Citizen Participation Plan
CITIZEN PARTICIPATION PLAN
COUNTY OF KERN COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM
Citizen Participation (CP) must be an integral part of the planning and implementation processes for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), HOME Investment Partnerships (HOME), and Emergency Shelter Grant (ESG) Programs pursuant to the rules and regulations governing administration of the Programs. Additionally, this CP Plan makes provisions for and applies to the Section 108 Loan Guarantee Program pursuant to the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974, as amended. Congress and the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in their attempt to assure adequate opportunity for participation by Program beneficiaries and the general public, have prescribed minimum Consolidated Plan (Plan) pre-submission, Plan amendment, grantee performance, subrecipient monitoring and record maintenance requirements. The County Board of Supervisors is not only interested in complying with Federal regulations, but wishes to insure that all County residents, and principally families with low or moderate incomes, have the opportunity to participate in the needs identification and strategy formulation process for these programs. This Citizen Participation (CP) Plan outlines the steps developed by the County to insure compliance with federal regulations governing implementation of the three federal programs administered by the Community Development (CD) Program Department, and meet their mandate to involve local residents in the planning and implementation of related projects and programs. All required elements are contained herein including: Encouragement of Citizen Participation; Information to be Provided (including specific information regarding public hearings and Plan amendments); Access to Records; Technical Assistance; and Comments and Complaints.
The CP process involves: scheduling, publicizing and conducting meetings and public hearings; providing technical assistance to applicants and other interested persons/groups; and maintaining accurate and current information regarding the CD Program which is available to citizens upon request. Each of these processes are further explained under subsequent sections of this Plan.
II. ENCOURAGEMENT OF CITIZEN PARTICIPATION
The purpose of this CP Plan is not only to insure compliance with applicable federal regulations, but to encourage residents of the Plan Jurisdiction to participate in the development of the Consolidated Plan, any amendments to the Plan, and the Annual Performance Report (APR). HUD and the County strongly encourage all County residents, and particularly minorities, residents of economically disadvantaged neighborhoods and communities, and residents of slums and blighted areas, to work with the County to assess local needs and plan projects to address them.
The CD Program Department's citizen participation efforts have evolved over the years as a result of changing community needs, local program changes and changing federal regulations. However, one constant has been the desire to provide a level of service to the public which exceeds regulatory compliance and conveys a commitment to understanding community needs and encouraging the involvement of all interested individuals and organizations throughout the Plan Jurisdiction, especially those who may be directly affected by the Programs. The specific actions and techniques used by the County to encourage citizens to participate are described within subsequent sections of this Plan, and within the County's Consolidated Community Development Plan.
III. INFORMATION TO BE PROVIDED
A. CD Program Department Community Meetings: The CD Program Department conducts a series of community meetings in September and October of each year for the following purposes: (1) Inform potential program participants regarding the various programs operated by the CD Program Department and the types of assistance they provide; (2) Explain the rules and regulations governing the CDBG, Section 108 Loan Guarantee, HOME and ESG Programs and a range of activities that may be undertaken with guaranteed loan funds; (3) Explain how the federal programs relate to the needs of individuals, cities, communities, neighborhoods, nonprofit organizations, etc.; (4) Provide information regarding the amount of CDBG, Section 108 Loan Guarantee, HOME and ESG funds expected to be available to the County in the upcoming fiscal year including program income anticipated to be generated by the activities carried out with the guaranteed loan funds; (5) Provide information regarding the amount of CDBG, 108 Loan Guarantee, HOME and ESG funds that will directly benefit persons of low and very low income; (6) Discuss eligible activities pursuant to each of the three federal programs; (7) Discuss plans to minimize displacement of persons and the types and levels of assistance available to any persons displaced; (8) Report on the status of previously funded CDBG, Section 108 Loan Guarantee, HOME and ESG activities; and (9) Inform potential applicants of the annual schedule for filing, consideration and funding applications. These meetings also provide the CD Program Department with valuable information regarding the needs, problems and concerns of the people most affected by the CDBG, HOME and ESG Programs, as well as the Department's performance in implementing these programs.
