To get the flavor of what is wrong with Seattle’s Design Review Process, here is the response a Capitol Hill Design Review Board representative gave a community member who took the time to show up at Wednesday night’s meeting to discuss the 230 Broadway mixed-use project. Resident rep Sharon Sutton was — technically — correct when she told Julia’s owner Karsten Betd this:
“You’re complaining in the wrong format.”
But if Betd’s preceding diatribe about big building, mixed-use design on Capitol Hill should be heard; If not by the Capitol Hill Design Board, then by whom?
Betd’s statements Wednesday night, though dramatic, were similar to many comments you’ll read on CHS about mixed-use design on Hill.
“This is not downtown Seattle,” Betd said during the public comment portion of the review meeting. “I suggest that the board walks around the QFC building. It’s shameful what went up in QFC. I hope that no one will move into the retail space.” The Broadway businessman’s acrimony was directed at the Joule development that has filled up a block where QFC once stood and is a frequent target for criticism of large developments on the Hill. Joule, by the way, is a CHS advertiser.
When other community members in the meeting audience agreed with Betd and made comments about the 230 Broadway project’s Joule-like bulk and scale, Sutton was quick to shut the discussion down. “For all of the people who are objecting to the size of the building, we do not create zoning,” she said, ending the public comment portion of the review.
Instead, the board’s deliberations Wednesday night were focused on five remaining unresolved elements in the 230 project’s design:
- The building’s north elevation
- Its south elevation
- Storefronts on Broadway
- Balconies on Broadway
- Residential use on 10th Ave E
You can read more about these elements and Runberg Architects‘ solutions in the review document. The board has up to two weeks from Wednesday’s meeting to decided if a third design review is needed for the project. Here is our coverage from the first review, by the way.
In addition to Bedt’s criticism, other public comments included:
- A woman who said the project should have a smaller footprint and was too tall for Broadway
- A suggestion that the Broadway side of the building not have balconies
- A suggestion that the Broadway side of the building should have balconies
- Dennis Saxman, a neighborhood activist and frequent thorn in the side of developers and the DPD, criticized the plan for the project to request a departure from city rules for a larger than typical setback to allow for a five-foot planting strip between the sidewalk and the building. He also said the plan to include an old bank facade as an interior courtyard element “treats it as a trophy.” “You’re not preserving anything but a figment,” Saxman said.
And then it was Bedt’s turn.
We’ll have more on the Department of Planning’s design review process and some ideas for changing it soon.