It is therefore a good moment to think about what makes a good LPC chair. And how can the Mayor restore public confidence in the agency? The answers lie in avoiding the mistakes of the past. First, don’t appoint people with axes to grind about how modern styles of architecture must efface older styles, who protest against renovating old buildings to look like how they used to, and who object to healing wounds in a historic streetscape through restoration.
This brings up the question of who should replace the departing chair. Ill-considered ‘tradition’ says it should be the current commissioner with the most seniority. In this case, that would be Fred Bland. Yikes! Mr. Bland’s firm does a huge amount of business with the Commission, and thus brings the potential for conflict of interest. And Mr. Bland is the commissioner who famously praised an architect for designing an out-of-context building inside a historic district on Franklin Street, saying he had successfully gotten around “the tyranny of the context.”
What the Mayor should do is simple: find a good, conflict of-interest free preservationist with an appreciation of the varied, storied fabric of this city. Find one who realizes that different neighborhoods need evaluation by varying standards and who will uphold and defend the spirit, intent, and letter of the landmarks law. Simple, right?