The proposed CVS (1st Ave N side)
The proposed CVS (Queen Anne Ave side) – single use, single entrance

Earlier this year, CVS suddenly started trying to build suburban-style, one story drugstores, chock full of parking, in the middle of three Seattle urban villages.

In a departure from a lot of the activism we often see, neighborhood groups organized to push back asking for more density, and today, the council unanimously passed temporary emergency legislation from Councilmember Conlin banning what he called “strip mall development,” sending a clear signal against underdeveloping neighborhood centers.

I’ve had the opportunity to be part of this since the beginning. Velmeir, the developer trying to build CVS, came to an Uptown Alliance Urban Design Framework committee meeting, presenting a fully designed pharmacy building and handwaving away any option of mixed use. Other Uptown Alliance members dug in, and found that they were trying to do the same thing in Wallingford and West Seattle.

A month or more later, when Velmeir came to their Early Design Guidance meeting, the first step to get a permit, they hadn’t changed a thing. Their design was rejected by the design review board (PDF), citing large blank walls and lack of any unique design elements – despite a design packet showcasing the art deco style of many buildings in the neighborhood. They tried the same design again in Wallingford, and that board rejected it for a different reason. They said it didn’t meet the height, bulk, and scale guideline – it wasn’t big enough!

Several neighborhood activists from both Uptown and Wallingford went to Councilmember Conlin and DPD, who worked together on emergency legislation (PDF) to block further development of this nature. The legislation requires minimum Floor Area Ratio (often FAR), something that to my knowledge has never been done before in Seattle.

For a 30 or 40 foot zone in a pedestrian overlay district (which exist in station areas and urban villages), any new building or modification of over 1000 square feet must have a minimum ratio of building square footage to site square footage of 1.5. For a 65 or 85 foot zone, this becomes 2, and for a 125 or 160 foot zone, 2.5. This isn’t a difficult requirement to beat; it just prevents these suburban-style developments.

I attended today’s Council meeting. Other than one crazy regular commenter, I believe every comment with an opinion on the legislation was in favor. Oddly, an attorney from Foster Pepper (retained by Velmeir) appeared, signed up to comment, and at the microphone, merely asked whether they had the latest version of the legislation the Council was considering. They did.

Just before the vote, Conlin gave some explanation and commentary. It got very interesting – he said (paraphrasing) that the land use code today is often used to limit height and density, but the Council thinks it can also be used to encourage them! He went on to say that this is just a step on that path, but “for the future of our city, it’s important that we go down that path.”

I’m generally wary of legislation to impose new requirements on development – many requirements, like parking, can put a price floor on new development higher than what the market would provide. Fortunately, this legislation may lead to a wider discussion of Seattle’s land use code that, if guided well, could lead to more affordability, more walkability, and stronger, more inclusive community. I applaud today’s move, and look forward to that discussion.

115 Replies to “City Council Smacks CVS With Minimum Density Legislation”

  1. And this is the guy about whom The Stranger nonsensically sputtered: “As Council president, Conlin hampered real environmental progress.”

    1. In all fairness, if Mayor McGinn had pushed publicly for this legislation first, Conlin’s consultant would have shopped around a media release calling the move an “election-year gimmick”. I support the move, in spite of the legal risk. But I also think Steinbrueck’s drubbing and Conlin’s poor showing in the primary helped Conlin get a little more anti-sprawl religion.

      1. No, Conlin’s been a good supporter of density for quite a while. I don’t think that’s fair. It’s possible other councilmembers would have opposed if the Mayor had led on this, but Conlin and the Mayor haven’t been at odds much, have they?

      2. I didn’t say Conlin would call it an “election year gimmick”. I said his consultant (who has worked for six other current councilmembers) would. McGinn and Conlin have had their disagreements, for sure, including the handling of the basketball arena and the signing of the draft EIS for the freeway tunnel, to name a couple much-covered ones.

  2. Makes me wish I would have been more active when Walgreens built their location at 15th and Market in Ballard.

    1. Yeah – the Walgreens on Broadway was going to be one story, but with neighborhood involvement, it became the mixed use building (with affordable housing!) that it is today. It’s nowhere near perfect, but it’s better than it would have been.

