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Do You Want Input Into Land Use?

On Tuesday, 1/9, the Central Area Neighborhood District Council’s Land Use Review Committee (LURC) held an open meeting with council member Joy Hollingsworth to discuss the merits of public meetings as part of the design review process. One goal of the design review process is to ensure that new housing or commercial developments consider the needs of the community.


Public input, however, has come under fire in recent years as an obstacle to necessary development. The argument goes that the process is used by not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) neighbors to slow down or stop development. Secondly, feedback is usually provided by a group of engaged neighbors who have the time to show up at review meetings and who are generally not representative of the community members affected. And lastly, the people who currently live in the neighborhood can’t represent the interests of those who need housing and are looking to move into the neighborhood. As such many states have been looking to streamline public input or eliminate public input altogether.


At this meeting, however, attendees’ main concern was that development plans are often submitted without regard for how a building fits within the larger space and plans for the community. Besides affordability, does the building provide space for families and for people who want to live in the neighborhood long term or just studios and one-bedroom apartments? How is the building connected to public spaces? Does its curb invite pedestrian traffic or leave room for trees?


LURC provided Joy Hollingsworth with several examples of major projects in the Central District where public input improved the development for the better. Jeff Floor, the committee chair, pointed out that in Seattle a study commissioned by the city found that public meetings had a negligible impact on the total turnaround time for a Master Use permit. Lastly, a way to streamline the process may be to address adherence to good urban design principles upstream. What if city planners established relationships with the community and pushed developers to adhere to design guidelines, rather than helping developers make just enough changes to obtain a permit?


As the city is working this year towards establishing a new comprehensive plan for the decades to come, the committee asked council member Hollingsworth to advocate for a neighborhood-friendly design review process and reject a process that would let developers simply focus on buildings over how a building enhances the neighborhood.


Should you have concerns about land use in Leschi or public input for the design review process, bring it to our attention at leschicouncil@gmail.com. We will connect you with LURC or help facilitate the dialog with the city.


~Matthias Linnenkamp

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