Professional Architects Criticize Design Process for New Expanded OB Library

by on September 7, 2022 · 9 comments

in Ocean Beach

The San Diego Chapter of the American Institute of Architects has issued a blistering critique of the design process for OB’s new, expanded library. The new design will be on display at tonight’s OB Planning Board meeting.

In undated letters to Mayor Gloria, Councilmember Campbell, and other officials, the architects claimed there was a “flawed design process and substandard outcome” for the new plans, and that “The community deserves better; it deserves well-designed civic assets that will endure the test of time.”

AIA San Diego says they will attend tonight’s Ocean Beach Planning Board meeting to advocate for professional design services of the Library.

In the letters, AIA stated:

The City’s decision to shift project planning and design internally does not serve the public and taxpayers well and, frankly, is a letdown to our community. Subpar design executed by non-licensed staff will result in a project which lacks—

    • a meaningful connection to community;
    • efficient circulation and access;
    • deeply embedded sustainability;
    • formal/spatial resolution;
    • understanding of materiality in relationship to context;

Furthermore, this flawed process will inevitably result in increased project costs and a lower return on investment. The community deserves better; it deserves well-designed civic assets that will endure the test of time.

The notion that public work can be designed without the guidance and experience of San Diego’s architecture and design professionals sets a poor precedent for future public projects. Designing a public building entails design decisions that have the potential to impact the health, safety, and welfare of the public; licensed professionals are regulated and required by law to fulfill the mission of protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the public.

The letter ended

We hope you will consider re-engaging with an architectural firm for this project and others moving forward. AIA San Diego and the Regional Design Advisory Council urge the City to engage with the design community in the spirit of creating inspired public works for the public benefit— today and in the future—this is simply good stewardship.

It was signed by David Keitel, president of AIA, Leigh A. Eisen and Katee Chard, both of the group.

The city’s Engineering & Capital Projects Department responded in a letter, dated September 6, and denied any flawed process. Here is a portion of the response:

The City has been following a transparent process to keep the community highly involved in the design of their library.

The next steps for this project will be another joint meeting with the Ocean Beach Planning Board, scheduled for September 7th, to take vote to support the final concept chosen by the community and that has been designed by the City in collaboration with the community, consulting Historic Architect and Historic Planners.

The City is utilizing Design Build Project delivery method to successfully complete the project. The concept design chosen by the community will be used to complete the bridging documents for the Ocean Beach Branch Library Project.

Upon obtaining the Coastal Commission Permit, the project will go out through a publicly competitive proposal to designate a Design/Builder to complete this project.

This Design-Build process will transfer the project to new Architects and Design Consultants for the completion of the design process and the development of construction drawings. We do agree that architects offer inspired vision, talent and technical skill and expertise designing and executing public project efficiently and we encourage the American Institute of Architects San Diego and the Regional Design Advisory Council to participate in that process and to remain an important partner to the City of San Diego.

We would like to reiterate that we do understand your concern and do recognize the importance of Architects in the design process, we would like to assure that the process City is following is not “flawed” but a transparent one as it is outlined by the multiple City Council Policy in place.

In Addition, the City’s Engineering & Capital Project (E&CP) Department staff has been at the forefront of community engagement for not only this project but all the City’s Capital Improvement Projects.

Furthermore, the E&CP Department has led the way in sustainability design implementation not only implementing one of the most progressive Climate Action Plans but also Facility Energy management strategies that exceeds most of the nation standards.

The department staff consist of a large range of Licensed Engineers (also serve as Deputized City Engineers), Licensed Landscape Architects and Licensed Architect and other disciplines. We do consider that this concept design phase has been thoroughly developed for special resolution and context, especially considering the community needs, operational requirements, and the many limitations due to the site and environmental constraints.

It was signed by Rania Amen, Director, Engineering & Capital Projects.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Gregg g Sullivan September 7, 2022 at 6:30 pm

I totally agree with AIA San Diego. This design is pure doo doo!


Debbi September 7, 2022 at 8:58 pm

Blah….like OB’s entryway.


sealintheselkirks September 8, 2022 at 11:59 am

Completely agree with the premise of this article.

