Eduardo Martinez, a soft-spoken architect who chaired Palo Alto's Planning and Transportation Commission before stepping down earlier this year, died last week after a battle with cancer.
Martinez, known for his sense of humor and passion for social justice and land-use transparency, served on the planning commission between 2009 and 2014. He had spent much of his tenure assisting the city with its update of the Comprehensive Plan and with reviewing some of the most contentious recent developments, including Lytton Gateway and the housing development proposed for Maybell Avenue. He co-authored a memo urging the city to reform its "planned community" process and was one of several commissioners who opposed changing a policy that discouraged commissioners from talking to developers (the policy was nevertheless changed).
He died on July 2, according to his niece Linda Martinez. He was 67.
Though invariably calm, Martinez was occasionally outspoken, as when he called Stanford University arrogant for not taking seriously enough the neighborhood's concerns about the traffic impacts of Stanford's housing complex on California Avenue.
He also frequently cited Comprehensive Plan policies in challenging development proposals. On April 21, in his final speech in the Council Chambers, Martinez told the City Council that it's time to "reinvent" the way the city reviews new developments and to solicit feedback on new proposals earlier in the process.
"As architects, we let the pendulum swing too far, where we're afraid to criticize the work of other architects so we let it go, or we make marginal comments," Martinez said.
Martinez also urged the council to truly listen to the public, rather than "have the attitude that we know what we're doing and if only the public understood this, they'd go along with us."
"I believe we do know what we're doing. But I think our inability to take a position where we suspend what we believe and look at a planning development in a different way without the preconception that we have, I think we would come a lot closer to reaching a consensus or coming up with better ideas for how we can come together as a community than we have shown in the past."
In honor of his service, the City Council passed a resolution of appreciation in April, lauding him for "raising awareness and understanding of 'public benefit,' social justice in land-use policies and supporting principles of good urban design and community planning."
"He was conscientious, diligent, thoughtful, patient, supportive and lighthearted," the resolution states. "Eduardo's sense of humor lightened up contentious and controversial issues of great potential importance to the city, and he welcomed contributions from the public, colleagues on the commission and the staff."
Palo Alto resident Fred Balin, a land-use watchdog, praised him at the April 21 meeting for his humility and wisdom and called him "someone you were compelled to listen to and to consider."
"He served with great humility and integrity, sensitivity to people, place and circumstance," Balin said. "He never became visibly upset. Was he unconsciously saying, 'People, get over your sense of specialness and think beyond yourself'?"
Councilwoman Karen Holman, who had served with Martinez on the planning commission before joining the council, said she had found him to be "intelligent, gracious, forthright and thoughtful."
"Whether we agreed or not on issues, and we often we did, we were able to laugh at and with each other and move on."
Planning commission Chair Mark Michael, who had served as vice chair under Martinez, praised him for his "wonderful sense of compassion."
"He had brought a sense of humility to discussions that were often contentious and controversial," Michael said Wednesday.
A Los Angeles native, Martinez moved to Berkeley in 1967 to earn a bachelor's degree in architecture and urban design from U.C. Berkeley. He then obtained a master's degree in urban design from Harvard University.
Martinez later moved back to Berkeley, where his architectural firm was based. He also lived in Campbell for eight years before moving to Palo Alto in 2008.
Linda Martinez said he became passionate about architecture in his childhood, when his father bought him books on the subject and took him on trips. He was also passionate about being involved in the community and, according to Palo Alto's resolution, specialized in public architecture, including public housing and buildings that housed community nonprofits.
"It was his life's work," Linda Martinez said.
In his parting comments, just before he received a standing ovation in the Council Chambers, Martinez thanked the council for the trust it has placed in the planning commission.
"Frankly, I love this job," Martinez said. "I loved the trust that you all gave us, the attention you gave to our comments and deliberations on matters of important land-use decisions ... the trust you gave us in our work on the Comp Plan. And really, the respect that the city has offered to all the Planning and Transportation commissioners."
A reception in his honor will be held on July 27 at the Kinsey James Couture Bridal, a building he helped renovate at 1623 Mt. Diablo Boulevard, Walnut Creek.