Dear Mr. Cohn:
While I respect and encourage a citizen’s right to publicly call city officials (elected, appointed or hired) to task, I must respond to W. Firshchein’s erroneous comments regarding the City of Santa Monica’s Architectural Review Board. Let me address the errors in his letter which merit clarification.
Four items specifically:
• Mr. Folonis was not sitting on the board when the Boulangerie project plans were reviewed. His appointment began long after the project’s construction was underway.
• All members of the Architectural Review Board possess skill in reviewing and assessing design. The current board of seven includes two professional architects. This is a requirement of the board’s make-up. The remaining members (all of whom had to have demonstrated design aesthetic competence in order to have been approved and appointed by City Council) include a professional landscape architect, a professional architectural photographer, a professional graphic designer and a developer of affordable housing.
• We have an extremely qualified and diligent staff that aids us in our work.
• The Planning Commission includes three professional architects among its members.
And, as a general response to the complaints regarding the process: There are clear, published procedures in place for all boards and commissions regarding preparation and presentation of projects as well as the appeal of projects that are voted for disapproval.
Mr. Firshchein’s agitation may be related to the fact that he has a commercial property in the city of Santa Monica on which he has performed unauthorized changes. I suggest his letter’s tenor is an expression of his frustration with the ARB’s request that he bring his property into compliance. (Background on this is in the public record – minutes of the Architectural Review Board’s April 7, 2008 meeting, the staff report for item ARB 08-103).
In order to understand our work more fully I invite members of the public, as well as your editorial and reporting staff, to come to our meetings and experience first hand the workings of our board. We meet, typically, the first and third Mondays of each month in the Santa Monica City Council Chambers (check the city website to confirm our schedule) and would welcome your attendance.
Architectural Review Board
City of Santa Monica