The first city official we pinged about this (see earlier report) was Council President Richard Conlin — and he replied tonight:
Thanks for the message. I am very familiar with this problem — we caught a developer on Greenwood doing this a couple of years ago, not for the design review purpose, but to evade sidewalk construction requirements. When we reported it to DPD, they were able to enforce the requirement by telling the developer that both parts of the project had to be permitted together. I wasn’t aware that it was as widespread as your story indicates, I thought the one we found was an isolated instance.
Since DPD did take corrective action on the one we found, that suggests that it is not the law that needs to be changed, but rather that something in DPD’s procedures. I’m wondering if there were complaints made on any of these projects and if DPD responded in any way. It may be that a Councilmember intervening might be necessary, which would be unfortunate, as that should not be required, but it is a path that can be taken.
Council President Conlin, you may recall, had some interesting comments about development — “McMansions” in particular — during his appearance last week before the Alki Community Council (WSB coverage here). One other note — we sent the “micropermitting” link from earlier today to our favorite citywide news blog, Slog, thinking they might be interested since Slog and parent publication The Stranger pay closer attention to development issues than many other citywide news sources. They posted a followup late today; if you haven’t seen it yet, that link is here.