When any money-influenced corrupted government, regardless of which side of our 1-Party corporate state it is, has the ability to make arbitrary decisions on major community changes without any meaningful input from the voters who are about to be impacted by those decisions while PAYING for it with their tax dollars; yeah, well, as an earlier article suggested, OB IS getting the shaft. Again. Anybody really surprised?

What a boring, inland suburban ‘bedroom community’ design but of course that’s their intellectual level, yes? This U of Berkeley prof’s article might explain much of what is happening especially when evaluating corrupt politicians but don’t forget to include the greed and ego factors!

The Five Universal Laws of Human Stupidity

I think this cut say it all:
“…compounded by biased assumptions that certain people are intelligent based on superficial factors like their job, education level, or other traits we believe to be exclusive of stupidity. They aren’t.”



Frank Gormlie September 8, 2022 at 3:43 pm

Thanks, seal! Very generous of you. I’ll be stopping by someday when I take my road trip north – some year.


sealintheselkirks September 8, 2022 at 8:35 pm

Glad to help even a little bit, ya know?
And always an open door to you & yours, Frank. I think you’d absolutely love my house since I admit I live in a building that somehow turned into a surf/skate/snowboard museum. People have come to just wander through and see stuff, take pictures, even a tri-state Outdoors Rec magazine based in Spokane came up to take pictures and do a story. I have crowded ‘busy’ walls including the ceiling and walls of the 1,200 sq ft sew factory out back. Surfer’s house, dude, just switched from OB to mountains but the ‘decor’ sure does look familiar to people who’ve known me for decades.
But at the moment this place is seriously dank stinky-finger skunk smell wafting through due to five harvested girls this week that are hanging from the music room ceiling drying. I’ll send you a couple pics.

Five more (different strains, sativas) won’t be done until about October.
But dang does the fragrance hit you when one walks in the door!!

My younger brother is taking the train up in October from Humboldt County for a long-awaited visit (last visit was me 2005 down at Hog Farm NorCal), and old friend/my book editor Utah Karin and her honey are coming from SLC at Thanksgiving or Xmas so I get to have visitors this Fall.
As it is still in the 90s (100’F on 2Sept), I just can’t work that hard in heat anymore so I’m still puttering on inside projects as I’m waiting for a weather break to start pulling in firewood for winter. Like everyone who owns an old house, the projects never end.




Frank Gormlie September 8, 2022 at 8:45 pm

Dude, it’s in the 90s here – at night. Our extreme weather is about to break: we’re having Hurricane Kay visit us all day tomorrow, Sat and Sunday. And we’re expecting the first serious rain in many a moon. Months and months.


sealintheselkirks September 8, 2022 at 9:05 pm

But dude, I’m 40 air miles from the Canadian Border in the mountains! You know, where it used to hit -30F in winter with feet and feet of snow around this house and the growing season was less than 4 months long between frosts?

You on the other hand are in the northwestern coastline section of the Sonoran Desert…and Global Warming is a hoax invented by socialist commie enviro-nuts.

And it’s a La Nina year! Imagine if you will what it is going to feel like during the next El Nino? Got solar that’s enough to power AC and refrigerators? Might be a good idea, ya know?

Yeah, I watched the Chibasco maps since my oldest friend lives on Windward Side of O’ahu. The Big Island saves them from most these last 25 years but, like wildfires, the cyclones have been really active in the Pacific this year. How about that one that turned and went right across into the Caribbean? Wow!

At least you’ll get rain but hopefully not like the ‘1-1000 yr’ types like what has been blasting the Mid/Upper Midwest and back East lately. A nice drenching would be good but I’ll bet they close the beaches again…



Frank Gormlie September 9, 2022 at 10:06 am

We finally got some rain! After months of nothing. Hurricane Kay (tropical storm?) has arrived. It’s been raining here since 5:10 this morning. I sat on our covered deck with my cup of coffee and just enjoyed the sounds.


nostalgic September 8, 2022 at 12:15 pm

This looks like a picture of what is there now. The BEFORE and not the AFTER? Just curious.


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