I’m Josh Brower and I am honored to serve as Chair of the Seattle Planning Commission. I’m writing to let you know about the commission, who we are and what we do.
The Seattle Planning Commission is comprised of 16 volunteers, all of whom are appointed by the Mayor or the City Council. An executive director, planning analyst, administrative specialist and demographer expertly and efficiently staff the commission. Commissioners serve an initial three-year term and can be confirmed for a second three-year term. Current commissioners come from all over the city, bring a wealth of expertise, experience and diversity of opinion, and include architects, landscape architects, urban designers, engineers, planners, community activists, transportation specialists, low-income and affordable housing developers and advocates, and a land use attorney. The commission strives to achieve and honor diversity—in all forms—in its makeup, perspective and advice.
The commission is an independent and objective body that advises the Mayor, City Council and City departments on “broad planning goals, policies and plans for…development of the city.” We are the stewards of the City’s Comprehensive Plan and are deeply involved in citywide and neighborhood planning activities. Some of our recent and ongoing efforts include:
- Future Neighborhood Plan Updates – Earlier this month we released a white paper of findings and recommendations, based on the commission’s year-long involvement in the neighborhood status check review process and the commission’s hugely successful (4,567 participants!) online virtual meeting. (For details see Leslie Miller’s article on Page 10).
- Backyard Cottages – The commission was delighted to provide our advice and expertise to City officials as they considered expanding the allowance of backyard cottages citywide. With the successful passage of legislation we will re-release our extremely successful and popular user guide to be consistent with the revised development standards. The guide will help a homeowner successfully design and build a backyard cottage. Subjects include site planning, designing for privacy, green design ideas, as well as sample designs and construction and permitting information.
- Affordable Housing Action Agenda – In 2008 we released our Action Agenda for affordable housing that outlined nine key strategies for increasing the amount of affordable housing in Seattle; we are continuing to push for implementation of our nine strategies. For example the commission has authored and promoted several Comprehensive Plan amendments that push the strategies outlined in the Action Agenda. We worked to provide advice on Seattle’s recently passed Housing Levy and brought a housing affordability lens to our work on the multifamily code update. The commission’s demographer will release a affordability trends report this year that will accurately measure how well the City is doing meeting the goals for affordable housing as stated in the Comprehensive Plan.
- Industrial Lands – We released a white-paper supporting the City’s industrial lands policy, which provides protection and support for industrially zoned lands and jobs; we continue to advise the city on the ongoing policy proposals and legislation related to industrial land in Seattle.
- Multifamily Code Update – After a multi-year effort the City is now poised to pass the final piece of legislation that will complete the update our Multifamily Code. We continue to provide our recommendations in order to encourage well-designed multifamily neighborhoods and streamline the permitting process. Multifamily housing by its very nature creates denser and more compact neighborhoods that add significantly to sustainability and a reduced carbon footprint.
- Seattle Transit Communities – Our report to be issued later this year considers optimizing regional transit investments by better aligning land use strategies and prioritizing other investment necessary to create livable and sustainable transit communities in Seattle. The report will shed further light on how and where Seattle should focus scarce resources. The report includes a toolbox (economic tools, policy tools, regulatory tools, etc) for increasing transit oriented and sustainable development in Seattle.
Over the next year, and beyond, the commission will provide advice regarding a myriad of ongoing initiatives including the seven year Comprehensive Plan Update, the Shoreline Master Program Update, the Yesler Terrace redevelopment, South-Downtown redevelopment, Northgate, the Central Waterfront and other neighborhood or citywide projects. The commission’s recommendations are framed by the City’s Comprehensive Plan and its commitment to promoting planning decisions that support and encourage the health and vitality of our community and our region.
Commissioners and staff bring a deep commitment and passion for Seattle and dedicate countless volunteer hours to the commission’s efforts. We are very excited and proud of our work on the commission and hope you will join us in continuing to make Seattle the great place it is to live, work and play.
Josh Brower is the chair of the Seattle Planning Commission. He is a land use attorney and founding partner of Tupper Mack Brower, PLLC, a local boutique law firm that specializes in environmental, natural resources and land use issues. Before becoming an attorney he worked as a land use planner where he obtained a strong background in practical urban planning application. He brings over 19 years of planning and legal experience to the commission. He is experienced in GMA and growth management issues and brings a good understanding of the need to address the infrastructure, housing and institutional challenges that future growth brings. Josh is a resident of the Beacon Hill neighborhood.