Monday, August 7, 2017

UPDATED: Design Review standards: Point - Counterpoint

Image result for point counterpoint imagesThe opinion piece:"Vote for future-minded candidates" stoked this discussion with Planning Commissioner Sherri Nichols:


I serve on the Planning Commission, and I've never met anybody from the Master Builders Association. Design review standards are not part of our purview; that's the Design Review Board. The designs for the buildings downtown were approved long ago, prior to appointments by our current mayor, so blaming anybody serving today for the "look and feel" of the buildings downtown is wrong.

Over half the Planning Commissioners currently serving have served less than two years. Next time, why not talk to one of us before calling us tools of developers.Our meetings are public, and we're always happy to talk to people.

-- Sherri Nichols, 
   Planning commissioner
Thanks Sherri for your comment and you're volunteerism on the commission, I've watched Planning Commission meetings for years  Early in the Ives Administration I recommended adding an e-mail address to your website page to encourage participation. It was done, and I've used it a lot over the years. (  However, in this case it shouldn't take a formal e-mail or public presentation to know design standards are outdated... just look around: read the Redmond Reporter. 
You've twisted my words.  Never once did I accuse your commission as a tool for developers. In my opinion piece I called out the The Master Builder PAC not you. 
Even if, existing design standards were made years ago, as you say, this doesn't preclude standards can't be improved and updated now or  could have been updated at anytime during Marchione's terms.. It's disingenuous to blame the Ives Administraton for the design damage we have today.  

Many impactful projects are still  cueing up for land use and design approval -- the most immediate and significant being Marymoor Village, two 2-4 story Avondale projects, The Town Square District and who knows what  else.   The council-approved planning  commission  needs to adapt with the times to advise council on design improvements. In addition, the Design Review Board is atrociously non transparent and needs airing.

  - Bob Yoder


Sherri Nichols said...

The very first sentence of your post says:

Redmond City Council and our Mayor-appointed Planning Commission is gripped by "The Master Builders of King and Snohomish Counties."

That reads to me like you're saying that the City Council and the Planning Commission are being controlled by the MBA.

Design standards can be, have been, and are changing. The process takes time, though. Design standards and zoning changes for the Historic Core have been in the works for longer than I've been on the Planning Commission, and still aren't done. The SE Marymoor process took several years.

Again, the Planning Commission reviews and makes recommendations to the City Council regarding changes to the zoning code and the comprehensive plan. We are not the Design Review Board, nor do we have that kind of expertise.

It has often felt to me that people are using complaints about the design of the buildings downtown as another way of complaining about how Redmond is growing. A different color palette isn't going to change Microsoft's hiring.

Bob Yoder said...

Sherri, you're comment here is out of context. My statement is followed with:

"50% of the spend in the City Council Primary thus far has been sourced by the Master Builders PAC...all of it spent on campaign mailers and services supporting two "City Hall" candidates."

Master Builder PAC money is the driving force, hammering away to "control" council elections since council sets growth policy and make major land-use decisions.

However, planning commissioners are mayor-appointed and council-approved; thus the commission is indirectly influenced by Master Builder money. The commission is a peg board on which developers occasionally hang their tools.

I'm aware of your many months studying and planning the historic core and Marymoor sub-area. Thank you for your hard and thoughtful work. You're incredible city volunteers, la creme d'la creme. I feel you should also study specific building and street design standards....perhaps have joint sessions with the DRB. (Park Commissioners have joint sessions with Arts and Culture.) The DRB is isolated and non-transparent. It should be better integrated with Council and a good start would be a modicum of planning commission involvement.

Sherri Nichols said...

MBA donating to City Council candidates is hardly new or unusual, nor do they only donate to so-called "City Hall" candidates. Your inspiration, Councilmember Myers, received campaign money from them, as well as from many developers. You can look it up.

Of course, developers care about land use decisions. That's why developers donate to candidates and testify at Planning Commission and City Council meetings. That doesn't mean they control either the Council or the PC. It also doesn't make them the enemy.

We have a severe imbalance of jobs to housing. Without addressing that fundamental problem, we can do nothing but nibble around the edges of problems like traffic congestion and the high cost of housing. Developers are a necessary part of dealing with this.

That doesn't mean that anyone is ignoring citizens. It means that in city government, e often have to balance conflicting goals and desires.

DRB meetings, like any Commission meetings, are open to the public. Their next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 17. I don't think it's fair to say they are isolated and non-transparent; they are volunteers just like me, who care about making Redmond better. I don't think it's the place of a group of volunteers on Planning Commission to tell another group of volunteers on another Commission how to do their job. That's the task of City Council, the duly elected policy setting body.

Bob Yoder said...

Interesting comment. The DRB is terribly non-transparent. Just look at their website. A public comment opportunity isn't posted. There's not e-mail address to contact the Board. The extended agenda and regular agenda isn't openly posted. You have to go to a dated "summary page" to find the projects. Sherri look at your planning commission page and any other commission page to see how it's done right. The DRB page just doesn't have it.

Certainly when the Parks Commission had a joint session with the Arts and Culture Commissions one wasn't bossing the other. I went to their joint meeting. No power struggles here.

I totally agree a DRB joint session with Council is the way to go. And to be honest, Council should visit commission and board chambers on occasion. I've heard this request from Jane Withers during the Community Center Task Force round-table presentation to Council.