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Community Outreach for Design Review

Community Outreach for Early Design Review process

My first week as a trainee in JW Architects, I started working on a new project for a redevelopment of a single family house into 10 potential rowhouses and 2 townhouses with 8 parking stalls. I was very excited about this great opportunity of working on a project from the very beginning and that allowed me to learn a lot.

The city of Seattle just got an upzone allowing larger development to get more density due to the housing crisis that the city is suffering. There is a new thing called “Mandatory Housing Affordability”- MHA that requires new development to include affordable homes or contribute to a City fund for affordable housing. The project I’m working on, it’s located in Low Rise multifamily zone with MHA, which explains the aggressive project that we are designing.

At first, I was concern about tearing down the current home because it was build in the early 1900 and it’s one of the last brick cottage houses that you can find in the neighborhood. Also, it has a large yard with a lot of vegetation.

 

Photo by Ethan Kent on Unsplash

As a consequence of this upzones there are a lot of new requirements before you get the construction permit. This project has to go through Streamline Design Review (SDR) and once you get your packet approved you can start with the standard process. Following this procedure the SDCI (Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections) guarantee that the new project is gonna fit in the neighborhood and minimize that impact as much as possible. For the SDR you need to provide and exhaustive analyse of the area, the concept of the idea, material palette, Design guidelines that you are following according to the neighborhood, and a set of schematic floor plans, sections, elevations showing an overall idea of the project with some renders as well.

The first step if you are going through SDR is to organize the Community Outreach Event where you go to the site and talk with the neighbors about the project. The idea of the Community Outreach is to gather information about the neighborhood and the residents to find out what is important for them and what are their concerns. We mailed flyers to the residents in a 500 ft radius from the site with information about the project, the date of the in-person event and the link to an online survey.

After talking with some neighbors at the in-person event and the online surveys we got a lot of valuable information about the neighborhood like the most representative places, the importance of nice materials on the ground levels, a lot of vegetation, the parking and traffic situation, etc. Although, we always do a site analyse there is always a lot of things that you can not know about a place if you don’t live there so that’s why this process is very important for this high impact projects.

Photo by olaf wisser on Unsplash

Maria O'Connor Nebot

Trainee at JW ArchitectsSeattle (Washington)

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