John McCafferty's statement, "But we took our sketches to Gary, a young designer we'd heard about who would do an architect's work without attaching AIA to his title and another zero or two to his price," is extremely unfair to architects.
In the first place, his assumption that all California architects are "AIA" is inaccurate. One can be licensed in California as an architect without joining the American Institute of Architects.
The purpose of licensing architects is to protect the health, welfare and safety of the public by establishing a minimum threshold of competence and ability in the profession, thereby creating a minimum standard to judge one's services.
The fee Gary is charging cannot produce a "proper minimum set of documents" and provide you with the proper advice and guidance, unless Gary is providing his services at below the minimum hourly wage or wishes to practice and learn on the job. The statements about architects, the AIA, etc., are totally unfounded and an exaggerated generalization. I feel a written apology in The Times is in order.