    2. Same with Lake City. Tearing out the historic shopping district on Lake City Way to build a surface parking lot, an Eckerd’s and a strip shopping mall was a crime against future generations. Conlin was in office then. I wish this sort of legislation could have happened sooner, but at the time, I didn’t even know how to find my neighborhood association. SInce I moved away, I’ve been embarassed by nearly everything that neighborhood association has done.

      1. As a Lake City-ish resident, I often wonder why the majority of the SFH residents bother to stay. It seems like they’d all really rather live someplace like Phantom Lake or Lake Kathleen.

      2. Lake City residents enjoy the easy walk to lots of retail and restaurants. That’s not to say they want others to enjoy such a good situation.

        Have they ever built sidewalks on 35th Ave NE to make that safe to walk?

      3. 35th has sidewalks, at least close to the Lake City center. What’s missing are sidewalks on a lot of the through residential streets, especially 123rd.

        Talking to some of my neighbors… 1) I know they’ll never, ever walk to anything, and 2) they are true BANANAs. They are currently in an absolute tizzy over a small liquor store that has been permitted along 125th at 33rd, two blocks from Bartell’s, which already sells liquor, and smack in the middle of the commercial area. I really think they should be living out in the country.

        These are people who think I’m completely crazy because I walk less than a mile to catch the bus to work.

      1. If only we could have stopped U-Village. We drained and filled a dozen acres of pristine marshland to build those parking lots, back in the days before the EPA or Department of Ecology existed. Marshland that we are now trying to recreate in Seattle, at great expense.

        We also paved over another dozen acres of the old landfill, but that’s no great loss. Maybe we could have appealed to Mayor Patches to stop it?

      2. Seems like it would have succumbed to economic pressure alone by now with the rise in land prices. I’m surprised they haven’t been bought out and turned into a warren of apartment towers.

      3. A “warren of apartment towers” coexisting with the current U-Village footprint would be a huge improvement, and I think it will happen someday… as soon as the paralyzing fear of insufficient free parking can be conquered. Hopefully the huge new garage, as ugly and unfriendly as it is, will help move things in that direction.

      4. If the idea is that the huge and massively expensive new garage is going to somehow solve the problem of people circling for parking, the owners are kidding themselves. The U-Village already has a parking garage, but everyone still prefers to circling around the surface lots, waiting for someone to vacate a space, as its vastly more convenient than driving up levels of a garage. The new garage is going to be exactly the same. Whatever space is not consumed by employees will sit mostly empty, while customers continue to fight over the spaces in the surface lots.

      5. The hope is that the new garage will enable the reuse of even more of the surface-parking space, just like the first garage did on the other side of the mall.

        Personally, I don’t get the circlers. I use the garage every time I go to U-Village by car, and I’m out of my car and out of the garage while the people below are still circling.

      6. John,

        Your inner curmudgeon is particularly active today.

        Will you ever learn that there are lots of people who actually like cities? People who want to live in conditions you would consider far too tight? I would probably consider them far too tight myself; I like having a backyard these days, but I loved living at 43rd and Phinney and walking to work at UW (yes, nearly two miles including the up-and-over Aurora O/C at 41st every day for three years) when I was younger.

        Lots of people don’t want the hassle of a yard and the inconvenience of having to go everywhere in a car, and your constant carping that they have immoral or at the very least corrupt motives is a bunch of narcissistic bullshit. They don’t have corrupt motives, but it exposes you as a selfish manipulator who probably does.

        What John says about Luke tells me more about John than about Luke.

      7. @Anandakos

        Will you ever learn that there are lots of people who actually like cities?

        You fail to answer the question logically.

        If “lots” of people like cities and density, then University Village would not exist.

        The idea that an entire suburban mall, with parking lots and big box stores could function only 5 miles from the urban downtown core of Seattle would seem impossible.

        Yet there it is.

