Project News: Proposal for boardwalk, bike path in Morro Bay moves forward

From the San Luis Obispo Tribune:

Pathway as well as new bridge would link up existing Harbor Walk with north Morro Bay

By Nick Wilson

nwilson@thetribunenews.comJanuary 20, 2014

The Morro Bay City Council has given its go-ahead for a bike and pedestrian trail, along with a new bridge, that will offer beach vistas and connect the city’s Harbor Walk to north Morro Bay.

The council voted 4-1 last week, with Councilwoman Nancy Johnson dissenting, to approve a conditional use permit for the project, which now must be approved by the state Coastal Commission before construction can begin.

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RRM announces new Principal

RRM Design Group recently named Susan Whalen a Principal of their firm. As the Chief Operations Officer and an Associate of RRM, Susan has a unique skill set that blends her extensive experience with business strategy and planning with her background in human resources and operations management.

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Happy Holidays from RRM Design Group

May your holidays be artful by design, and inspired by creativity.

Happy Holidays and best wishes in 2014 from all of us at RRM Design Group!

Please enjoy this slideshow of art submitted by our own staff members:

  • By: Kayla King, Designer
  • By: Aileen Manley, Marketing Coordinator
  • By: Tyler Stark, Designer
  • By: Amanda Klemaske, Senior Planner
  • By: Marisa Peltier, Planning & Landscape Architecture Associate
  • By: Amanda Klemaske, Senior Planner
  • By: Amy McKay, Planning & Landscape Architecture Associate
  • By: Kayla King, Designer
  • By: Amy McKay, Planning & Landscape Architecture Associate,
  • By: Kayla King, Designer
  • By: John Moyer, Designer
  • By: Amy McKay, Planning & Landscape Architecture Associate
  • By: Kayla King, Designer
  • By: Gordon Brewer, Design Director
  • By: Marisa Peltier, Planning & Landscape Architecture Associate
  • By: Marisa Peltier, Planning & Landscape Architecture Associate
  • By: Tyler Stark, Designer
  • By: William Strand, Manager of Engineering Services
  • By: John Moyer
  • By: Nici Stephens, Sr. Marketing Coordinator
  • By: Gordon Brewer, Design Director
  • By: Kevin Kirkwood, Designer
  • By: Aileen Manley, Marketing Coordinator
  • By: Gordon Brewer, Design Director
  • By: Tyler Stark, Designer
  • By: Kevin Kirkwood, Designer

What’s to Become of Small Towns?

By: John Wilbanks, AICP, CNU-A

This article first appeared on Planetizen at

By most accounts, demographic trends indicate that a larger percentage of Americans live in urban areas than ever before. Further demographic predictions suggest a reduction in family size and the increasing desire for the urban lifestyle. As a result of this increasing urbanism, a city-centered growth model continues to gain momentum in the philosophical and lifestyle preferences of both the shapers and occupiers of our urban environments. As America urbanizes and planning and development tools based on increased density (such as new urbanism, transit-oriented development, mixed use, infill, regionalism and regional blueprints and “greenprints”) gain in their application, what does this mean for planning efforts focused on small towns? Is the era of small town living as a preferred choice over or near ending? Are we to cease devising strategies to improve small town living?

A starting point may be to alter our perception of what it means to be urban. When we think of urban areas we typically conjure up an image of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, New York and other large metropolitan areas. In contrast, small towns are more mentally and emotionally connected to rural environments. However, the Census Bureau defines “urban” as a population cluster of 1,000 people or more. The EPA, in federal assistance legislation, has defined a “small town” as a city or town with a population of 2,500 or less. Ask anyone on the street, or in the planning profession, and the answers will range widely. I’ve lived or worked in towns ranging from 5,000 to over 65,000 that were clearly considered “small towns.” So, I would suggest that even small towns can be considered urban in character, which supports my premise that city-centered growth can be a model for sustainability, even for small towns. From my own intuitive and practical life experiences, small towns will continue to attract a portion of the population as a lifestyle choice and as such we small town planners should double down on the effort to protect the very essence of what makes small town living desirable. But doing this takes diligence and patience.

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KCOY Wake Up Central Coast: Your Home

RRM Architect, Randy Russom, was featured on the “Your Home” segment of the KCOY morning show, Wake Up Central Coast.  Randy talks about when to bring an architect on board for your remodel or new home project.

KCOY Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo – News

How to Have a Difficult Conversation

By: Susan Whalen, Chief Operations Officer

Resolving a disagreement with your co-worker, clarifying a misunderstanding with your manager—these are difficult conversations to have, and most people would rather avoid them. But by communicating clearly and listening well, you can have productive conversations with successful outcomes.

Most people struggle with clear communication; we can be concerned with hurting someone’s feelings, sending the wrong message, or personalizing the issue. People often imply what they want to say and fail to clearly state their objective(s). When the issue is implied, it leaves room for error and misinterpretation. Clear and direct communication is not rude or aggressive.

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Effective Public Outreach

A Few Tips to Achieve Results

By: Jeff Ferber, ASLA, Principal

Most of us in the planning and design professions have attended or organized quite a few public workshops or community meetings.  Do you recall many of them being meaningful and worthwhile? How effectively did they accomplish the intended purpose or move the discussion in a constructive direction? Public workshops are conducted for many reasons including sharing and collecting information. But I think far too often the motivation is simply “because we have to hold one.”