To encourage as many citizens as possible to attend and participate, the annual community meetings are scheduled during evening hours, Monday through Thursday, and are held in locations (typically County facilities and school auditoriums) convenient to residents from different areas of the County. Every effort is made by the CD Program Department to avoid scheduling meetings on nights common with other major events which may require the participation of affected area residents and community leaders. All meetings are held in facilities which are accessible to the physically handicapped, and accommodations will be made, upon request, for attendees who are either visually or hearing impaired. Reservations for these facilities are usually made in late July or early August of each year.
All citizens who attend these meetings, and those who contact the CD Program Department at any time throughout the year, are offered technical assistance and are encouraged to work with CD Program Department staff in the development of project proposals. Technical assistance is also offered subsequent to project approval to facilitate implementation.
All community meetings are announced at least fourteen (14) calendar days prior to the date of the meeting. The CD Program Department utilizes the following media to notify citizens of the scheduled meetings, and to encourage their attendance.
- Newspaper advertisements are published in the local news section of adjudicated newspapers serving the various Program areas throughout the County. Spanish versions of the notices are published in newspapers targeted toward the County's Hispanic population. Notices are also published in newspapers targeted toward the County's Black population. Notices shall state that when notified prior to the meeting, special arrangements can be made to provide visually and hearing impaired citizens with program information in a format that they can use. When possible, and with the cooperation of local newspapers, "news releases" regarding the CDBG, HOME and ESG Programs and the upcoming community meetings are published in local news sections of local papers in addition to the paid advertisements just prior to the meetings.
- In cooperation with local public housing authorities, notices are placed in conspicuous locations at public housing developments to inform residents of the developments and of surrounding areas of the upcoming community meetings. The public housing authorities are also provided with information regarding housing and community development activities in areas surrounding public housing units for their use and distribution.
- Meeting announcements are posted in conspicuous locations within all County buildings frequented by the public, i.e., Administrative Centers, Public Services Building, libraries, veterans' halls and senior citizen centers. The CD Program Department will also endeavor to distribute notices for posting at public facilities such as community centers, schools and other facilities which are not under the County's control.
Meetings and public hearing announcements will also be posted on the CD Program Department's computer web site and advertised in the local government television channel (Kern Gov).
The CD Program Department may also request public service announcement air time from local radio and television stations as an additional means of notifying the public about the community meetings. Public service announcements should be sent to the radio and television stations at least 3 to 4 weeks in advance of the proposed air date.
B. Cooperative Agreement City Public Hearings: Each year, cities cooperating as part of the County's Entitlement Jurisdiction shall conduct a minimum of one (more as needed) public hearing(s) before their respective City Council for the purposes of: (1) Discussing proposals submitted to the city and city initiated proposals for consideration of CDBG funding; (2) Presenting to its residents the city's recommended use of the CDBG funds; (3) Responding to questions and comments made by those in attendance; and (4) Approving by resolution the city's recommendations to the County for potential inclusion in the CD Program Department's recommended annual Action Plan document for review and approval by the County Board of Supervisors.
Prior to the initial public hearing before each City Council, the CD Program Department shall notify each city of the County's Entitlement Program amounts for the next fiscal year, and submit to each city a list of known project proposals which includes those previously presented to or developed by the CD Program Department for the city. The city shall consider these proposals for possible funding as well as any additional proposals presented at the city's hearing. CD Program Department staff will be available for attendance at cooperating city public hearings upon request.
Each city shall publish a public notice in its local newspaper at least fourteen (14) days before each public hearing. The notice shall specify the expected amount of federal Entitlement funds to be available for the upcoming fiscal year, and shall list and briefly describe the city's recommended use of those funds if known prior to the meeting. The notice must also solicit citizen recommendations for use of program funds. Cities with a Hispanic population of 28% or greater will be required to also publish their public hearing notices in Spanish within a local newspaper serving Hispanic residents. Cities with a Black population of 5% or greater will be required to also publish their public hearing notices within a local newspaper targeted toward the Black community. (These thresholds are based on the average percentage these populations represent in the County's general population, per 1990 U.S. Census.)
