Advisory boards and commissions serve as a bridge between the community and government. By working with or providing feedback to one of these advisory groups, health advocates can raise awareness about the impact many policy decisions have on public health and equity.
By “boards and commissions,” we mean any advisory group that provides oversight on and recommendations to a legislative body or public agency. Members are typically volunteers appointed to serve for a defined term. A group of elected officials may also be called a “board” or “commission” – for instance, a school board or a board of supervisors – but these groups have different responsibilities and are not included in this resource. The names and types of boards and commissions vary tremendously from place to place, so we encourage you to check with local agencies and officials to learn about opportunities available in your community. See our section for tips on how to get involved with boards and commissions in your community.
Here are some examples of boards and commissions addressing the following areas:
- Planning & Land Use
Reviews and advises on land use issues, including general and specific plans, zoning, and subdivisions. Planning Commissions, unlike most other boards and commissions, have the ability to make some policy decisions in addition to playing an advisory role.
General/Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee (Community/Specific Plan Advisory Committee)
Reviews and provides feedback during the formation and adoption of a general/comprehensive plan, a long-range planning document that sets goals for how a city/county will grow and develop. (Additional Community/Specific Plans may be adopted to provide additional planning guidance within specified areas and may have their own advisory groups.)
Urban Design Review Board & Architectural Review Board
Reviews proposed projects for compatibility with local building and urban design guidelines or standards.
Historical Preservation Board
Reviews proposed projects to minimize negative impacts on and preserve the essential character of historic resources.
Public Works Advisory Committee
Reviews and makes recommendations on the design, construction, and implementation of projects related to infrastructure and capital improvements.
Public Utilities Advisory Committee
Reviews policies and projects related to the delivery of utility services, such as water, waste treatment, and power.
Municipal Advisory Council (for unincorporated areas)
Provides general advising to county elected officials on issues affecting the unincorporated area.
Area Planning Commission & Community Planning Group (for unincorporated areas)
Advises county on land use planning and community engagement on behalf of unincorporated areas.
- Community & Economic Development
Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Committee
Reviews applications and makes recommendations on allocation of CDBG resources (federal funds provided to local governments to support housing, economic and workforce development, and social service provision to low-income neighborhoods).
Economic Development Advisory Commission
Reviews and makes recommendations on programs and policy options the city/county can take to attract new businesses or to strengthen existing businesses. Reviews and advises redevelopment plans for commercial developments.
Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Committee
Provides recommendations and oversight on equal employment policy.
Living Wage Advisory Committee
Advises on the implementation of a city/county living wage ordinance.
Workforce Investment Board
Advises on policies related to workforce development programs, including training and support for job seekers and employers.
Business Improvement District (BID)/Community Benefit District (CBD) Board
Advises BIDs/CBDs -- quasi-public groups that administer services in a given commercial area, such as beautification, enforcing public safety, and infrastructure improvements. Redevelopment/Urban Renewal Agency Advisory Committee
Provides oversight and recommendations on redevelopment projects, which are typically focused on the economic revitalization of vacant, underutilized, or brownfill sites.
Community Action Agency/Partnership (CAA/CAP) Board
Oversees CAAs/CAPs, public (and sometimes private) entities that coordinate anti-poverty and self-sufficiency programs across a city or region.
Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee
Reviews and provides input on plans and projects (general/comprehensive plans, bike plans, road projects), makes recommendations on street improvements and bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure, and recommends other policies that promote biking and walking.
Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee
Advises city/county on policy and program strategies to improve the pedestrian environment and address safety concerns.
Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Transportation Advisory Board / Policy Committee
Provides oversight on key policies and projects of MPOs, which are responsible for regional transportation planning, including allocation of resources, coordination with state/federal agencies, and policy development. Advisory board represents a variety of interests and users, including people with disabilities, bicyclists and pedestrians, and low-income communities.
Transportation Agency Advisory Board
Provides input and recommendations to upgrade public transportation performance and accessibility for various users.
