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Letter: After 16 Years, Goodbye, Laguna Beach Design Review Board

Ilse Lenschow has left the DRB. "I leave the Board with mixed feelings. Happy to have more time to spend with my family, but also a little sad because I know I will miss all of you."

This past Thursday was my last Design Review meeting after serving 16 years on the Board. That’s a long time, but a time well spent for a good cause. Why did I do it? The answer is simple: “I love Laguna Beach, it’s charm and uniqueness.”

However, my primary reason to apply for and serve on the Design Review Board was my wish to assist applicants to go through DR as easy and quickly as possible. I had no idea that this decision would turn into a 16-year career.

Some years ago at an interview, I was asked why I wanted to be appointed to DR and my answer was that “I wanted to help people build their dream house without creating a nightmare for their neighbors.” That’s pretty much the whole process in a nutshell, but it wasn’t always as easy as it may sound.

I leave the Board with mixed feelings. Happy to have more time to spend with my family, but also a little sad because I know I will miss all of you. It has been a rewarding experience ... I met many wonderful people ... I learned a lot and saw many changes happen.

I also leave with a sense of accomplishment. When I first sat up here 16 years ago, the DR process was a lot different than it is today. It was much less predictable and quite contentious at times.

Over the years, the DR process has been significantly improved. The efforts of many dedicated people made the changes possible.

However, the real breakthrough started in 2004 when Mayor Cheryl Kinsman requested that a task force should evaluate the DR process and find a way to make it more predictable and less contentious and report back to the City Council with recommendations. Council Members Dicterow, Baglin, Iseman and Pearson agreed with her, and appointed Matt Lawson, Gene Gratz, Leslie LeBon, Marion Jacobs, and Lance Polster, together with a Planning Commissioner – Robert Zur Schmiede and a Design Review Board Member – me, to the “Design Review Task Force.”

We all worked tirelessly and created a report with recommendations of how to improve the DR process. In January 2006, the Task Force presented their recommendations to the City Council, and they were unanimously adopted.

I wish to thank the City Council Members for accepting and adopting the Task Force’s recommendations.

I also wish to thank staff for working hard to implement the changes.

Today, applicants, architects, designer, neighbors, etc., as well as board members enjoy the benefit of a revised Design Review process, a process which is still a work in progress.

Last but not least, I wish to thank the organizers of my retirement party on Tuesday -- Robin Zur Schmiede, Caren Liuzzi, Michael Wilkes, Ken Sadler, Matt and Mary Lawson and Monika Simpson for a great party.

Among the many, many people who came to see me off was Mayor Boyd, who presented me with a proclamation honoring my 16 years on the Board; present and former City Council Members Iseman, Dicterow, Egly, Kinsman and Rollinger; members from the Chamber of Commerce, architects, designers, and friends.

Thank you one and all from the bottom of my heart for a kindness I shall cherish always.

P.S. - I really wanted to thank everyone right there at the party, but I was afraid that I might lose my composure and choke up.

— Ilse Lenschow, resident of Laguna Beach since 1974

mocker January 29, 2013 at 07:50 PM
Man I wish I got a proclamation just for doing my job 16 yrs straight. I'd have 2 by now at least. This story should be including some testimonials of various homeowners over that 16 yr period. Then i will decide my for myself what should be proclaimed...design review board.
Jacob Cherub January 29, 2013 at 10:44 PM
Having been on both sides of contentious design submittals, it was always refreshing to see the views of Ilsa. Always one to give a fair shake. You will be missed.
blahblahblah January 30, 2013 at 12:10 AM
Ilse never made sense...but isn't that the point of the design review board? I will definitely miss her crazy rants and her quips at the staff sitting on the board.

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