Two city board members resign over Council’s anti-Israel resolution

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Two Design Review Board members resign over Council's anti-Israel resolution
Richmond City Hall (Photo by Kathy Chouteau)

Two members of Richmond’s Design Review Board have resigned from the Board in protest of the Richmond City Council’s anti-Israel resolution, formerly called Resolution R1 (click here to read the resolution).

David Plotkin, appointed Nov. 1, 2022, and Leah Marthinsen, appointed March 7, 2023, sent letters of resignation to the Council and fellow Board members that were shared in former Mayor Tom Butt’s e-forum newsletter. The Design Review Board helps decide on the design of new development projects and exterior changes to businesses in the city, and also advises the Planning Commission in land use decisions.

Following the resignation of former chair Jonathan Livingston in January in protest over city staff’s handling of project applications, the Board now only has four of its seven allowable members, “making a quorum impossible if only one of the remaining four does not attend a meeting,” Butt said.

In his letter of resignation, Plotkin said he was “saddened, and frankly outraged, that I can no longer serve this city I love as a result of the divisive, dangerous and deeply painful resolution R1.”

“The resolution clearly isolates and endangers the Jewish community in Richmond, which includes my family,” he said. “My children do not feel safe in their own home.”

Plotkin said Mayor Eduardo Martinez and other members of Council neglected to respond to his concerns on this issue. He said he will now turn his energy “toward rallying with my friends and neighbors, inside and outside of the Jewish community, to ensure that a more humane mayor and city council are elected to lead our once welcoming and progressive Richmond community.”

In a separate letter, Marthinsen said that “as a Jewish person and a committed Richmond resident, I’m hurt and saddened to be making this choice.”

“I am unable to continue to support an administration that chooses incendiary and divisive grandstanding over inclusiveness and the well-being of all our community members,” Marthinsen said.

Resolution R1 was criticized as “biased and inflammatory” for describing Israel as being an “apartheid state” that is engaging in a campaign of “ethnic cleansing” and “collective punishment” of Palestinians. The resolution meanwhile fails to condemn the terrorist group Hamas for their brutal, deadly attack on Israeli citizens on Oct. 7. 

The letters from Plotkin and Marthinsen are posted in full below:

Dear Mr. Mayor and members of the City Council,

I joined the Design Review board because I believe deeply in the power of design to bring people together. Over the past year as a Design Board member, I have appreciated my colleagues’ and City staff’s commitment to building community through design dialog, on projects large and small.

So it is with deep regret and disappointment that I am resigning my position on the DRB, effective immediately, following the Richmond City Council’s choice to pass the offensive, biased, and inflammatory Resolution R-1 on 10/25. Personally, as a Jewish person and a committed Richmond resident, I’m hurt and saddened to be making this choice. 

I am unable to continue to support an administration that chooses incendiary and divisive grandstanding over inclusiveness and the well-being of all our community members.

Leah Marthinsen