I. Ralph M. Brown Act

The "Brown Act" establishes the basic requirements for open meetings and notice of hearings for commissions, boards, councils, and other public agencies. These may include, but are not limited to, city councils, board of supervisors, planning commissions, boards of zoning, and any other commissions, committees, boards, or any other body of a local agency, whether permanent or temporary, decision making or advisory (§54952(b)). Meetings of a standing committee composed of less than a quorum of the legislative body of a local public agency are also subject to the requirements if the committee has the responsibility of providing advice concerning budgets, audits, contracts, and personnel matters to and upon request of the legislative body (95 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen 614 (1996)).

Most other acts, including the Subdivision Map Act, California Environmental Quality Act and other provisions of the California Government Code, establish public notice and review requirements beyond the Brown Act for land use entitlements and making environmental determinations. However, where other acts lack specific procedures, the requirements of the Brown Act provide the minimum requirements for notice and hearing(§54950 et seq.).

The Brown Act requires that all regular meetings be open, public, and all persons permitted to attend, with certain exceptions (§54953). If they so choose, a legislative body may allow greater access to public meetings than otherwise prescribed by the Act (§54953.7).

Procedural Requirements:

Agendas for meetings and hearings before commissions, boards, councils, and other agencies must be posted in a location that is freely accessible to members of the public 72 hours prior to a regular meeting. The agenda must contain a brief general description of each item to be discussed and the time and location of the meeting (§54954.2). For the purposes of complying with the 72 hour posting requirement, weekend hours count as part of the notice period. However, the notice must be posted in a location where it can be read by the public at any time during the 72-hours prior to the hearing (78 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen 327 (1995)).

Notice by Request: Any person who has filed a written request with the legislative body must be mailed notice of every regular meeting or special meeting which is called at least one week in advance. In the case of special meetings called less than 7 days prior to the date of the meeting, notice may be given in any way deemed practical by the legislative body (§54954.1).

Public Testimony: Agendas for regular meetings must provide the opportunity for the public to directly address the legislative body on any item on the agenda either before or during its consideration of the item. Further, every agenda for a regular meeting must provide the opportunity for members of the public to directly address the legislative body on any subject under the jurisdiction of the body (§54954.3(a)). Special meetings must also include the opportunity for members of the public to directly address the legislative body concerning any item, before or during consideration of the item, that has been described in the meeting notice.

The legislative decision-making body may limit the time at its meetings for public testimony on each issue and for each speaker to a reasonable period of time relative to the number of agenda items, the complexity of each item, and the number of persons wishing to address each item (75 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 89 (1992)). The legislative body may also prohibit members of the public who speak during the time permitted on the agenda for public expression, from commenting on matters which are not within the subject matter jurisdiction of the body. However, the legislative body must exercise care that these requirements themselves do not violate the public's freedom of expression (78 Ops.Cal.Atty.Gen. 224 (1995)).

Next: Permit Streamlining Act

Return to Table of Contents