Posts Tagged ‘Government’

Reviewing Design Review

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

The city of Seattle is currently evaluating its Design Review process, aided by Weinstein A|U.

I was anxious to see what the review would look like. I helped craft the initial program, managed it for most of the 1990s, and then served on the Queen Anne/Magnolia/South Lake Union Design Review Board for four years ending in April.

Should we leave it to administrators?

The review conducted by city staff and the consultants is very thorough and presents many compelling observations and recommendations. What I wonder, after reading the report, is whether the recommendations go far enough.

When the Mayor and City Council began the process of creating Design Review in the late 1980’s there was very little trust in the community for the then Department of Construction and Land Use.

Little did folks realize that it wasn’t for lack of talent or compassion that DCLU was approving ugly stucco boxes in Wallingford, Ballard or the U District. It was simply that the department had few tools to deal with design. But because of this lack of trust, the group-think of the moment was that DCLU surely could not be entrusted with an administrative design review process.


The politics of siting Seattle’s jail

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

City officials will soon have to break the news to some Seattle businesses and organizations that they will be neighbor to a city jail in 2012.jailsites_web.jpg

It’s not a fun job, but some would say that’s why they’re making the big bucks.

It’s not really their fault though. The number of people in jail on a Seattle misdemeanor has actually gone down 38 percent from 1996 through last year, thanks in part to alternative sentencing and monitoring programs.

But the county, which has been housing misdemeanor offenders for cities including Seattle, is running out of room and plans to discontinue the practice in 2012.

That doesn’t give the city much time to drag its heels over the site.

They fired a warning shot this week, announcing four potential candidates, picked from an initial list of 35. The city said they needed at least seven acres, easy access to arterials and had to be outside residential areas.

They also looked at other factors including access to public transportation, environmental conditions and geotechnical conditions. I’m sure it’s no coincidence the sites are spread across the city.

City officials said sites could be cut or added after a series of public meetings next month. They need to have a site set by early next year in order to make tight design and construction timelines to get the jail built by 2012.

Which do you think they’ll pick?

• 11762 Aurora Ave. N., on land that is now a Puetz Golf driving range and shop

• 1600 W. Armory Way in Interbay, site of the former Northwest Center for the Retarded that was acquired for the monorail

• A site at the corner of Highland Park Way Southwest and West Marginal Way that is jointly owned by the city, the state and private industry

• 9501 Myers Way South, on a vacant lot owned by the city.

Should the Puget Sound secede?

Thursday, April 17th, 2008
Greg Nickels
Nickels wants a revolution
Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels kicked off a City Club forum today with what he said would be a “provocative” idea.

The Puget Sound region should “declare its independence” and form a more powerful regional government with more authority on decision-making and spending, he said.

“I would look to the Puget Sound Regional Council and I would put it on steroids,” Nickels said at the forum, which also featured Mayor Grant Degginger of Bellevue and Mayor John Marchione of Redmond. “It ought to have a real ability to make real decisions with the money we have.”

The regional government should have fewer members than the current regional council, Nickels said, and more authority over the region’s dollars.

Marchione said he would support having a regional body that functions that way. Degginger said after the forum that while he would support improvement in regional government, he isn’t sure what form it should take.

Nickels mentioned differences of opinion on gun control and transportation. He mentioned the Legislature’s “shot-gun marriage” of roads and transit on November’s failed Prop. 1.

If the region’s economy were extracted, Nickels said, it would be the 25th largest state, or would be a country larger than Venezuela or Equador. But he said the region is held back because the rest of the state doesn’t understand its needs.

“King County, Pierce County, Snohomish County; we have a lot in common,” Nickels said. “I’m serious when I say we ought to look at declaring independence.”