Subsequent to their public hearing, each city shall provide the CD Program Department with:
- The approved list of recommended projects and related resolution of the City Council;
- Affidavit of Publication for the public hearing notice(s);
- Attendance sheet and written minutes for the public hearing(s); and
- All written comments, complaints and proposals submitted to the city regarding the CDBG, HOME and ESG Programs in their community.
All documents listed above shall be submitted to the CD Program Department by the end of the second week of December of each calendar year.
C. Consolidated Plan Submission: In March of each year, the CD Program Department will publish a summary of the County's proposed Action Plan for the upcoming Program year. A summary of the entire proposed Consolidated Plan (Plan) will be published every five years. The published summary will contain information regarding where copies of the entire Plan and/or Action Plan may be examined (libraries, County of Kern offices and the County web site), invite public comment and advertise the annual public hearing before the Board of Supervisors, held in early May, during which the CD Program Department will be requesting public comment and Board review/approval of the Plan. The publication will also inform citizens of a public meeting (as required by federal regulations) conducted by the CD Program Department in mid-April, during which individuals may discuss the proposed Plan and/or Action Plan with Department staff. The meeting is typically held at the County Public Services Building located in Bakersfield. All comments and inquiries received at this meeting are documented and taken into consideration by CD Program Department staff prior to submitting the Plan and/or Action Plan to the Board of Supervisors at the aforementioned public hearing. The summary is published in a newspaper of countywide circulation, adjudicated minority newspapers and in local newspapers throughout the County which are circulated more than once a week. News releases are provided to the other adjudicated newspapers serving the various communities within Kern County. The summary will be published a minimum of fourteen (14) calendar days prior to the public meeting and a minimum of thirty (30) calendar days prior to the public hearing before the Board of Supervisors.
In compliance with Executive Order (EO) 12372 and the State of California's process for review and dissemination of federal assistance applications, the CD Program Department must submit to the State Office of Planning and Research (OPR) and to the Kern Council of Governments (Kern COG) a copy of the Federal Assistance Application Forms (HUD form 424) for the CDBG, HOME and ESG Programs prepared for the Plan and/or Action Plan. Receipt of the forms by State OPR and Kern COG initiates a 30-day minimum/60-day maximum review period during which State and local agencies may request further information for review and comment. This review process is completed prior to the public hearing before the Board of Supervisors.
Subsequent to the Board of Supervisors' approval of the Plan and/or Action Plan, a final notice is published in a newspaper of countywide circulation, the County's adjudicated minority newspapers, and in local newspapers which are circulated more than once a week. News releases are provided to the other adjudicated newspapers serving the various communities within Kern County. The notice is to indicate the availability of the adopted Plan and/or Action Plan for public view at the CD Program Department office and all County library branches. Thirty (30) copies of the Plan are mailed to the main branch of the Kern County Library to be distributed to outlying branch libraries. The Action Plan will also be placed on the CD Program Department's web site. A copy of the adopted Plan and/or Action Plan will also be provided to each cooperative agreement city, to each County Supervisor, and several copies will be available at the County CD Program Department for public access, review and/or distribution.
D. Amendments/Substantial Amendments: Federal regulations at 24 CFR 91.505, Amendments to the Consolidated Plan, require the Grantee to amend its approved Plan whenever it makes one of the following decisions:
- To make a change in its allocation priorities or a change in the method of distribution of funds;
- To carry out an activity, using funds from any program covered by the Plan (including Program Income), not previously described in the Action Plan; or
- To change the purpose, scope, location, or beneficiaries of an approved activity.
While copies of all Plan amendments are to be provided to HUD, Federal regulations allow the Grantee to determine which amendments to its Consolidated Plan and annual Action Plans are "substantial", thereby requiring public notice in addition to notification of HUD. In accordance with these regulatory requirements, the following actions have been deemed by the County as constituting "Substantial Amendments".
- The proposed creation of a new activity or program not previously described in an annual Action Plan.
