What happens when the city allows developers to circumvent Design Review

With apparently no other space available to store them, unsightly waste storage bins partially block the sidewalk every day outside this recently constructed 5-story building at 422 11th Ave East on Capitol Hill. 

Could it be that the developers were so intent on getting the maximum rental revenue from every inch of this project that they neglected to create a space for waste storage bins?

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This a telling example of Seattle’s recent tilt towards deregulation, which often seems to give short shrift to the quality of life in our neighborhoods.  Because of loopholes in Seattle’s Land Use Code this project was able to circumvent full Design Review.

Had there been full Design Review, residents of this block and design professionals on the Review Board could have insisted on appropriate waste facilities.  

Instead, these waste storage bins appear to be permanently located on the sidewalk of this residential street, making passage difficult for all neighbors – and especially difficult for parents with strollers, elderly persons with walkers, and people with disabilities.

It gets worse – there are safety violations as well.

It’s bad enough that some of this building’s waste bins permanently block the sidewalk.  But, in addition, the photographs below reveal yet another set of waste storage bins partially blocking the same building’s path of egress, where residents would need to pass unimpeded in case of a fire or other emergency.

And that’s not all: this other set of waste bins appears to be completely blocking access to the building’s main electrical panels, including the main electrical shutoff switches.

If a fire breaks out, one of the first things that firefighters do is shut off the power.  To do that here, they would have to shove the waste bins out of the way, thereby completely blocking the path of egress for fleeing residents, and also blocking access for other firefighters trying to enter the building.  This potentially serious hazard might well have been avoided had the building undergone full Design Review before permits were issued.

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The black plaque says House Panel, MAIN DISCONNECT

The black plaque says House Panel, MAIN DISCONNECT – note how that main power shut-off is blocked by the large blue recycle bin.

The process is out of balance when neighbors and residents are stuck dealing with problems created by land use deregulation.  Were some of the outcomes in the November 2013 Seattle city elections a backlash against elected officials who turned a blind eye to developer abuses like this?                                                              

Posted on December 16th, 2013

Click HERE to read the January 6, 2014 FOLLOW-UP to this waste-bin story

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