Monday, March 22, 2010

A Modest Proposal for Neighborhood Design Guidelines

WHEREAS, at Sally Clark's Townhouses Forever event at the Taproot March 20, Sally called Bill Bradburd's "complaint" about sequential Neighborhood Planning misdirected: the Council DID CARE and HAD DONE ALL IT COULD.

WHEREAS, the above can be interpreted two ways, the more appropriate being an INVITATION to transform the City's view of neighborhoods with needs into neighborhood with assets.
My reference no greater authority than Obama's favorite organizer (no not Alinsky) John McKnight, who learned all about from DON; I mean the DON that now hanging out at the UW.

WHEREAS, Sally Clark is no longer NP gatekeeper: the Council, in its wisdom, split Land Use, aka Urban Design, in three: Clark took "built environment," O'Brien took neighborhood planning/utilities, Conlin took sustainable/regional development, and not be be forgotten, Licata took Housing. (O'Brien and Conlin, both non COBE members, attended Clark's Taproot affair.)

WHEREAS, attached you will find a two part list, the first part lists the urban villages that 16 years after the urban village strategy was adopted still have NOT set the intended "planned" character for their village in the form of Neighborhood Design Guidelines (NDG). The second part lists the villages that have done so. HALF are still missing-in-action. Shameful.

WHEREAS, I have included there the links to the references I used. While at the link where all the NDGs are kept, open some of them and do some exploring. I find that the last produced ones have learned from the earlier ones, providing ample proof that neighborhoods CAN bootstrap these documents at will. In fact, that is the City's intent. Icing on the cake is that NDG are not limited to what they now call "growth areas" (villages) conserve areas (outside) can do NDGs too.

I THEREFORE PROPOSE that SCCF and CNC initiate a neighboring mentoring service wherein neighborhoods with experience help all to find the intended "planned" characters of "growth areas" that are still missing in action, to decide whether NDGs early on the learning curve need attention, and to set design priorities in conservation areas, e.g. undesignated villages and surrounding neighborhoods. E.g., these topics could be explored in more detail at SCCF's annual late spring workshop.

1. Yes, NDGs are only as good as developments standards, which at the moment are going from "so complicated as to be no law at all" to "return of a failed experiment on steroids".

2. Yes, NDGs are only as good as the criteria for Design Review and the qualifications, values, and integrity of the reviewer(s), both administrative and board.

3. Yes, NDGs rely on the clarity and effectiveness of the Citywide Design Guidelines (CDG), upon which they are based. DEADLINE for CDG update COMMENTS MARCH 31!

4. No, NDGs will not rezone, however no existing NP did that, although a number of savvy ones limited certain upzones. There are two places OUTSIDE of waiting for NP update to raise the issue of miszonings: a) at the required once-a-decade Comprehensive Plan reconsideration now getting underway and b) as an annual Comprehensive Plan amendment proposal submitted just like the developers do (may disappear, if MFU Rezone Criteria are passed in the form submitted to Council or, as is now possible, a worse form.

Anna Nissen
Nissen/Nissen Architect

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