Hurrah to Peter Blake! Finally, Laguna has the disrupter we have been waiting for on City Council. This past council meeting, Blake went after the Design Review process, which is in dire need of reform.
Most everyone agrees that DRB is a contentious, disdainful process that needs to be torn down and rebuilt, or reformed within an inch of its being. Forget that there are some DRB board members who, for sake of diplomacy, lack a sense of humanity and kindness. The entire process is a subjective, uncivil operation yielding wide opportunity for neighborhood hostility, good design concepts wasted, and contempt for the people who are trying to better their homes and lives.
So why the lagging support towards Blake’s promised proposal? Historically, architects, builders, engineers, and homeowners have banded together to change the way things are done and find a more compassionate, fair process. Each time the results were the same: nothing. In fact, the hammer may have come down even harder on anyone who dared to speak up.
Many of these people have learned, been programmed, whatever you want to call it, to make things work. The art of lobbying has been a necessity to create a more pliable process. Lawyers are supplied with clients who need legal defense against their neighbors. Architects know that if they exit DRB unscathed, it will be with a percentage of what they originally designed. And homeowners, who are savvy, know that they must come to terms prior to DRB with a few variations of their design to ensure they come out with something that resembles the original intention of the project.
There are, however, several projects in town where one might think neighborhood character and size had no bearing. Huge, looming structures that sit between tiny, small cottages. So, if DRB has been at work all this time and we still come out with indecent results, what’s the harm of shaking up the process and starting over?
I am not against DRB—I am just against the incivility it breeds and the gaming of the system to approve one bad project over a really good one. We need objectivity. We need board members who are looking at the big picture. And we need to stop the nastiness of the process that leaves so many without the funds to continue or the will to fight just to see their project built.
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