Friday, March 21, 2008

The first of these is:
Commentary on the proposed multi-family updates. This document includes history, photographs of good/bad multi-family homes, analysis of lot coverage suggested by these updates, and an action plan for addressing the unintended outcomes of these updates.
The Four Point Council Work Plan below is on the fourth page of the Commentary, which has been well received by the City Council's Planning and Land Use Committee (PLUNC) and several Community Councils. We urge you to download the entire document and present it to your Community Council or other neighborhood group for endorsement.
Other documents will soon be posted on the Livable Seattle website.
You can copy the Four Point plan and distribute it to other interested parties. This is a March 27, 2008 Federation Agenda item.

Four Point Council Work Plan

1. Clarify and strengthen the urban village strategy so that buildings outside villages actually do conserve the diverse and individual characteristics of Seattle’s cherished neighborhoods and so that the buildings inside villages actually do produce over time new or revitalized neighborhoods of comparable merit.

2. Keep and strengthen the following time-tested, essential standards of the existing code. They are really all it takes to assure predictability and a “sustainable” city.
a) Setbacks (known to us variously as streetscapes, yards, gardens, outdoor rooms (e.g, play areas, sun rooms, dining rooms, patios, etc.) Even very different buildings fit together well if they have similar setbacks.
b) Height limits, preferably in stories and without excessive “exceptions” for various features or groups. The current method of calculating heights needs to be re-examined, for heights have been going up without a change in standards, so that new buildings in 30-foot-height zones are often forty feet. This is not what was expected, the result is appalling, and the public is confused. (See the attached photo essay for some representative photos of wrong-size buildings that are probably legal, but all wrong for their location – and for their hapless neighbors.)
c) Meaningful lot coverage limits are the least expensive, surest way to implement the “low impact development” initiatives now being discussed by other Council committees. If the City wants to debate high-tech versus low-tech solutions to its runoff problems, people in the City are more than ready to join the discussion. But it should not be rushed through, half-baked, as part of something else.
d) Open space, with a new definition that incorporates the upcoming “low impact development” initiative as well as the City’s urban tree cover goals. Again, this requires careful consideration, with all the parties involved in the discussion—not a dialogue of planners.
e) Parking that is accessible, not just in name only with the burden shifted to the streets. See the attached photo essays for some really bad examples of what goes on now in the name of parking. This is the sort of problem that needs fixing, not expansion.

3. Enforce existing code(s), then amend as necessary so that townhouses are restored to their standing as a very desirable housing type.
a) Correct problems in the land use, building, and fire codes themselves
b) Correct informal, probably illegal interpretations
c) Decide what to do about existing townhouses that are now hard to resell, hard to access, and neighborhood fire hazards

4. Change the planning culture to one that invites us all to participate as we come to public judgment, instead of one that imposes expensive misunderstandings, wasting time, money of all varieties, and our physical environment.
a) Correct planning processes to avoid the use of narrowly selected “focus” groups substituting for real citizen involvement (and hearing from skeptics).
b) Correct problems that result with personnel who simply don’t have enough expertise to be doing what they are trying to do.
c) Correct problems in the Design Review Program and the proposal to turn the review over to plan-checkers
d) Correct problems between City Departments so that, for example, design review, storm water drainage and fire safety issues are properly addressed.


ktkeller said...

Excellent! Want pictures of questionable bad fit?

moderator said...

to ktkeller:
Pictures are always welcome. How do we contact you?

ktkeller said...

The Central Area folks are collecting them:

We will figure out a way to share!