By Dr. Anthony D. McIvor
September 28, 2017 (La Mesa) --The City Council is understandably embarrassed by its serial fumbles on Little Flower Haven’s future. Having the four lawyers who sit on the dais (three Councilmembers and the City Attorney) publicly schooled by a lone attorney from Silvergate Development must have hurt. Most folks can understand that.
But the peevish attempt to shift culpability for the Little Flower fiasco by discrediting and then threatening to abolish the Design Review Board (DRB) resists all understanding. Burying the DRB in the Planning Commission would be a significant loss for residents. Here’s why.
1. The DRB has a specific, distinct and necessary function that does not naturally reside with the city’s Planning Commission. The roster of the former does not mimic the latter for good reason. The professional backgrounds required of DRB members and the Board’s explicit responsibilities are clearly and purposefully separate from those of the Planning Commission. Asking the Commission to supplant the DRB presumes that Commissioners are qualified, able, and equipped for an additional and quite different function. They are not.
2. Beyond expert review and assessment, the DRB is an important point of access for citizen input and oversight. The Board makes the Council’s campaign talk about transparency, accountability and participation a little more real. What would residents gain in return for losing the Board? Nothing. Then, who are the real beneficiaries?
Instead of another attempt to shut out concerned citizens, and shrink the review process, the Council ought to improve access and seek public engagement. After all, when projects are complete and developers move on, who is left with the consequences of their work?
3. The composition of the DRB is the City Council’s responsibility. The DRB serves at their pleasure. Has the Council neglected it? Rather than shirking their duty by eliminating the Board, the Council could think through the DRB’s unique mission and ensure it receives appropriate resources. Simply citing construction industry advisors, who – surprise! – would like to see these civic boards disappear, is disingenuous and hardly worthy of the Council’s announced aspirations.
4. Council members who argue that they are only trying to streamline the process ought to be reminded that it was their bungling that delayed the process in the recent flap. Moreover, their mandate is to serve the present and future interests of La Mesa residents, and not the schedules of development companies.
It is tempting to just laugh and shrug off the Council’s feckless attempt to scapegoat the DRB. Except, this is no laughing matter. And killing the DRB is no fix. It’s yet another fumble, with long-term consequences for all La Mesans. The Council was elected on the promise of doing better. Why not start by better supporting the DRB?
The opinions in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact firstname.lastname@example.org