- The proposed cancellation of an activity or program previously described in an annual Action Plan.
- The proposed change in the purpose of a previously described activity or program such that the basic intent of the activity or program would clearly change. The County will consider the basic intent to change if the community/neighborhood need addressed by the original activity or program would no longer be addressed if the activity or program were changed as proposed.
- Examples: An activity previously designed to improve an existing water system is proposed for revision to a sewer system improvement activity;
- An activity previously designed to provide an adult day care center is proposed for revision to the provision of a youth facility;
- An activity or program previously designed to provide new single-family residential units is proposed for revision to the provision of new multi-family units, or for rehab of existing residential units; or
- An activity or program previously designed to provide "seed" money for new small businesses is proposed for revision to the provision of funding for expansion of existing small businesses.
- The proposed change in scope of a previously described activity or program such that the geographical area and/or number of beneficiaries to be served by the activity or program is increased or decreased by more than 25%, or the quantity of improvements or services as originally proposed is to be increased or decreased by more than 25%.
- The proposed revision of the location of an activity or program such that the proposed change in location has or would create a significant effect on the natural, man-made and/or socio-economic environment. An amendment will also be required if the change in location results in a change in the area of benefit (from one community/ neighborhood/ service area to another).
- The proposed change in the classification of beneficiaries of a previously approved activity or program. Activities included within the annual Action Plan are described in a manner which communicates the nature of the proposed beneficiaries - whether they are distinctive by specified age group, i.e., Seniors, Children, Youth, etc.; Special Need, i.e., homeless, disabled, battered, addicted, etc.; or, sometimes, by income group, i.e., low/moderate, very low or poverty level. If any change in an activity is proposed which would redirect benefit from one such beneficiary classification to another, the amendment will be considered to be substantial.
Proposed substantial amendments to the Plan and/or Action Plan shall be published in a newspaper of general circulation, the local newspaper serving the affected area and, if indicated by the demographics of the affected area (see population percentages in Section III. B.,herein) applicable minority and non-English newspapers serving the area. Proposed substantial amendments will also be placed on the CD Program Department's web site. The publication for an activity proposed for cancellation shall include a description of the activity, original activity budget, current budget balance and justification for the cancellation. The publication for new activities shall include an activity description, proposed activity budget, activity purpose and activity beneficiaries. The publication for revisions to existing activities shall include a description of the original activity, the proposed changes, any budget changes and the reason(s) for the change(s). In addition, each publication shall announce an upcoming public hearing before the Board of Supervisors which will provide opportunity for public comment directly to the Board regarding the proposed amendment. Comments prior to the meeting are always welcome at the CD Program Department (see Section VI., herein). This public hearing notice shall be published a minimum of thirty (30) calendar days prior to the date of the hearing.
The above process shall also apply to cooperative agreement cities for all proposed Plan amendments pursuant to activities located within their respective jurisdiction. The City Council shall conduct a public meeting or hearing prior to the thirty (30) day public comment period and will act to recommend approval or denial of the amendment by resolution and forward the documentation to the CD Program Department prior to the date of the public hearing before the Board of Supervisors. The Board shall have final approval authority regarding the Plan amendment before it is submitted to HUD.
E. Change in Use of Facility: Pursuant to federal regulations at 24 CFR 570.505 and 24 CFR 570.503(b)(8), proposed changes in use or class of beneficiaries of real property improvements which were previously funded in whole or in part with CDBG funds in excess of $25,000, shall not be carried out until the County (for County owned facilities) or its affected subrecipient, if applicable, provides citizens with reasonable notice of, and opportunity to comment on, any proposed change in use or class of beneficiaries. A provision which specifies required actions pursuant to this section is included in all subrecipient agreements for activities which involve assets valued in excess of $25,000. Cooperative agreement cities wishing to change the use of CDBG funded facilities within their community shall conduct an advertised public hearing to afford affected citizens the opportunity to comment on the proposed change. Cities shall provide the CD Program Department with a copy of the Affidavit of Publication, minutes of the public hearing and a city resolution describing the city's related actions. If another subrecipient is involved, they must comply with related provisions within the project agreement between the subrecipient and the County. The following future use restriction periods shall be in effect:
County-owned facilities - Until the County ceases to be an Entitlement Jurisdiction and for a subsequent period of five (5) years.