      8. Families flee S.F. for East Bay with cheaper homes

        “Family flight” out of San Francisco is nothing new. But now, real estate prices in the city have risen so steeply – much more so than in the East Bay – that there’s an extra incentive for longtime San Francisco homeowners to cash out their equity and head across the bay seeking more house for less money.

        http://www.sfgate.com/realestate/article/Families-flee-S-F-for-East-Bay-with-cheaper-homes-4796027.php

      9. “Personally, I don’t get the circlers.”

        I’m a circler, indoctrinated by decades surface parking at U Village. In virtually every other circumstance, I avoid circling at all costs. The next time I drive my car to U Village I shall endeavor to change that habit.

        One need only cycle through the Google Earth historical imagery to realize that parking is [very] slowly being concentrated into structured parking with surface parking being converted into more retail/open space. Management can work on changing habits by temporarily closing parking which they do fairly often. An image of an event in front of the Apple Store made it into Google Earth.

        Now, if we could just get some high capacity transit in the area and better link the mall with the Burke…

      10. When I worked at Pacific Place in 2009, I always dreaded the “How do I get to the Apple Store?” question from a carless tourist baffled that Downtown doesn’t have one (even Spokane has one downtown). “Ok, go to Westlake, take the 71/72/73/(74) to Campus Parkway and transfer to the 65/68/75, or take a scenic 45-minute tour through Montlake on Route 25.” Very few took me up on the offer, and most ended up either cabbing it or foregoing the trip. It’s still a nightmare of a place to navigate.

      11. @Zack an alternative solution for Apple Store seekers is to send them down into the DSTT and take the ST 550 to Bellevue departing every 15 minutes getting off at 4th Ave and Bellevue Way and into Bellevue Square. But then we’d have to admit that Bellevue exists…

        BTW, if I were to lobby for a downtown Seattle Apple Store, this is where I’d want it: http://goo.gl/Wx7VcA

      12. Mod up Zach’s comment.

        University Village was made by a suburban-minded developer, and attracts clientele especially from the affluent Lake Washington neighborhoods in Seattle and from the Eastside, both of whom are expected to prefer car-oriented shopping centers. Meanwhile the Ave is doing a brisk business and is preferred by many if not most students, as well as by most people living in north central Seattle, so much so that the all-day express buses are on the Ave and not in University Village.

      13. @John,

        What in the world does the existence of University Village — which was built in the early 1960’s when Seattle had 150,000 fewer people than it does today — have to do with people liking cities?

        I expect that University Village is a cash cow because of it’s location in a very high income part of Seattle. It’s right next to Laurelhurst for Dios’ sake. If it weren’t where it is there would be something of a similar size and nature within a half mile.

        If it were built today it would look quite different from what it does; there would be relatively less parking and more trees. There might be housing above the stores had it been built in the last five years, but otherwise, probably not.

        Whether people live in multiple unit housing or have yards and swimming pools they need the services that University Village provides, so it would be there, roughly speaking.

        This was a senseless straw man argument.

      14. About the “family flight” post, notice that the entire thing is predicated on “now real estate prices in the city have risen so steeply”.

        Why do you think that those real estate prices have risen so steeply? Because the Kenyan Islamist ordered them to? Because gay people are rich? Because rich people are gay?

        What is causing this hideous aberration of the pristine operation of the invisible hand?

        Hint: it’s that lots of people like cities! Especially interesting dynamic, transit served cities like San Francisco.

      15. I lived in a pirate multiplex on 20th for a while, and at that time it seemed like midrise apartment towers were popping up like mushrooms on the lots bordering U-village, mostly replacing obsolete industrial buildings along the old rail line.

        Seeing some that surface parking move into structures, and new mixed-use towers rise on the old surface parking, would not be too farfetched of an outcome. The fact that they never indoorized the mall, means that it can integrate very well with a pedestrian-oriented streetscape, and could totally survive the redevelopment.

      16. I think it would take some work for the University Village to work well for pedestrian oriented shopping. It is mostly walled off to the north. In other words, there are only a few spots where you can access the mall from the Burke Gilman trail. It was designed for cars, and would require some work to be designed for pedestrians. That doesn’t mean that redevelopment inside the mall doesn’t make sense, though. I could easily see adding a new six story mixed use apartment building. I think the tricky part is managing the parking. Some retailers might complain about residents using up the spots.