The difference between an effective outreach effort and one that is undertaken purely to check a box and meet a requirement can be defined by how well the time is used at public meetings. There are a few steps you can take to make your public outreach effort and workshops more effective and more likely to achieve meaningful objectives and results.

Tip #1: Develop a Strategy

Most projects benefit greatly from more than just a single outreach effort. A public dialog takes time; try not to do too much in one session. Be careful about assuming one meeting will be sufficient, as you may very well realize after the meeting that you need to tier-off or expand on that effort. This will lead to a disjointed effort, sessions that don’t relate well to previous meetings, and missed opportunities. Worse yet, you might lose momentum or confuse the public, failing to generate the support you are looking for on your project. Plan the entire strategy for the project before you engage the public. Be flexible and adjust the strategy as necessary, but begin with a plan.


Tip #2: Increase Participation

If you really want to engage the public and find out what they’re thinking, you need to make a legitimate effort to increase participation in your outreach activities. Design your outreach strategy to include interaction outside of the typical weeknight evening meeting. Consider finding times and venues to include folks that do not regularly attend civic meetings. For example, reach out to service organizations or find a volunteer to host a meeting and venture into a neighborhood to meet with people where they are comfortable–take the show on the road.

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Tip #3: Show the Public Their Input Matters

Never organize any public outreach activity just because “you have to” or in order to meet a requirement. Whether you have planned a one-on-one stakeholder interview, a site tour, or a public goal-setting session, make it clear to the attendees why the activity is important to the success of the project. Communicate what needs to be accomplished during the session and how you plan to use the input they provide. Thank them for their help and then carefully outline the upcoming steps. Don’t forget to get their contact information so they can be invited to the next exercise. Dangle the carrot that will entice them to return and help again.


The most important question you can ask yourself and your teammates while planning a public outreach event is: what do we want to achieve, and do our activities accomplish that goal? Watch for future installments on this topic for more ideas to make your outreach more effective.

RRM wins Waterfront Center Award for Surfers Point

RRM recently won a project honor award for the cobble garden design element of the Surfers’ Point Managed Shoreline Retreat located in Ventura, California at the Excellence on the Waterfront Award Program put on by the Waterfront Center. The award was given out in Davenport, Iowa and was accepted by RRM Project Manager, Tony Keith.


AIA Santa Barbara tour: low-income design, affordable rentals

By Lisa Boone, Los Angeles TimesSeptember 25, 2013, 4:53 p.m.

In a fresh take on home tours, the American Institute of Architects’ Santa Barbara chapter has organized an event Oct. 5 highlighting low-income housing as well as affordable rentals for people with special needs.

The self-guided tour of multi-family housing, single-family urban infill, mixed-use and live-work designs in Santa Barbara includes:

  • Casa de Las Fuentes, a 42-unit affordable housing complex with courtyard style studio and one-bedroom units by Peikert & RRM Design Group.
  • The recently completed Bradley Studios, 52 Craftsman-style studio apartments designed for people with special needs.
  • Ensberg Jacobs Design Architects’ addition to a 100-year-old Craftsman.
  • The restoration of the 1926 Vhay-Pedotti Residence and Studio by Peter Becker Architects.
  • Thompson Naylor Architects’ Victoria Garden Mews, which incorporates green systems.
  • AB Design Studio’s adaptive re-use of old warehouse-style buildings in the Funk Zone.
  • A 1,500-square-foot house on a narrow lot on Carrillo Street designed by James Gauer, with Bildsten + Sherwin as architect.
  • The live-work Yanonali Lofts by TCMC/Mayer Architects.
  • El Carrillo, 61 single-occupancy affordable apartments for the formerly homeless and near-homeless by Cearnal Andrulaitis.
  • The Loop, an award-winning, mixed-use student housing project near UC Santa Barbara, by DMA/Mayer Architects.
  • A classic 1920s Spanish-style bungalow remodeled by Ensberg Jacobs Design.
  • Antioch University Urban Campus, designed by Kupiec Architects.
The Urban Living Santa Barbara tour runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct 5. Tickets are $55 and $65.

The Vistas at Pismo Village

RRM recently attended the groundbreaking ceremony for The Vistas at Pismo Village. This lively mixed-use project sits in the heart of the town of Pismo Beach and captures the “village theme” for the residential and commercial components of the development. Pismo’s eclectic styles are a trademark of this Central Coast community and this project draws from its surrounding coastal beach neighborhood. The Vistas’ architectural styles of California craftsman, seaside modern and early California all contribute to an overall project theme of past, present and future to bring to life the concept of various structures being developed over time. The Vistas includes 32 townhome residential units; half of these are detached on individual lots, the other half attached on individual lots. The three-story townhomes average +/- 1,500 sf of living space. Residence parking is both attached and detached. In addition the commercial component along busy Wadsworth Avenue provides 5,800 sf of retail space and parking with a 1,000 sf residential manager’s apartment above.


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RRM Design Group - As professional problem solvers and designers, we are interested in the world around us, the people who live in it, and the places that inspire them. We are driven by a desire to help our clients achieve their dreams. That is why we are in business. RRM Design Group is an award-winning design firm of architects, civil engineers, landscape architects, planners, surveyors, and LEED® accredited professionals. Our work includes architectural rendering, mixed use development, community planning and development, and urban design and planning, among numerous other project types. Since 1974, RRM has been inspired by the power of Creating Environments People Enjoy®.