Cooperative agreement Until the cooperative agreement city ceases to be part of the
Cities County's Entitlement Jurisdiction and for a subsequent period of five (5) years or longer as defined in the County/City agreement.
Other subrecipient - As defined in the subrecipient's project agreement with the County.
F. Performance Reports: Current regulations require that the CD Program Department must prepare and submit to HUD by September 30 of each year, an Annual Performance Report (APR). The APR contains specific information regarding all assisted activities and programs that were carried out during the previous fiscal year. The APR includes an assessment report describing the County's past year performance in attempting to achieve the National Objectives of the affected programs and locally approved Program objectives. It also includes copies of written comments from local residents regarding the County's performance in carrying out the Entitlement Programs along with the CD Program Department's written response to each comment/complaint received by the Department during the past fiscal year. More information regarding comments and complaints can be found in the "Comments and Complaints" section of this CP Plan.
Prior to submitting the APR to HUD, the CD Program Department must schedule, publicize and conduct a public hearing before the Board of Supervisors. This public hearing affords County residents another opportunity to comment on the County's performance. The notification process for this public hearing is exactly the same as the process for the Plan adoption public hearing discussed in Section III. C. of this CP Plan.
G. Environmental Review: Citizen participation requirements specific to the environmental review process are specified in the CD Program Department's Environmental Review Procedure Statement, located at the office of the Department. These requirements are consistent with both the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) regulations, as well as the County of Kern Environmental Review Guidelines. Basically, compliance consists of publication of specific actions/findings, and includes a description of the activity and its location, and submission of relevant data to applicable local, state and federal agencies for review and comment. Public comment periods are included in the review process at various intervals pursuant to the level of review prescribed by NEPA and CEQA requirements.
H. Miscellaneous and Informal Meetings: CD Program Department staff attend and/or conduct many miscellaneous meetings and hearings throughout the fiscal year. Some of these meetings are project specific, others are held at the request of individuals, groups, other County departments or Board members for the purpose of disseminating information about the CDBG, HOME and ESG Programs in general, or to discuss related issues of specific interest. These meetings are generally not advertised since the meeting is attended by the parties requesting the meeting, CD Program Department staff and various other invited participants.
I. Bilingual Information: The CD Program Department provides a wide range of bilingual (English/Spanish) information and related services. While Departmental staffing levels vary, at the present time three bilingual and two partially bilingual full-time staff are employed by the Department, and are available to assist Spanish speaking residents. Spanish speaking staff attend and participate in all meetings where CD Program Department staff anticipate attendance by participants who speak only, or principally, Spanish. These staff members are also available to assist with the translation of written information when necessary.
All public notices regarding projects or programs affecting areas with 28% or greater Hispanic populations are published in Spanish within newspapers serving the County's Hispanic residents. This percentage is based on the representation of Hispanic residents as a percentage of the total population as documented in the 1990 U.S. Census.
Bilingual written correspondence and program information is maintained at the CD Program Department office for use by and distribution to Spanish-speaking residents. This includes brochures describing the CDBG Program and information regarding the programs implemented by the Housing Division of the CD Program Department. Upon request, translation services are available for Spanish speaking citizens who are seeking assistance from the Department.
J. Publications: The CD Program Department maintains a Planning Division Publication Procedure Statement which outlines the type of publications used, the frequency of publication, the language in which the publications are to be printed and the newspapers which are to be utilized. The Publication Procedure Statement also specifies which notices, etc., are to be submitted as paid publications and which are to be submitted as public service announcements (non-paid).