        Generally speaking, I’m sure the mall owners are happy with the current situation. The city grows up around it and they stand out as a convenient oddity. As parking rates go up around town, they provide a cheap alternative. This is the nature of commercial inertia, which is why Conlin was right in fighting this development. Building a one story building barely makes commercial sense right now, while ten years from now, no developer in his right mind would do that. But if you build it, then it will take a long time before it makes financial sense to tear it down.

  3. I have to admit that in the 2 years since the Boondoggle mutiny that Conlin led as Council Chair at the time, for which I’ve never forgiven him and did not vote for him, he has shown himself in every other respect to be a staunch advocate for new urban density. Maybe I’ll vote for him next time (grudgingly).

    1. I’ll be delighted if he reinstates the campaign contribution limit he voted to get rid of. Instituting public campaign financing would be the real way to boondoggle-proof the council. If he did that, I would consider him redeemed as a politician.

      1. It was $400, and never-changing. Now, it gets reset every year, I can’t remember by which body, and the limit has increased way faster than the consumer price index or the cost of living. $700 is too high, and makes it difficult for challengers to mount a serious challenge, as they get drowned out by the incumbents’ war chests. The same thing will happen under districting, for which the initiative has no provision to lower the contribution limit.

      2. Huh, I didn’t know that. I like O’Brien’s approach – be so awesome that all you NEED are $10 contributions to hold off a challenger. (Okay, he needs more than that, but he’s making the point that if you’re good, you can actually pull in lots of small contributions). We do need public financing.

  4. Suburban-style, one story businesses with parking in Wallingford and Lower Queen Anne like Dick’s, Taco Time, Chase Bank, Bank of America, etc?

    1. Ironically, When U-District station opens, many people will find its easier and quicker to get to Dicks on Broadway without a car than to get to the one in Wallingford.

    2. SICK BURN you totally showed how developments from the 60s and 70s totally already exist! We should do everything like we did in the good ole days.

    3. The mistakes of the past may not be reversible (except by the passage of time), but they sure as hell don’t have to be repeated, troll.

  5. San Fransisco has a couple of the aforedesribed CVS stores that are single story detached buildings with parking lots. Not in the core, but also not out in what is considered the burbs inside city limits.

    1. San Francisco also has “Formula Retail” controls memorialized in its Planning Code which explicitly prohibits chain stores (defined as stores with more than 10 retail locations in the US) from opening shop in neighborhood commercial districts. Seattle should ape this policy and apply it to urban villages throughout the City.

      http://www.sf-planning.org/index.aspx?page=2839

      1. Please no. Indie retail is better than chain retail, but walkable chain retail is vastly better than no retail. We are sufficiently less dense and rich than SF that we can’t count on indie retail taking over every commercial strip. Aping that policy here would just lead to a lot of vacant storefronts.

      2. (trying to imagine Seattle banning everything from Starbucks to Ivars)

        I’m as anti-chain as the next guy, but more for taste reasons: chains are usually less interesting than the alternative. That said, the people like what the people like.

      3. The people also learn to like whatever it is we can get, and if all the retail is gobbled up by chain stores, we’ll learn to like chain stores because we’ll have no choice.

      4. …which is not to say that I think chain stores are all bad all the time, or that we should ban them – just pointing out that you can’t just trust the free market to produce diversity.

      5. You don’t have to trust it. It does on its own, as buildings age. Jane Jacobs has a whole chapter about this. :)

      1. As a Woonsocket native (who has no connection whatsoever to CVS, I promise) I just have to thank Erik G for that awesome line.

        Now the next question is, Erik, do you know how to pronounce it?

    1. West Seattle isn’t vested. And as Conlin mentioned, this will likely make Velmeir and CVS come to the negotiating table.

      And if we block one more round of EDGs from Uptown and Wallingford, they won’t be vested either.

      1. Is that true? My understanding was always that design review board don’t have any power if a developer sticks to the letter of the law. Can they really reject a permit for a building that’s perfectly conforming to the codes on the day they apply?

      2. DRB can reject departures from design guidelines – and practically every building has a departure.

  6. Aren’t these community opponents really NIMBYS? They don’t want want one story, national chain stores with parking lots in their backyard. They believe they belong in the suburbs. So they’re NIMBYS, right?

