Susan Cloke, chair of the Marina del Rey Design Control Board, has resigned from the position, citing the redefinition of the board’s responsibilities by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the transfer of that responsibility to the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning.
County Supervisors Zev Yaroslavsky, who represents the Third District which includes Venice and Santa Monica, and Don Knabe of the Fourth District recommended at the board’s September 26th meeting last year to remove the Marina del Rey Design Control Board’s authority to review new projects before the applications for land use entitlements are filed with Regional Planning. The proposal became effective this year.
“My work on the Design Control Board allowed me to combine three areas of great interest to me. One is urban design, a second is environmental stewardship, and the third is working to create greater public participation in government,” Cloke told The Argonaut.
“I measure success in projects we’ve helped to improve — projects that should never have even come before the board that we’ve been able to turn down; the growing environmental stewardship of the Marina; and, most importantly, the growth of a strong public advocacy in the Marina.”
Cloke sent a letter of resignation to First District Supervisor Gloria Molina on April 20th, stating that her resignation would be effective as of Thursday, April 23rd, the date of a scheduled night meeting of the Design Control Board that Cloke attended.
Molina appointed Cloke to the Design Control Board in 1994, and Cloke has served as the chair since 1999.
CLOKE’S LETTER TO MOLINA —
“Thank you for designating me as your representative on the Marina del Rey Design Control Board. The many terms I have served on the board have allowed me to know and fully understand and appreciate the Marina and the people of the Marina community. It’s been a pleasure and an honor.
“During the time I have been both a member and chair of the board we have helped to create a more vibrant design character in the Marina, better physical and visual connections to the waterfront, an environmentally greener Marina and a flourishing public advocacy community.
“The Board of Supervisors motion redefining the responsibilities of the Design Control Board will, I think, make it more difficult for the county to protect the Marina environment and to plan for the successful future of the Marina.
“I do agree that there were processing problems with Marina applications that needed to be resolved. However, this action, by the supervisors, will neither resolve the application processing delays nor the problem of the lack of transparency in the application process. That needs to be addressed in the stages that come before any application would be heard, either by the Design Control Board or by Regional Planning.
“The Board of Supervisors’ action delegates the responsibility to review site planning, building footprint and building massing in Marina projects to the Regional Planning Commission. To my mind, this was a mistake for three reasons.
“One, Regional Planning is based downtown and cannot reasonably be expected to hold monthly evening meetings in the Marina, so location and scheduling will be obstacles to full public participation.
“Two, site planning is a basic component of urban design and removing that asks the board to do the work without all the tools. Three, it doesn’t make common sense to appoint architects, landscape architects, urban designers, engineers and local business people to a board and then not fully use their abilities, the very reasons they were appointed.
“Therefore, I find it necessary to resign from the Design Control Board. This letter confirms my resignation, effective April 23rd, 2009, my last meeting as chair of the Design Control Board.”
Cloke told The Argonaut that she and the other members of the Design Control Board had the responsibility to consider projects for their scale, character, and place in the urban design fabric in Marina del Rey. Subsequent to the passing of the motion by the Board of Supervisors that gives the responsibility to Regional Planning, the Design Control Board no longer has the ability to do so, she said.
There was a conflict between the intensity of development and the quality of that development, she said.
The Design Control Board was proud of the vision it had for Marina del Rey as an important and exciting recreational destination for tourists, residents and the public. The board tried to promote that vision of good public spaces and urban design for a distinct, unique Marina character, and looked at each project from a “principled point of view,” said Cloke.
At her last meeting, Cloke was presented with a certificate of recognition. Some members of the public who attended the meeting said it was a great loss to the Marina that Cloke had resigned, because of her unwavering efforts to develop the area as a recreational destination for the public to enjoy and to bring transparency to various projects.
“Marina del Rey has been very fortunate to have had Susan Cloke’s many years of leadership in making the Marina a better place to live,” said Santos Kreimann, director of Beaches and Harbors.
“Her vision facilitated better, more environmentally friendly projects, such as her concern for ‘night sky’ lighting and native plants, and she focused on ensuring a better quality of life and the importance of environmental issues,” Kreimann said.
“The Design Control Board, whose professional qualifications and singularity of purpose make it the only appropriate body to conduct conceptual reviews of MdR projects, deserved better than the insult the county paid it by gutting its authority,” claimed Nancy Vernon Marino, co-director of We ARE Marina del Rey. She is an advocate for recreational boating and public use of Marina del Rey and is one of the residents opposed to overdevelopment of the Marina.
“I will miss (Cloke’s) leadership of the DCB, but respect her decision to resign, and hope she will continue to advocate publicly for responsible development in the Marina,” Vernon Marino said.
Beverly Moore, executive director of the Marina del Rey Convention and Visitors Bureau, told The Argonaut, “Susan’s application of her extensive knowledge in design, landscape and urban planning resulted in better projects.
“I always appreciated that Susan kept all users of a space in mind including residents, workers, boaters and visitors. That inclusive approach definitely helped improve the quality of life in our community,” said Moore.
Marcia Hanscom, co-director of the Ballona Institute, said, “It’s a huge loss to the public interest for Susan Cloke to be leaving an amazing term of service on the Marina Design Control Board. She leaves a legacy that helped the public feel their voices were being heard.”
Hanscom added that it was directly because of Cloke that meetings were scheduled in the evening so that the public could more easily participate.
“In addition, the Great Blue Heron rookery would have been destroyed already if it were not for Susan’s leadership when the Design Control Board reviewed the first proposal for completely razing the Villa Venetia apartment complex. Fortunately, she took her charge to ensure compliance with the Coastal Act seriously,” Hanscom said.
Cloke is the principal at Stonebridge, a land use, design and development company. She is currently the chair of the Santa Monica Recreation and Parks Commission; a board member since 2004 of the USC Center for Sustainable Cities; and served as a board member since 1999 on the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board, serving as chair in 2003 and 2005.
Cloke has taught “Architecture: Design, Teaching and Film” in both high school and graduate school venues. She is a current member of the UCLA/Santa Monica Hospital Bioethics Committee (2005 to present); a former member (1993 to 2004) of Saint John’s Hospital and Health Center Bioethics Committee; and a former member (1995 to 2000) of Saint John’s Hospital and Health Center Institutional Review Board.