K. Public Hearings for Section 108 Loan Guarantees: A Section 108 Loan Guarantee project may be begun at any time. A minimum of two public hearings, each at a different stage of the Community Development Program citizen participation process, will be held for the purpose of obtaining the views of citizens and formulating or responding to proposals and questions. At least one of these hearings must be held before submission of the Section 108 application to HUD to obtain the views of citizens on community development and housing needs. Each activity will be described in sufficient detail including provision under which the project is eligible, the national objective to be met, amount of guaranteed loan funds expected to be used, and location, to allow citizens to determine the degree to which they will be affected.
Section 108 activities must satisfy CDBG eligibility and national objectives criteria as well as Section 108 regulations and guidelines. Because this program involves the borrowing of funds, each activity must demonstrate a source of loan repayment and pledge collateral. Repayment may occur from one or more sources including but not limited to private-party borrowers, activity revenues, or budgeted CDBG entitlement funds. Collateral, including real and/or personal property, must be pledged along with future CDBG entitlement grants as a secondary source of loan repayment. The liquidation value of collateral pledged aside from any future CDBG entitlement grants must be greater than the Section 108 loan amount; therefore, future CDBG entitlement grants face little or no threat of attachment in the event of loan default.
IV. ACCESS TO RECORDS
The CD Program Department maintains copies of Final Statements of Community Development Objectives and Projected Use of Funds, HOME Program Applications, ESG Program Applications, CP Plans and Grantee Performance Reports for all fiscal years since the inception of the CD Program Department. Copies of the Final Statement and GPR are also available at, or through, each branch of the Kern County Library System. Beginning with FY 1995-96, the CD Program Department will maintain copies of the Consolidated Plan, GPR and CP Plan at its office for public review, with copies of the Consolidated Plan and GPR also to be available at, or through, County Library facilities.
The CD Program Department maintains a library of rules, regulations and records required by the federal and state governments as they apply to the three Entitlement Programs discussed herein. In addition, the Department maintains records of all County policies and procedures, informational documents, meeting notes, written comments received, responses to comments, environmental reviews, office publications, etc. All listed information is available for public review and copying during normal business hours, provided the requested document is public information pursuant to applicable federal, state and local laws. The CD Program Department Director is consulted if a question arises regarding a specific requested document.
V. TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE
Pursuant to federal regulations, within the limits of staff time and capabilities, the CD Program Department shall provide technical assistance when requested by public and private agencies, nonprofit public benefit organizations and individuals with low or very low incomes. This technical assistance shall be provided for the purpose of assisting the agency or individual in developing proposals for consideration of CDBG, HOME or ESG funding, provided the proposal is eligible and qualifies per federal regulations and provided the project proponent is incapable, due to lack of expertise and/or resources, to complete the requested work without said technical assistance. Technical assistance related to proposal development shall include, but not be limited to:
A. Defining the proposal by outlining specific information which the applicant should gather and include in their proposal;
B. Referring applicant to other public or private agencies which may help gather or provide needed information and/or technical assistance;
C. Developing preliminary cost estimates for the proposal
D. Preparing basic conceptual descriptions and/or drawings for the proposal; and
E. Final review of the proposal for completeness prior to its official submission to the CD Program Department for funding consideration.
In addition to the technical assistance for proposal development, the CD Program Department will provide assistance for implementation, administration and monitoring of CDBG, HOME and ESG funded projects pursuant to the terms of a legal project agreement between the project proponent and the County. This assistance includes such things as:
A. Obtaining environmental clearance for projects (unless the level of clearance necessary is prohibitive);
B. Implementing activities on behalf of the subrecipient when necessary;
C. Providing guidance in the solicitation and contracting process for hiring a consultant to insure compliance with applicable local, state and federal regulations;
D. Assisting in reviewing and monitoring consultant's work;
E. Providing guidance in bid advertisement for design and construction services to insure compliance with all applicable requirements;
F. Assisting in monitoring contractors and subcontractors during and after construction for compliance with federal regulations; and
G. Acting as mediator in disputes between subrecipient and contractor.
The CD Program Department will utilize its in-house staff of planners, housing program personnel, economic development specialists, fiscal management personnel and engineers to provide guidance and technical advisory services regarding CDBG, HOME and ESG related matters when requested.