T. Keith Gurnee has enjoyed a long and distinguished career of nearly 40 years in the fields of planning, urban design, politics, and public facilitation. In 1971, while a student of Architecture at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Keith was elected at the age of 24 to the San Luis Obispo City Council. He then switched his major to City and Regional Planning and earned his B.S. degree in 1973. For the first 3 years of his term, Keith served as the youngest elected official in California. Reelected in 1975, Keith was instrumental in helping make San Luis Obispo what it is today: one of the most enjoyable places in California to live. During his years in office, he helped start the city's public transportation system, its system of bike paths, and played a leadership role in downtown revitalization, creek restoration, and open space preservation.
In 1977, he became a planner for Humboldt County where he worked on its Local Coastal Program and helped establish the Trinidad Scenic Drive Preservation Program and helped create a local land trust to implement that program. Returning to the Central Coast in 1978, he restored an historic Craftsman style office building before becoming the Planning Director for the City of Morro Bay. There he oversaw the first Comprehensive Waterfront Restoration Plan funded by the California Coastal Conservancy. That plan led to many of the city's successful waterfront projects including Tidelands Park, the restoration of the T-Pier, a series of street-end viewing platforms, the Morro Bay Harborwalk, and the Morro Dunes Restoration Program. In 1980, Keith then joined Kingcorp, a firm that designed and developed projects on historic and environmentally sensitive properties, including the historic Park Hotel in San Luis Obispo.
By 1983, Keith had joined RRM Design Group, then a 25 person San Luis Obispo-based Architecture firm, that charged him to grow its fledgling Planning Division. It was his 30 years at RRM that became the crucible of Keith's award winning planning and urban design career. The Planning Division quickly became the largest workgroup in the firm and Keith helped propel the firm to statewide as well as national and international recognition. In the process, RRM grew to a total of 170 people throughout multiple offices in California. Before retiring in 2012, Keith served as a mentor to a number of young planners and designers who have gone onto managing the firm today.
Over his career, he became best known for his design of waterfront and downtown revitalization projects, park and recreation facilities, open space preservation and land conservation strategies, and the public facilitation of visioning processes. Among his distinctive waterfront projects were those in Venice Beach, the Port of Los Angeles, Avila Beach, Pismo Beach, Marina del Rey, Crescent City, Capitola, Morro Bay, Port Townsend, Washington, and even historic Umag on the Istrian coast of Croatia. His work on creek/riverfront enhancement projects included the Prince Memorial Greenway in Santa Rosa and Centennial Plaza overlooking the Feather River in downtown Oroville. He also prepared downtown revitalization projects for Calabasas, Claremont, Ukiah, Santa Rosa, Napa, Cloverdale, Gilroy Soledad, El Centro, and Scotts Valley to mention a few. His park experience included Venice Beach, Arguello Park in San Carlos, Burton Chase Park in Marina del Rey, Niles Town Plaza in Fremont, and Prince Gateway Park in Santa Rosa. He also developed Park and Open Space Master Plans for Rancho Palos Verdes, The Town of Loomis, the City of Sonoma, Agoura Hills, and Chino Hills.
But perhaps Keith is proudest of his achievements in working with public agencies and private landowners to preserve over 100,000 acres of the California landscape as permanent open space in the Counties of San Luis Obispo, Sonoma, and Los Angeles. Keith still continues to consult with the firm on select projects. In addition to devoting his time to the California Planning Roundtable, Keith now spends his time writing, painting, designing, traveling to his second home on Washington's Puget Sound, and enjoying his family and his children's families to the maximum extent possible.