Ten months ago, the Wallingford Community Council appealed a City environmental review decision for a proposal to rewrite the Living Building Pilot Program (LBPP) to grant Skanska, a multinational billion dollar developer, special privileges allowing it to build a large office building at Stone Way and 34th. The building would rise to over 82 feet (including substantial roof top features) in a 45 foot zone within feet of the Lake Union Shoreline area. WCC decided on very short notice (Skanska made its presentation the night before the appeal deadline) to appeal the decision when the proposal didn’t look and smell right. After a few months of legal wrangling, the Hearing Examiner essentially agreed with the WCC position and ordered further environmental disclosures.
In the meantime, a number of other parties have had an opportunity to evaluate the controversial proposal and found it seriously lacking. (See last week’s story in the Seattle Times.) After reviewing hundreds of DPD documents, it is clear that the Skanska-proposed and -drafted amendments to the LBPP were not created to improve the program, but to allow a single developer, a single tenant and a single property owner to build an oversized building on a specific site for reasons unrelated to Living Building objectives. (The building could have been built elsewhere without changing the code.) LEED-certified architects, urban planners, green building experts, environmental activists and neighbors have studied and oppose the rewrite of the law. Most importantly, the International Living Futures Institute, which created, administers and owns the trademark to the Living Building program, has determined that the code provisions which would allow the Skanska project are so deficient that they will not allow such projects to even use the term “Living Building.”
We have now learned that there are movements in the City Council to “scrap the Living Building approach altogether” and amend the law as Skanska demands – only calling it something else. The one thing that all parties seemed to agree on at the recent council hearing was that the city should be commended for encouraging builders to try and meet the Living Building Challenge. Now the Living Building program may be jettisoned in order to allow Skanska/Brooks/Burke their special privileges. A City Council committee is set to vote on the proposal Wednesday morning (July 25th). Therefore, if you feel that amendments to the LBPP or similar laws should involve more parties than just the developer, and that laws should not be written by and for special interests, now is the time to email or call Council members. Their contact information is at http://www.seattle.gov/council/councilcontact.htm .
If you would like some further information concerning recent Council actions, this week’s statement by the Living Futures Institute, or statements by Chris Rogers (Developer of the Bullitt Foundation’s Living Building on Capitol Hill) and Denis Hayes (Bullitt Foundation President and first Earth Day Coordinator who founded the Earth Day Network and expanded Earth Day to more than 180 nations) they can be found at www.lraaen.com/WCCdocs