Friday, May 16, 2008

Planning Academy II - A Follow-up

One of my readers questioned my previous blog entry entitled “WWU Where Are You – Not at the Planning Academy.” (Click here to read this entry.) He wrote The goal (for the city) is to get buy-in [and] not discuss new ideas or even how to avoid the same problem in the future.” I replied that, if it is buy-in that is the stated purpose, then why have architects, builders, real estate agents, etc. been invited to attend? What is it that they have to “buy into” when it comes to neighborhood character and infill? They make money building and selling. If one follows the logic of inviting these ‘stakeholders” WWU is an extremely huge “stakeholder” in town and a source of solutions for infill. Perhaps they can get rid of those student parking lots and build some dorms for some of those 8,000 students looking for rentals each year. That would be a great sledge hammer for the “tool box”. Right now, the WWU solution is to rent blocks of apartment units and re-rent them to students as off-campus housing. How will this aid infill? WWU should be at the table to answer.

Furthermore, the city is diverting the attention of the public with this academy. Once all these cutesy little infill tools are rubber stamped by the Academy (which I believe is the agenda for the city government), they will be codified at which time the demand to make them real will outweigh the desire for the neighborhoods to keep them at bay. The more Tim Stewart says that the neighborhoods will control this infill, the less confidence I have in the outcome. He stated during the first planning session that the city is good at setting policy but not implementing policy, which, in my book, includes enforcement. That should tell you something. Remember, these are the same folks who have not enforced current codes for decades. Can we believe they will have the political will to enforce future codes having to do with carriage houses, cottages and town homes any more than they enforce single family zoning codes? And just what is in this “tool box” to roll back the years of neglect and chaotic infill by illegal rooming house-ification? If you build on bad policy you get more bad policy.

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