You need to have a strong sense of adventure to  get projects approved and built in Southern  California with all of the governing agencies’  seemingly nonsensical bureaucratic red-tape.  It  also requires a limitless imagination designing  projects that actually thrive under these harsh  governmental and environmental constraints. After leaving a meeting with City of Malibu  Planning Department personnel, Zan Marquis, the  owner of the Point Dume Village shopping center,  told his property manager; “The person who is the  most laid-back in meetings with the City of Malibu  is the one who prevails - and Steve is always the  most laid-back....”
“Is being laid-back really a marketable commodity?”  Steve Yett asks, laughing.  “Because if so, we  should put some mention of it on the website....”  Probably not.  But here it is any way. With his patent brand of laid-back intensity, it has been said that Steve Yett is an amalgam of Howard  Roark and Jeffrey Lebowski. His general approach to architecture is to try to be as flexible as possible while keeping his eye on the  endgame result that the project has to be built. He views design as a collaboration between himself, the client, the site itself, the governing codes and enforcement agencies, the other required engineering and design disciplines, as well as the contractor. “When I was still in school I went to a lecture by San Diego architect Rob Wellington Quigley. His  general attitude was not to let anything phase him…. I remember there was some project where they  found an indian burial site and he showed how he sculpturally ran the building around the location. And  almost every project he started off telling the audience a quirky request that the client made, where they  would ask him ‘….Is that alright?…” And he had this attitude of not only the request being alright, but it  became a major component of what made the project interesting.”  Steve Yett would later bring that attitude into his own work ethic.
Every one of Steve Yett’s projects follow the same sequence. He studies the following determinants  before he even comes up with even the most embryonic of design concepts: Determine the client’s programmatic requirements. Plot the allowable building envelope on the site. Perform initial site analysis. He starts the design process once these tasks are completed. “Obviously, the client’s programmatic requirements come first. But at the same time, if the client wants a  three-story, 40’ high, 17,000 square foot house and zoning regulations only allow for a one story, 18’  high, 8,000 square foot house, the client just has to know that the project just isn’t going to be approved  with those programmatic requirements. Now, don’t get me wrong….. If a desired client program is  borderline, I’m willing to give it a try to see if the regulatory agency will buy off on the desired result- but  the client needs to be aware of the associated risks.” 
“I once read that Steely Dan’s creative process is different  every time. Some songs they chart every instrument, and  others they let it be developed in a setting around a basic  structure, still others they hum the parts to various session  musicians. I can totally relate to that. I don’t think that I’ve  ever completed the same design process twice. I look to the  client to determine the direction that we are going. I’ve had  clients who could draw pretty well, hand me their own  drawings that I elaborate on, and get them to code and work  structurally. At the other end of the spectrum, I’ve had clients  who pointed me in a general direction and let me go carte  blanche.” 
Steve Yett realized that he wanted to be an architect after a  near-death skateboard accident in the 6th grade. Bedridden  for five months following the event that left him with a double  skull-fracture, he had plenty of time to reflect on his earlier  chosen career path a surfer/skateboarder. “The shift to architecture made the most sense to me.” Steve  Yett says definitely tongue-in-cheek. “Matt Kivlin, the inventor  of the short surfboard, went on to become an architect. And  look at John Lautner - most of his projects look like waves.”  Steve Yett went on to graduate from USC with his Bachelor of Architecture degree. He worked for a number of corporate  firms the years following graduation, but grew tired of their  politics, and more importantly felt like they really weren’t really doing architecture.
“On two separate occasions, at two separate firms I had worked at, I was in meetings at the lead  designer’s desk, looking out the window, and realized that the design we were discussing was a straight  verbatim copy of a prominent building that the designer could see from his window....  You’d think that  they would at the very least buy books or magazines and secretly copy them at home to bring into the  office!  Maybe it was extreme arrogance, or more likely they just didn’t care any more.  It goes without  saying that I learned what I needed to on the technical side from those firms and left.”  Eventually, Steve Yett went to work for Malibu architect, Mike Barsocchini. “Mike was one of the coolest  architects that I ever met. He did his internship under Lloyd Wright. He used to race cars with Steve  McQueen. There was quite an impressive list of alumni that have worked for Mike through the years…  Some very famous architects…. Mike should’ve been famous in his own right - he completed some  pretty impressive structures. But he didn’t really care about glory. He genuinely just liked doing the  projects with minimal accolades. ”  Click                to read more about Steve Yett’s time working for Mike Barsocchini.
“A friend of mine who did volunteer  work invited me to an appreciation  barbeque for Ennis House docents and  volunteers. I thought it would be a good  opportunity to see the house and have a  couple of beers and some barbeque,  next thing you know, I somehow became  the Vice President of the Board of  Directors….” Perhaps that is a slight oversimplification  of the story, but due to multiple  nondisclosure agreements, Steve Yett is  very reluctant to share much of his  involvement with the house. “It’s really too bad that I can’t talk about  it. It was like playing a role in a Jim  Jarmusch or Coen Brothers film. You  really would think that I was making up  90 percent of the stories I could tell. I’m  pretty sure that the book would be a  bestseller. No article that I’ve ever read  about the house even scratches the  surface about what really happened.”  The long and the short of it is that after  the fateful barbeque, Steve Yett saw the  state of the house and immediately was  roped into helping Gus Brown and his  quixotic army of volunteers trying to  restore this Frank Lloyd Wright gem that  had been so badly damaged due to the  Northridge Earthquake.  Steve left the Board in order to spend  more time with his mother who had been  diagnosed with terminal cancer, shortly  before the Board was restructured with  members of the LA Conservancy and  the Frank Lloyd Wright Building  Conservancy.
Click                 to hear a segment on NPR with Steve Yett discussing the Ennis House.
Steve Yett received his Architecture  License in 1995. Appropriately enough,  the first job that he completed under his  license was the Stewart Surf store at  Topanga Beach that he did for the fee of a new board. Since then, he has completed The Malibu  Stage Company Theatre, Malibu Kitchen,  Toy Crazy, two drug stores, two high-end  women’s dress shops, Crosby Doe Realty, Pritchett-Rapf Realty, the Prudential  Realty Kiosk as well as several other  offices, the remodel of the Point Dume  Village shopping center and even the old  Civic Center Way City of Malibu Building  Department public counter. But the  mainstay of his practice has always been  residential work - both remodels and new  construction. Further testament to Steve Yett’s abilities  is the number of people in the building  trade who have commissioned him to  design their own houses.  Steve Yett has  done new houses and remodels for  several builders and realtors.
Steve Yett is in a unique postion that he is both part of the  last generation of architects to learn to design by hand  drawing, as well a be part of the first pioneers of the CADD  age.  As a result, his computer drawings are meticulous -  and many people don’t believe that they have been done on  the computer. “On more than one occasion strangers at the building  department have come up to me and told me that my  drawings are amongst the best they have ever seen.”