Advises on transportation plans and policies, including implementation of transportation master plans.
Parking Advisory Committee
Advises the city on policy issues related to parking.
- Food Environment
Food Policy Council
Evaluates and recommends policies, fosters coordination, and identifies resources to strengthen local/regional food systems.
Agricultural Land Conservation Committee/Agricultural Advisory Committee
Advises city or county officials on preserving open space and policies that affect agricultural land.
- Environment & Environmental Health
Environmental Health Advisory Board
Advises on environmental health issues and/or liases between the community and the health department.
Environmental Services/Protection/Sustainability Advisory Council
Reviews policies that will affect local natural resources and the quality of the environment. May also help implement local energy or environmental plans and promote sustainable practices.
Air Pollution Control District/ Clean Air Agency Advisory Board
Reviews and provides input on clean air plans. May hear petitions for variances and appeals related to air quality regulations.
Advises on energy efficiency and renewable energy policies.
Climate Action Plan Advisory Group
Advises locality (city, county, or other entity) on development of a Climate Action Plan to address mitigation of and adaptation to climate change impacts.
Water District Advisory Committee
Advises policies regulating the supply, price, and quality of water resources.
Makes recommendations to elected officials on policies affecting the use and preservation of public beaches.
Harbor & Port Commission
Oversees port or harbor policies, operations, and management, and governs waters in its jurisdiction. May also govern certain aspects of waterfront development. Flood Control District Advisory Commission
Provides expert policy advice to county elected officials on flood control planning, and makes recommendations for the annual Flood Control District budget.
Waste Management Task Force
Reviews local waste management plans, recommends waste management technologies and programs, and educates the public about related issues.
- Parks & Open Space
Parks & Recreation Advisory Commission
Advises on implementation of parks and open space plans, and/or consults on issues affecting parkland and recreational opportunities.
Resource Conservation District Board
Advises conservation districts (special use districts that provide education, technical assistance, and demonstration projects to promote resource conservation).
Trails and Greenways Advisory Committee
Advises city or county elected officials on pedestrian/bicycle trails and greenways that connect and preserve open space.
Urban Forestry Committee
Coordinates and advances an urban forestry program, including advising on street tree master plans.
Homelessness Advisory Commission
Facilitates communication between stakeholders and develops, recommends, and implements policies to prevent and end homelessness.
Housing Advisory and Appeals Board
Interprets the housing code, makes recommendations to city elected officials, and hears complaints related to code violations.
Housing and Community Development Agency Advisory Board
Oversees the administration of housing grants and programs, and may advise on affordable housing policy.
Housing Authority Commission
Serves as governing body for the Housing Authority, which oversees administration of public and affordable housing programs.
Advises city on allowable residential rent increases and informs landlords and tenants about rent stabilization laws. May hear and decide on formal complaints/appeals of rent increases.
- Health & Human Services
Public Health Advisory Committee
Advises public health department on policies, planning, funding, and advocacy, and acts as liaison between the department and the community.
Children, Youth, and Families Commission
Advises elected officials on policies affecting the well-being of youth and their families.
Youth Advisory Commission
Advises policymakers on issues affecting young people. (The Commission is composed of young people.)
Community Restorative Justice Commission
Develops and promotes restorative justice principles and policies.
Disaster Council / Disaster Policy Advisory Group
Recommends policies pertaining to disaster preparedness, mitigation, and response. Facilitates coordination between private and public agencies.
Serves as governing body of public school district, responsible for setting policy, overseeing the superintendent, and developing a budget.
School Wellness Committee
Advises on the development, implementation, and monitoring of the school district's wellness policy, which provides goals and requirements meant to promote student health throughout school campuses.
Social Services Advisory Committee
Evaluates health and human service needs, makes policy recommendations, and monitors service programs.
Advises on policies affecting disabled residents, and acts as liaison between the community and local government.
Violence Prevention/Public Safety/Police Community Advisory Committee
Advises agencies involved in public safety on policies and community relations.