The San Marcos City Planning Men’s Club

Only three women are on the fifteen-member San Marcos Creekside Specific Plan Oversight Committee overseeing the project seen here./Dubs and Company

All three male members of the San Marcos Planning Commission, whose two-year terms expired in December, were reappointed by the mayor and city council in January. The only woman on the seven-member commission, Wendy Matthews, was also reappointed.

There are no term limits for commissioners, allowing for the growth of the good old boys network. Kevin Norris begins his eleventh year on the council, while Bruce Minnery stepped down after eleven and a half years.

Five women were among the twelve new applicants who failed to win a seat on the commission. Filling vacancies with incumbents was a missed opportunity for the city to bring gender balance to the commission.

Here are a few of the qualifications of the women applicants who were passed over.

–A real estate and business attorney

–A marketing and strategic operations manager

–A local business owner

There are also only three women on the fifteen-member San Marcos Creekside Specific Plan Oversight Committee.

Given the scarcity of women on city planning groups, it’s ironic that the five individuals appointing its members, the mayor and city council, outnumber men, three to two.

San Marcos is not alone in North County in its male-dominated city planning. There are no women on the five-member Encinitas commission, one woman on Escondido’s seven-member group, and two of seven commissioners in Vista.

Carlsbad is the lone exception, with four women out of seven.

The San Marcos city website explains, “The planning commission is responsible for evaluating and making determinations on a variety of land use matters for both long-range and short-range planning.”

Given the importance of the city’s land use decisions, adding women would make the commission more representative of the 96,847 residents, the majority of whom are female.

According to the 2018 U.S. Census estimates, the tally of city household ownership shows, while 61% of all city households are owner occupied, 45% of women own the homes they live in, compared to 38% of men.

Research in the business world suggests having more women involved in group planning can improve the value of its decision making.

In a September 21, 2017 article in the business magazine Forbes, (New Research: Diversity + Inclusion = Better Decision Making At Work), Erik Larson, the founder and CEO of Cloverpop, a leadership consulting firm, writes, “According to the research, teams outperform individual decision makers 66% of the time, and decision making improves as team diversity increases. Compared to individual decision makers, all-male teams make better business decisions 58% of the time, while gender diverse teams do so 73% of the time.”

In my fifteen years as a university administrator, I learned how diversity on campus committees reduces groupthink, where the loudest voices, rather than the best decisions, can carry the day.

The need for more inclusive representation and better decision making suggest it’s time for term limits on the San Marcos Planning Commission.


After 35 years in public education as a high school English teacher and university administrator, Richard Riehl began a second life as a freelance writer, winning San Diego Society of Professional Journalists awards for his opinion columns in the former San Diego daily North County Times and the San Diego Free Press. For more, visit The Riehl World.


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