Before most new buildings in Seattle can be constructed, their plans must first go through a process known as “Design Review”. Design Review Boards (DRBs) consist of volunteers selected by the city. These boards review building proposals and recommend changes to make building designs more aesthetically pleasing and functionally integrated into their surroundings. Sounds good, right? There are two problems: first is that there's no objective definition of good design. What may seem like a good or at least acceptable design to one person may be objectionable to another. Design review is as likely to suppress interesting designs as it is to avoid “bad” designs. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the time it takes to undergo multiple design revisions raises the cost of building housing. This applies to both for-profit and nonprofit buildings alike.
Fortunately, the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) report identified design review reform as a priority. The goal was to reduce the costs that design review adds to the price of new housing by exempting more smaller projects from design review and creating an abbreviated design review for medium projects while reserving the full design review process for the largest projects. Since smaller projects are more sensitive to costs and uncertainty, this makes a lot of sense. It's also the case that a small project is less likely to become a visual eyesore than a large one.
The HALA report was published in July 2015 and the Seattle City Council is just now getting around to implementing this proposal. Housing Now has written them the following letter expressing our ideas about this proposal and how it can be improved
An Open Letter To the Seattle City Council and the Mayor of Seattle
Re: Design Review Reform
From: Housing Now SeattleRead more