    1. If they are truly promoting that they should be in the suburbs, then yes, they’re NIMBY’s. However, I think many of the opponents are mixed-use ideologues, who would argue that single-use retail development should be stopped everywhere.

      There’s plenty of examples of low-density suburban mixed-use development in the Seattle area suburbs. It’s still far from the norm, but it’s definitely the direction that zoning boards are moving all over the county.

    2. Nope. They’re not NIMBY’s, Wretched Troll. CVS is not going to build in their back yards. They’re BANCSIS (Build Absolutely No Chain Stores In Seattle) and, when the chain store is CVS, they have lots of supporters.

      There’s a Bartell’s two blocks down 45th from the one in Wallingford and one three blocks from the proposed Upper Queen Anne site. Bartell’s may be a chain, but it’s a local chain with a long history. CVS is just a pool of private investment capital with a desire to addict the whole country (think Mitt Romney on drugs or a meth-addled Vulture).

      1. At least the Bartell’s parking lot is on the roof of the Met, with six more storefronts built in. And the new one on top of QA hid its little bit of parking underground, and built up to the height limit with apartments on top.

        CVS’s business model is actively harmful to a walkable environment.

      2. Anandakos, then what you are really saying is it’s the community and neighbors who should decide what business (that has already purchased the property) does and does not go on a lot. If some neighbors are opposed to it, it shouldn’t happen.

        Here’s what I’m wondering. Do you also believe neighbors should have final say what goes on a parcel when you agree with the project? Let’s say it’s apodments going in on a block. If a vocal group of neighbors are opposed to the project, it shouldn’t go forward, correct?

        BTW, to David Lawson, indie retail is not better than chain retail in terms benefits. Compare the benefits of a one store local coffee shop to that of Starbucks. Starbucks blows them out of the water. No comparison.

      3. Excuse me, Anandakos, please don’t speak for me. I’m totally ok with chain stores. I just want density.

    1. I thought I linked to the Uptown packet in the piece too. Is it not working? I’m on my phone so I can’t look.

      1. You linked the review board’s response, not the developer’s proposal, and that link is working. Based on context, I thought that’s what you meant to do.

      2. Ahh. Yeah, I downloaded the packets to pull out the image, but failed to host them. Oops. Thanks for finding and linking. :)

  7. Have fun trying to find people and businesses that want to live above a 24 hour pharmacy with no parking.

    1. Something tells me they’ll have no trouble. Something tells me they’ll pay higher rents to live there than to live in a single-use parking-oriented East Hill apartment complex. Just like they live above the Broadway Walgreens. Or the Sammamish Cold Stone. Or the Lake City Subway.

      1. I think that ship already sailed. There’s no way Safeway is willingly going to close down the store for long enough to redevelop the lot, not until the building starts falling apart. Not so long as there’s a QFC 2 blocks down.

        However, the half of the lot with the parking lot on it could be redeveloped without interrupting the business.

      2. I know unlucky people who have to pick up prescriptions something like twice a week. They’d probably snap up apartments directly over a pharmacy.

      3. Upthread someone said that the Walgreen’s on Broadfway has affordable housing above it. Does that mean that it’s charging less than the usual market rate for housing on Cap Hill, or just that I have a different definition of affordable?

      4. I look forward to the day that Safeway building does fall apart, and I hope that the city will be ready to buy the land and build a smoothly curved route through it connecting E. Thomas to E. John. The half-block dogleg around the Safeway’s southeast corner is always a snarled mess and I feel sorry for the trolley drivers who have to navigate it.

        What I really want, of course, is a streetcar which runs east from the Capitol Hill station along John, over the hill, and down to 23rd, where it would run south to the Mount Baker station, making a stop at the future Rainier station for transfers to East Link. It’s hard to see how such a project could work with the Safeway building in the way; there just aren’t that many east-west routes across 15th.

      5. William, yes, there are specific requirements about maximum rents relative to Area Median Income for that building (and all subsidized housing, I think).

