San Gabriel Hotel Projects ….
On Monday July 22nd, the Design Review and Planning Commissions of San Gabriel approved the 316-room Crowne Plaza Hotel project at the intersection of Valley Boulevard and Palm Avenue. The commission unanimously approved the project after the developer answered concerns from the public regarding traffic, parking and other topics. Smitty’s Steak Restaurant and various types of art will be included in the hotel building. The next and final step is approval by the City Council. The hotel is expected to open during the summer of 2015. Community outreach meetings have been taking place to discuss the Courtyard Marriott Hotel project which is expected to be built in the 100-block of W. Valley Boulevard. The outreach group consisting of two dozen community members was concerned with how additional traffic, safety and deliveries will be handled by the new business. The project is expected to go to the Design Review and Planning Commission for review by the end of August. So I’m trying to understand what these two projects have in common. Both projects are hotels, both will be located along Valley Boulevard, will both will add more traffic and safety concerns and will probably not have enough parking. But the other thing these projects have in common is the approval by the Design Review and Planning Commission. So who and what is the Design Review Commission? The Design Review Commission consists of three members with representation from design professions such as architecture and engineering. The Design Review Commission is responsible for reviewing building plans for commercial and residential projects with regard to architecture, colors, materials, and landscaping. The commission consists of three commissioners: Raymond Cheng, Marla Nadolney and Kenneth Nakaba. Mr. Cheng is an architect and general contractor. Ms. Nadolney is also an architect and has been involved in projects worth millions of dollars with the San Gabriel Unified School District. Mr. Nakaba was a teacher and landscape architect. Of the three, only Ms. Nadolney lives in San Gabriel. The planning commission consists of five members all of whom are highly skilled professionals in the fields of academia, architecture, and design. The role of the Planning Commission is to make recommendations to the City Council, as well as make decisions on land use issues. The planning commissioners are Norman Garden, Tom Klawiter, Carol Kimbrough, Vince Zawodny and Dondi Adkins. Mr. Garden is a professional designer and has been on the commission since 1999. Mr. Klawiter is a planning and design professional and has been on the commission since 2004. Ms. Kimbrough is teacher at a local university. Mr. Zawodny is design professional with Westfield Corporation. Ms. Adkins is the President of San Gabriel Chamber of Commerce and has been the liaison between the city and the West San Gabriel Valley Association of Realtors. All Planning Commissioners are San Gabriel residents. So what’s wrong with this picture? The Design Review and Planning Commission consists of professionals in the design, architecture and planning fields, with nearly all of them employed with a company which deals with architects, landscaping, design, planning and real estate. It seems to me that that perhaps there is a conflict of interest in these commissions. How can someone make a qualified decision based on their professional knowledge, which may involve their company of employment and future earnings, without any conflict? It seems to me that the commissions should consist of residents who are not involved in related professions but are residents concerned with the betterment of their community. Based on the current requirements for the Design Review and Planning Commission members, only planning, design, architecture, landscaping, building and real estate professionals have the necessary requirements to be appointed. It seems like the other 99% of city residents are ineligible, leaving the city to be planned by those who have the most to gain financially from any new development project in the mismanaged City of San Gabriel. If you are concerned with the future of this city, contact your City Council members and ask them why regular residents are not on these commissions. Maybe they’ll list to someone with no conflict of interest but only wants the best for their community….