Tom Butt
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  Design Review Board Chair Slams Terminal 1 Design
November 9, 2022

Jonathan Livingston, chair of the Richmond Design Review Board vented his frustration by writing the following about the proposed Terminal 1 project:

Waterfront cities, great architecture, placemaking and Richmond

Waterfront cities around the world offer some of the best examples of great architecture, inviting spaces, dynamic living arrangements and reflections of historical legacies that help give them their sense of place.

West coast towns that are notable in this realm are: San Francisco, Sausalito, Tiburon, Oakland, Alameda, Santa Cruz, Capitola, Monterey, Seattle, Granville Island, Vancouver BC, Marina Del Rey, San Diego, Long Beach and more…

East Coast towns, like Newport RI and others offer quaint reflections of historical significance. The grain and scale in its buildings are rich in organic diversity and imagination. This is what makes for an attractive seaside town.

After finishing my years long intense review of the City of Richmond’s Terminal One plan that was presented by Laconia LLC ( developer of record) I have concluded the following:

If the city wants to make the best of its only great waterfront parcel, the single-family development that is presented to date is not the right plan. Not even close. Here is why.

The plan has failed to evolve into a pleasing attractive overall design that looks and feels like it was the evolution of great thinkers and architects. Most of the homes in the core of the development face each other and are packed together so tightly that when you go out onto your deck to BBQ, you look at the other gal 20 feet away, of if you are in bed and open the curtains you see your neighbor in bed as well…..The homes in the center could be anywhere like Modesto or Dublin but they are in fact on one of the greatest sites in the world!! Those homes are 6 feet apart and 45 feet tall in general.

To save money the developer has not offered more diversity in the architecture and along the waterfront and Brickyard cove road, units repeat themselves over and over creating a homogenized mass-produced overall look that does not create the quaint feel of the East Coast village seaside town or the richness of a Tiburon or a Capitola. Instead, it feels like an entire super dense single-family development that one would expect to see in Livermore or Lodi transported to this amazing site.

The only character identifying features are the corner store, the community building and the bay trail and park….other than that, this development could go anywhere in the USA.

In conclusion, the plan has failed to evolve into the right plan for the site.

I have seen many plans for this site over the last 8-15 years and this one is the worst. I was hoping it would evolve into something that I think the citizens and city staff could be proud of, but it has not. I know there has not been enough time to develop the ideas that the developer has but that is not a good reason to accept this design and allow such a poor design to be built forever on this site. No amount of Conditions of Approval can help his design be more appropriate for the site. Stop the bleeding and let's push for a better Richmond and a more site appropriate design.

Respectfully submitted, Jonathan Livingston

A further source of frustration is the city attorney’s efforts to severely limit the scope of review by Design Review Board through intimidation and bullying. The city attorney thinks the Design Review Board should stick to things like the color of the paint, but the Richmond Municipal Code gives the DRB much broader authority.

It was the DRB that discovered what staff had missed, that the proposed fill for the site would require 5,600 dump truck loads passing through residential neighborhoods and degrading the condition of the streets. Instead of letting the DRB bring up the subject, the city attorney ordered them to stay in their own lane.

The city attorney declined to provide the DRB with the CEQA review of the project.

When DRB members advocated for a “superior” project, the city attorney disallowed even the use of the term “superior.”

Who does the city attorney work for, the people of Richmond or developers?

It’s clear who the DRB works for. They are professionally trained volunteers working for the people, but they are not being allowed to do their job.