    2. 70 stalls underground in the Uptown proposal. And that’s exactly what happened with Walgreens on Broadway.

    3. Wait, you mean like the one they built up on top of QA? There’s parking, but it’s underground. Where it belongs.

    4. Another locale that seems like it should have density is…The Ave (Easter Egg: on Google Maps they actually label it “The Ave” !)

      How about this American Apparel shop:

      http://goo.gl/maps/QhXmv

      And by the way, it appears that some in Seattle must like mall shopping for this to exist!

      But what about the entire Ave itself….that also should be a canyon of density given the high demand for low cost housing by the student body.

      1. Are you trolling now, John? Seriously, I think better of you, come on. The Ave is not a mall. It has history and diversity. There are more unique shops on a couple blocks of The Ave then there are in the average mall.

        If not for zoning laws, much of it would probably be torn down and converted to high rise housing (see the Safeco building in the background — it is grandfathered in — you can’t build them like that anymore). But no one needs to build higher on the Ave, there is plenty of density right next to it (and lots and lots being built all of the time). Even the biggest proponent of density (and I’m one of them) acknowledge that there are special, historic places that should be largely preserved to retain their Toronto-esque flavor; The Ave is one of those places.

        As to the shops on The Ave, they seem to swing back and forth. When I was growing up, they were mostly independent, hippy type stores (head shops, record stores, coffee shops of a bohemian, beatnik style (well before Starbucks existed)). The street got a bit run down, which is why people didn’t mind when a few of the chains moved in. That didn’t seem to help, though. Lately, many of the stores have become a lot more Asian, probably in response to the growing Asian population of the student body and neighborhood. In most cases, this has lead to a resurgence of independent shops and restaurants. The American Apparel, like the Bartell’s across the street, are really oddities; the Mee Sum Pasty shop next door is more typical (which is why the area is popular). Well, that, and the fact that you can walk from there to the UW, or walk from there to various other interesting places.

    5. Re: John Bailo:
      I live a couple blocks away from the proposed site on 45th street, upstairs of a different commercial establishment. Our building has about a dozen designated parking spots that the apartment tenants can rent, but about half of them are empty because it’s easy to find parking on the side streets and probably because some of the tenants are UW students who just take the 44 to campus and don’t need a car. I don’t think it will be a problem to find tenants to live on 45th street without off-street parking.
      That said, this seems like a bad location to add a drugstore. We have had the Bartell’s for a long time, and between that and the QFC, the Walgreens that was recently opened few minutes away (45th and Stone) already feels redundant.

    1. I think this just illustrates that Seattle needs property taxes that are based more on the potential value of a lot, not just based on the existing improvement. Dense areas should have minimum property taxes, making it financial insane to build a single-level business or surface parking. Then the market will react properly.

    2. This wouldn’t have happened with a free market because this parcel would have been developed years ago, and even if it wasn’t, they wouldn’t build 1 story in an unlimited zone.

    3. The market is one of the most powerful forces out there. When it wants to go in directions we want/need to go (mixed used density in our city) it should be encouraged. When it wants to go a wrong direction (single use sprawl in our city) it needs to be guided.

      Context matters. I don’t think there are any market fundamentalists here.

    4. Or maybe one of CVS’s competitors didn’t want it so close and used its strings to force them to build more costlier digs.

    5. The market is CVS’s customers, who are mostly neighborhood residents. They have said they do not want a suburban-style development; they’ve worked too hard to restore the neighborhood to the walkable, transit-oriented state like was before the 1940s, to have it sabotaged by a new 1970s space-waster. Any individual company can make an individual decision on a certain parcel, but that’s not the market speaking, it’s just one company speaking. A company that happened to find a vacant parcel at the right time.

  8. Walking through Issaquah the other day, I say a “proposed land use action” that demonstrates parking requirements at its worst. 200 parking spaces for a hotel with 150 rooms. In spite of being right next door to an office building with tons of spaces that will be empty during the middle-of-the-night hours when most of the hotel rooms would be occupied.

      1. Local code generally require 1 space per unit, with additional spaces required if there is a restaurant or gift shop located in the hotel (Issaquah requires an additional space for each 100sf of restaurant and 200sf of gift shop). Where a lot of additional spaces may be required is if the hotel has substantial meeting or conference space, which can require an additional space for each 100sf of meeting area (or worse).

