Here’s an extended quote from “Anon,” posted here on Seattle Transit Blog on my Fourth of July post:
Ballard was being inundated with a bunch of boring, boxy condos, that really took away from the uniqueness of Ballard. While we don’t hate progress, we also wonder why progress can’t at least look good. It seems like the city just rubber stamps the ugliest designs, the developer comes in, builds and runs and “we the people” are left with the ugly monstrosities
It’s a comment I have read again, and again in my posts about density. Another version of it goes, “I’m not against density I just hate bad design.” But there’s a solution for Anon and others who want great design and density.
Tonight the Seattle City Council is considering an extension and modification of it’s Living Building Pilot Program, a program designed to incentivize better buildings by granting some departures from Seattle’s land use code. All the projects have to go through the design review process (hardly a rubber stamp) and the program limits participants to 12 over the life of the program. The program is set to expire this year and make changes to allow more flexibility for developers.
More below the jump.
Building green can be expensive and the intention of the program was to promote more innovative design that reduced environmental impacts, save energy, and highlight great design.
One project, Stone34 in Fremont, is already moving ahead, but in order to benefit from the program that project needs the extension. The amendments to the program are pretty straightforward, allowing developers to choose elements of the living building without having to meet them all. In exchange, buildings can get more height.
As I wrote over at Seattle’s Land Use Code, the Living Building Program is incentive zoning at its best, allowing departures from the land use code in exchange for public benefits. While the Stone34 project is an office building, what’s true for mixed use development is true for Stone34: the money to pay for better materials and more energy efficiencies have to come from somewhere. The departures from the land use code can reduce costs and help increase revenue to help pay for a better building.
The problem is that some neighborhood groups are already assembling themselves to oppose this project for a bunch of reasons laid out in a flier posted in Capitol Hill.
Once again the Seattle City Council is debating land use policy lot-by-lot, project-by-project rather than passing broad measures, implementing them, then evaluating them to see if they work. And once again some neighborhood groups are claiming that departures for Stone34 are a precedent that can’t be tolerated.
In the end it’s pretty simple. If we want good design along with density somebody has to pay for it and the Living Building Program and Stone34 are a chance to raise the bar on policy and design in a way that is economical for the developer and produces benefits for the neighborhood and city. Let’s give the program and the project a chance to prove it can meet those expectations.
The City Council’s Planning, Land Use and Sustainability (PLUS) committee has scheduled a public hearing for Monday, July 9, 2012 in the City Council Chambers, 2nd floor, Seattle City Hall, 600 Fourth Avenue. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m.
The July Greendrinks will be sponsored by Skanska and will take place at EM Fine Art in South Lake Union on July 10th starting at 5:30pm.The event will feature an opportunity to learn more from Skanska and others on two development projects proposed in Seattle, Stone34 and 400 Fairview. A short 5 -7 minute documentary on Stone34 by local filmmaker Eric Becker will be premiered at this event.