Density is coming; but where should it go?

It’s one thing to say density is good. It’s another thing to say it to a bunch of people in a public setting when they’re worried about the change density brings.That’s what played out tonight at design review. I was that guy. It had to be done.

The problem with design review, as I have said before, is that it isn’t very satisfying. People want to say “I don’t like this project. Leave things alone.” But design review can’t stop a project, it can only slightly shape it.

The fact is that the project being proposed at 505 11th and Republican is in an L3 zone, design review can’t change the underlying zoning. As the chair pointed out “we don’t have that power.” But one upset neighbor said “this is our first opportunity to express those feelings.”

I don’t agree with his views on the project, but I do agree with that sentiment. Design review simply provokes a lot of sentiment, but it simply doesn’t impact fundamentals in terms of development standards. It slows down the process and frustrates people–on all sides of a project.

People are starting to get the idea, as someone pointed out, the “density is coming.” But I asked folks at the meeting “where will it go? If not here, where?” I pointed out that the Pantages project on E Denny and Harvard works (I am writing this on my phone so I can’t link now). I told people “you’re going to love this project when it’s done!”

The chair chastised me as he did others to “address comments to the chair.” But this is “frontlash” plain and simple. People prefer the known to the unknown. And there was audible eye rolling when the developer said the smaller the building the less money there would be to preserve the house–an example of our knee jerk suspiscion that everyone is lying to us in public process. The developer is right, the more pressure to reduce the size of the project the less money there is to do what the neighborhood wants done with the house.

I got asked what my “interests are.” I answered “good development!” And that is, I hope, what happens here. But it won’t be because design review made it happen. I can’t say that it’s going to happen in spite of design review. But design review certainly, for
this project, will slow down the delivery of a good project with a lot of tweaking.

The only thing I can say is that maybe, just maybe, this process ensures an option that preserves the house. But in the end, that’s just a nice thing not necessary.

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2 Responses to Density is coming; but where should it go?

  1. Lack Thereof says:

    So do you think the neighbors like the idea of keeping the house enough to allow the departure?

    The house must be in fantastic shape for the developer to even consider saving it. I wonder what future use it would serve? Just a very expensive SFR forever?

  2. Pingback: Trouble: That starts with ‘T,’ that rhymes with ‘D,’ that stands for Density! | Seattle's Land Use Code

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