West Seattle architect centerstage at mayor’s zoning event


At the podium is Brandon Nicholson of Junction-based Nicholson Kovalchick Architects, who was asked to join Mayor Nickels and Councilmember Sally Clark as the long-awaited proposed changes in the Multi-Family Code — aka zoning for townhouses and other multi-family units — went public a short time ago on Capitol Hill. Nicholson also is a member of the Southwest Design Review Board, and a strong advocate of the design-review process, as he explained during his presentation at Clark’s recent townhouse-design forum (WSB coverage here) — and more design review (mandatory “administrative design review” for townhouse projects) is a component of what the mayor unveiled today, along with a proposal to allow developers more height and density in exchange for reserving a percentage of the project for “workforce housing” (those earning 100% of the state-set median income for ownership, 80% of that number for rentals). We’ll add more details shortly – three documents including the full text of the proposal have just been linked from the right side of this page; many reviews and public hearings are ahead, and whatever emerges at the end will not be finalized till sometime next year. (By the way, Nicholson coincidentally is scheduled to speak about townhouse design at tonight’s Junction Neighborhood Organization meeting, 6:30 pm at Ginomai, 42nd/Genesee.) 2:53 PM ADDITION: Here’s the official city news release toplining today’s announcement. We will be working on a “what’s in it for WS”-specific breakdown when we get home shortly. Note that the “urban centers” mentioned in the news release are NOT synonymous with “urban villages” – West Seattle has u-villages but not u-centers. (Here’s a map of UVs and UCs citywide.)

SEATTLE–Mayor Greg Nickels today announced the first major update to
multifamily zoning in Seattle in 20 years. New regulations would improve
the character and design of townhouses, and require environmentally
sensitive building and landscaping.

“We can grow in ways that enhance and enrich our lives,” said
Nickels. “These regulations will help us make sure that new
multifamily housing is attractive, sensible, and fits in with their
neighborhoods, while also supporting affordable housing.”

The changes would affect the 10 percent of the city zoned for
multifamily construction, from low-rise development throughout the city
to high-rise residential towers on First Hill. Design review would be
required for all townhouses, providing better oversight of design
quality and more flexibility for designers.

All multifamily buildings will be required to use green landscaping,
which could include green roofs, trellised walls, or planting strips.
Developers wishing to increase height and floor area above current
zoning in the city’s urban centers, urban villages and areas around
light rail stations, will be required to meet LEED Silver or Built Green
Four Star sustainable construction standards. Developers would also have
to agree to dedicate units for work force housing.

The new rules will reduce required parking in all multifamily areas to
one space per unit. In urban centers and areas around light rail
stations, there will be no required parking.

“The mayor and I have both heard a lot lately about how growth is
affecting our neighborhoods, not all of it is positive,” said City
Councilmember Sally Clark, who joined Nickels at the announcement. “I
look forward to working through these proposals from the mayor to reach
a goal we share for smart growth that keeps Seattle on course as a
regional center of quality neighborhoods and dynamic business

The proposal is scheduled to go to Council later this summer. New
regulations are anticipated in early 2009.

9 Replies to "West Seattle architect centerstage at mayor's zoning event"

  • d-san July 8, 2008 (2:24 pm)

    “along with a proposal to allow developers more height and density in exchange for reserving a percentage of the project for “workforce housing””

    Hmmm… I like work force housing, but I don’t want the sun blocked out, like Ballard.

  • Jaime Gummer July 8, 2008 (3:10 pm)

    It is interesting to see Mr. Nicholson on this particular side of the fence. If I’m not mistaken he was one of the architects who proposed that monstrous project at 4515 41st that was so over-scale and inappropriate for the neighborhood that the surrounding owners were in a panic until the project was killed. And now, a year or so later, he’s ON the Design Review board and is one of the good guys?! I’m not so convinced.

  • wsblover July 8, 2008 (3:18 pm)


  • WSB July 8, 2008 (3:39 pm)

    We were not as deeply into news coverage then so I remember the opposition but not the specifics. For what it’s worth, the architect doesn’t propose a project – the developer proposes it, and hires an architect to design what they want to build.

    The project proposal as it stood in fall 2006 is linked here on the city website
    Still working on highlights from what was released this afternoon but again, anyone who wants to read them exactly as released by the city can follow the links above.

  • ericak July 8, 2008 (3:55 pm)

    Jaime and WSB-

    You are correct about the 4515 project, however Omni was the develper, NK the architect. That was the project that began the formation of JuNO and our neighborhoods on-going involvement in how development shapes our community.

    I am interested in hearing what CORA proposes tonight at our meeting. I have not had the chance to read the 271 page proposal from the mayor yet, but if at all resembles what has been proposed in the past we have lots of work to do. I think the design review process is critical to community involvement in projects. I hope the mayor and city council work to give the DRB the ability to actually hold developers accountable for what has been approved via a public process. That would be a start . . .

    Please come tonight, 6:30pm Ginomai (corner of 42nd/Genesee).

  • Steve July 8, 2008 (6:44 pm)

    Just what we need, more oversite and added costs to develop homes in Seattle


  • Dave July 8, 2008 (7:46 pm)

    Let’s make Seattle more expensive to live!

  • flipjack July 8, 2008 (9:57 pm)

    God, it looks like Mayor Gridlock has a gun pointed at Nichoson’s nervous head in that picture.
    “Better say the right things or else you’ll find yourself wearing cement boots at the bottom of the Sound Nicholson!”

  • average joe July 14, 2008 (7:26 am)

    please give me a break on the ‘developer proposes it, the architect just designs it’. that is clue #1 that the architect is not worth hiring…and hence THAT’s why architects end up doing development projects…because they have NO other work!
    yes, that is Brandon’s ‘architecture’ office that did the monstrosity at 4515…and the other laughing stock version of ‘historic preservation’ which got so many ‘departures’ on charlestown and california. hmmmm he is on the design review board too? now it appears that he has Mr. (scam) Nichols backing which makes perfect sense. we are all in for it.

Sorry, comment time is over.