For those of us who have been through the process of attempting to obtain a MUP for development here in Seattle, we know that while ideas and opinions abound, the sheer amount of time it takes to get through the process is far too lengthy and costly. Developers who need to “think outside the box and meet project targets” at the same time are constrained by the long delays between design review board meetings, and the fact that many times the members of the review board switch positions. This leads to insufficient communication and information passed between the board members and the City of Seattle, along with causing unnecessarily lengthy delays for the developer and architect.
For those projects that are historical in nature, there is even an additional historical board review that takes place with both boards needing the resulting conclusions and suggestions of the other. The enormous amount of frictional cost associated with the delays created by having two separate review boards (property or land taxes, carried interest on the project, and increased developer fees to name a few) accumulates rapidly over the time it takes to permit the project.
My suggestion to eliminate, or at least drastically reduce, the frictional costs of the design review process is a relatively simple one. Combine the two review boards into one, saving the city time and money, and set and keep a weekly recurring design review meeting schedule.
By making these staffing and procedural changes to the size of design review boards and the number of them, direct dialogue with applicants at meetings will undoubtedly increase, and both sides will have a more hands-on approach to assessing the quality and appropriateness of the design, architecture and functionality of the project.
With numerous opportunities for the public to give their input, as well as a minimum of 2 formal public hearings project, getting developments to fruition is far too tedious and costly with the current system….but it doesn’t have to be that way.