First, there are a variety of factors that affect land use that are not part of the code itself. One of those externalities is the economy. If we consider land and what gets built as a product, like a widget, then we have to acknowledge that how land gets used has a lot to do with demand. What do people in Seattle want? Parking lots? Housing? Commercial space? Parks? What people are demanding has a huge influence on what gets built.
Then there is federal and state law. Take the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) for example. The ADA is a great leap forward for people who have physical limitations. It means that the world is more accessible for them. But it also means requirements that can trigger substantial changes in the way a building gets remodeled or how a new building is constructed.
But now I’m talking about buildings. Land use and building codes, obviously, are different. The latter specifies requirements that a structure must meet in order to be permitted for use. Land use is about use but often specifies the kind of structure that gets built. Building and land use codes are interdependent and influence one another. I might be able to get a use that allows for a roller rink but my cool cowboy hat building design might not be allowed under the building code.
Then there is the Charter which we’ve discussed. Then there is the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) which has 22 Titles. There is no Title 8, 13, or 24. I have no idea why those Titles don’t exist. I hope someone will fill us in with a comment.
I’m going to limit this inquiry to Title 23. But when you consider all the other Titles it becomes obvious that along with economics, politics, other laws, the building codes, legal decisions, and fire codes, that there is a lot going on in the SMC that has an influence on land use in Seattle. Here are the Titles in the SMC.
• Title 1. General Provisions
• Title 2. Elections
• Title 3. Administration
• Title 4. Personnel
• Title 5. Revenue, Finance and Taxation
• Title 6. Business Regulations
• Title 7. Consumer Protection
• Title 9. Animals
• Title 10. Health and Safety
• Title 11. Vehicles and Traffic
• Title 12A. Criminal Code
• Title 14. Human Rights
• Title 15. Street and Sidewalk Use
• Title 16. Harbor Code
• Title 17. Civic Centers
• Title 18. Parks and Recreation
• Title 20. Public Works, Improvements and Purchasing
• Title 21. Utilities
• Title 22. Building and Construction Codes
• Title 23. Land Use Code
• Title 25. Environmental Protection and Historic Preservation
While I am not sure exactly what is going on in Title 9 (coloring of fowl?), you can be sure that Title 15, which governs things like sidewalk cafes and where driveways can go, has a big influence on land use and sustainability in general.
I will do the best I can to point to other parts of the SMC or any other factor that might be important in terms of how land use decisions get made. And when I can I will try to follow those trails as far as it is useful.
So now let’s get started for real.