        Some jurisdictions allow a reduction of space where a shared parking lot is used differently at different times of the day, such as where an office building and hotel share a lot, because as asdf notes it can reasonably be assumed that many hotel guests will not be parking there during the day, when the office building’s tenants would use the space, and vice-versa. However, if there is substantial meeting or conference space at the hotel this would generally not apply as conference attendees would typically be there at the same time as the office tenants.

    1. You must not partake in conferences or events. Hotels often have event halls and meeting spaces warranting the extra parking. In many cases, like what I witnessed on an experience to Olympia’s Red Lion Hotel, don’t park in the adjacent lot on weekends. The Thurston County Court folks will have your vehicle towed.

      1. You have a good point, although could you not be so rude to other commenters?

        In Seattle, I recently spoke to a representative for Hedreen that pointed to about a .5 spaces per room need for a new downtown hotel (with large conference spaces). But without something like Link, they wouldn’t need that few.

  9. Three words for DPD: FORM-BASED CODE. That is exactly what we need for all urban centers and villages in the city. Or quite frankly any commercial, multi-family, and mixed-use areas. Do the masterplanning. Set the minimums and maximums, give certainty while still providing flexibility. This isn’t rocket science, but standard zoning codes for such organic and complex spatial environments is a bad way to regulate development.

    1. I honestly don’t entirely understand what form-based code is, and if I don’t, I bet a lot of other readers don’t either. Want to write a post about the basics?

      1. I suppose I probably could write one–and I should. I’m just…lazy. I’ll consider it. But, I will say, most planners know what it is and they should be actively advocating it in Seattle. As the name suggests, it focuses more on the form of development and less on the land use elements.

        http://www.ci.bothell.wa.us/Site/Content/Planning%20and%20Development/Downtown%20Revitalization/Web_revised_Part1.pdf (City of Bothell, a local example in practice–the real meat of it starts on page 47)
        http://formbasedcodes.org/
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Form-based_code
        http://www.transect.org/codes.html (check out a pdf showing a sample code)

      2. The public hardly know what zoning is anyway. The electeds need to be convinced that there is a better way–and there is. DPD needs to step up and say “we’re going to do something new” and roll with it. The brilliance of it is that real masterplanning and useful codes get implemented. And, true public involvement is an aboslute necessity in crafting it anyway whereas rezones really lack in that whether legislative or quasi-judicially. Emegency text amendments to the zoning code is driving me nuts.

  10. Depending on how CVS wants to treat the city, I think they would have a legitimate ‘takings’ case under the 5th amendment. They can’t do what was originally allowed when they purchased the property. One of the reasons why chain stores are so successful is that they are literally boxed designs that have already been drawn elsewhere. CVS doesn’t want to get bogged down building a community, holding meetings with a bunch of picky neighborhood groups to build a mixed use project. They are not a housing company, they sell q-tips and blood pressure medicine. Until we have small developers willing to spend lots of money during a design period and building commercial stall storefronts, I can’t see the national corporations getting into the mixed use urban design process.

    1. Changing land use code does not constitute a taking, no. And CVS isn’t a developer – Velmeir is the developer.

      National corporations are doing just fine in mixed use all over Seattle. Office Depot is opening in new mixed use on Broadway. Walgreens did the same (in nearly the same situation as this one – when neighborhood pushback caused them to build mixed use). This is no different.

    1. Wow, that’s funny (in a sad, pathetic way). To be “fair” to CVS, those access ways looked terrible to begin with (they dumped you right next to where someone might be parked). In other words, its not like they spent much effort catering to pedestrians in the first place. So, while they’ve made things really bad for folks walking to CVS, it was never that good to begin with. My guess is that folks who do walk there will just trample over the landscaping. As a guy who used to do landscaping, and knows what kind of backbreaking work it is, I can tell you that the folks who designed this lot are dicks (on many levels).

      1. Yup, theres a Rite Aid a mile away that also has no pedestrian path. Its very clear where the landscape was trampled away

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