Well, now I’m just dragging it out. There are there parts to Division 3, the last if the code. My plan is still to do some kind of wrap up and proposal for some changes big and small. But imagine my surprise when, almost at the end I find this in 23.88:
Interpretations Generally. A decision by the Director as to the meaning,
application or intent of any development regulation in Title 23, Land Use
Code, or in Chapter 25.09, Regulations for Environmentally Critical Areas,
as it relates to a specific property is known as an “interpretation.” An
interpretation may be requested in writing by any person or may be initiated
by the Director.
Hmmmm. I guess I could have just requested an interpretation of the entirety of Chapter 23 and saved myself the hassle of hacking my way through the whole code.
There are limits of course to the interpretation section.
A decision by the Director that an
issue is not subject to an interpretation request shall be final and not
subject to administrative appeal.
And if you want to read a fine example of an interpretation you can check out this one, which renders an interpretation about the siting of a social service facility in south Seattle. The interoperation calmly responds to a lot flak the department got by saying that planners don’t make “value judgements” about the project. This one must have been especially ugly if a paragraph was needed to assert and clarify the role of DPD.
I think this is an underutilized resource, and in some ways ought to be implemented more often for projects in design review. The Director and her designees do and should function kind of like a referee umpire or line judge.
I like the umpire analogy. An umpire has rules to follow but also has to interpret. Baseball’s constitution doesn’t work without an umpire. Complaints about specific umpires and their calls come and go, but their role is unassailable. Someone needs to make a decision about what’s happening so the game can continue.
It would be nice, especially during a process like design review, to have someone to intervene when the process starts to drift either because of bizarre off point comments (and sometimes it’s board members making those) or if there’s some question of fact that needs clearing up.
Too often in contentious land use discussions there are fewer facts than feelings. Which, I think, is fine. But using interpretations more often to call land use strikes and balls would be welcome.