The headline in the Capitol Hill Seattle blog pretty much says it all:
Facing ‘unprecedented wave’ of development, letter gives design board license to kill (bad projects)
Well I’m afraid to deliver the bad news, but no it doesn’t. Design review was never intended to kill projects whether they were deemed “bad” by the public or even by the design review committee. The purpose of design review is to provide “a forum for citizens, developers and the City to review and guide the design of qualifying commercial and multifamily development projects (emphasis mine).”
It is simply appaling that two sitting Councilmembers would write a letter fanning community hostility toward development and that they would imply that design review is a forum to stop projects. In fact, every design review committee I’ve attended the chair of the committee has to go to great lengths to remind neighbors who oppose a project that design review isn’t a way to change underlying zoning, stop a project, or even repurpose or redirect a project.
The purpose of design review was supposed to be to allow new development minor departures in exchange for modifying design in accordance with generally accepted design guidelines. Some neighborhoods have developed their own guidelines with more refinements. But as many have pointed out before, design review is a feeble measure for neighborhoods who want to “kill” new development. I think that’s a good thing and that’s what the law says.
I’ve suggested other ideas about how design review could be modified along with introduction of zero based zoning, but the truth is the design review is not a way to kill projects and shouldn’t become a vehicle for that, ever. At best, design reivew is a give and take process to help move beyond neighborhood objections and get projects built.
Tom Rassmussen and Sally Clark should be embarrassed and ought to make an effort to counter the impression the Capitol Hill blog has created. All their letter and the post does is promote a common misconception about design reivew and add more frustration and costs to people who are trying to follow the law and get their projects built. And furthermore, it stokes an already frantic obession among some that we’re facing some kind of swarm of bad development. We need more housing options in Seattle and Councilmembers who will encourage and support growth, not make it harder for our city to accomodate more people by vilifying developers.