long-awaited plan to consolidate the Design Review Board and the
Planning Commission has been previewed in a
staff report to City Councilmembers dated February 29, 2007.
scheduled to come before the City Council on March 18 and expected to be
adopted by the second City Council meeting in April.
been a sore point with me ever since it was proposed by Councilmember
Maria Viramontes and supported by the City Council majority for several
has never been any compelling evidence provided to show that the
present system is fundamentally flawed or that the proposed merger
will fix anything that is broken. If any of my colleagues wish to
write their justification for the proposed merger, I will publish on
the E-FORUM as soon as I receive it.
were supposed to be two important concomitant measures taken to make
the proposed merger function successfully – design guidelines and a
“city architect” to provide the specialized skills to provide
“in-house review.” Neither of these is in place. Based on the staff
report, the Design Guidelines are still in a draft form and for only
one area of Richmond, the “Heritage Neighborhoods.” These draft
guidelines have had some public exposure but no formal public
review. There are no Guidelines even close to ready for the rest of
Richmond. The Planning Department has hired no “city architect,” and
as far as I can determine, there is no RFP out for the proposed
“third party review” described in the staff report. The Main Street
and Commercial Districts “Placed Based Zoning Code” is months away,
City Council has resisted making any changes to the existing Design
Review Board and Planning Commission members, many of whom are
termed out. There are no architects, landscape architects,
contractors, or other design and construction professionals on
either body except Don Woodrow on the Planning Commission, who is a
retired geotechnical engineer. The City Council majority has blocked
all of the mayor’s proposed appointments to the Planning Commission
and the Design Review Board for reasons that no one has made clear.
Both bodies are down to the bare minimum membership required for a
quorum. If even one member is sick or out of town, no meeting can
take place, and applicants will be delayed for at least a month.
How can anyone justify this situation?
Click here for the city attorney’s legal opinion.
never understood either the technical or the political justification for
this merger. My opposition has been cast by some of my colleagues as a
personal attack on them. I want to assure them that it is not. While I
disagree with the concept, I accept that it is politically inevitable. I
just want to see it done right, and clearly, the foundation has not been
laid to do that.