The SNC had hoped for a debate between mayoral candidates Cary Moon and Jenny Durkan. Unfortunately Ms Durkan apparently could not arrange her morning to debate Ms Moon on the issues important to Seattle’s neighborhoods. Instead Cary Moon will take the podium alone to speak with us.
At our July candidates forum, Ms Moon asserted that she was a believer in “people powered planning” and it is “tragic that we have drifted away from that over the last two decades.” She called for a renewal of the neighborhood planning process that would allow “neighborhoods to take authority for guiding the future of their neighborhood as they see fit” and “empowering neighborhoods to guide their growth”.
Much of what followed from Ms Moon resonated with the interests of neighborhoods in terms of the challenges they face today: gentrification, growth pains, rising housing costs, and declining livability.
The SNC urges a careful consideration of how Ms Moon and MS Durkan responded to the issues put to them at their previous visits with the SNC. Ms Moon demonstrated a far better understanding of the issues affecting neighborhoods and how to address them. We hope that a second chance to talk with Ms Moon will confirm that as well as allow us to look at a broader range of issues than those addressed during our candidate interviews in June and July.
Meanwhile, emerging from the smoke and heat of late summer, is a significant change to the Design Review program. Ostensibly meant to improve public engagement in the process and to speed the time it takes for projects to go through design review, the changes will reduce further the number of projects going through design review – largely multifamily projects in lowrise zones (which is where complaints about design are already heard). In the past decade, there have been 829 multifamily permits issued that required design review. This was a mere 2.3% of all construction permits in that period.
The current Design Review process is by most accounts broken and in need of overhaul. The question is does the proposal on the table do that?
Threshold changes seem to reduce projects that go through Design Review and at the same time remove “streamlined” reviews making some projects go through a more extensive process. The enhanced outreach proposal is also faulty, and appears to make neither developers or community interests happy. It is also unclear whether the changes would actually provide much throughput improvement for projects, with the real problem of delays around design review simply being with under-staffing at DCI.
To help make sense of what the proposed changes are and where there is room for improvement we will be joined by Deb Barker (chair of Morgan Community Association), Jeff Floor (architect, Central Area Land Use review Committee), and Martin Kaplan (architect, and member of the Queen Anne LURCs (Land Use Review Committees).
City Council is moving rapidly to legislate these changes in the next month, so understanding of the issue and active engagement now is crucial to making the much needed changes to the Design Review program to ensure that quality projects are built in our neighborhoods.