Advocacy Update – August 2018
This month in national, state and local advocacy: AIA takes a stand on asbestos and also launches an initiative to combat school violence through design; AIA Members weigh in on state building code, tax legislation, and Seattle's Incentive Zoning Program; SDCI responds to complaints against the Accela permitting portal; we highlight upcoming Policy Events at the 2018 Seattle Design Festival; and more!
AIA Adds Voice in Opposition to Asbestos
AIA National issued comments to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Acting Administrator this month on asbestos, opposing a proposed new federal rule that would create a pathway to consider new uses of asbestos. AIA’s Sarah Dodge, Senior Vice President of Advocacy + Relationships, commented, “Either by existing authority or through a significant new use rule, the EPA should review and eliminate the use of asbestos in domestic or imported materials. […] Given the established health, safety and welfare risks that asbestos poses at all stages of its mining and usage, the AIA urges asbestos to be treated as a high priority chemical that is phased out of usage.”
AIA Launches Initiative to Combat School Violence Through Design
AIA National announced a new initiative to address violence in schools through the power of design, including a new Where We Stand statement on school design and student safety. In launching the initiative, AIA President Carl Elefante FAIA, remarked, “while public discourse on access to firearms and mental health services remains deadlocked, the power of design can improve school safety now. AIA is committed to working with stakeholders and officials to make schools safer while building the positive, nurturing, learning environments we all want for our children.” AIA invites interested architects to sign the “Power of Design” school safety petition that will be sent to elected officials across the country.
AIA Seattle Executive Director Represents AIA at Global Climate Conference
AIA Seattle Executive Director Lisa Richmond will be representing AIA National at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco in September.
AIA Members Push Forward State Code for Tall Wood Buildings
AIA Washington Council and member architects helped to propose and achieve initial approval by the State Building Code Council (SBCC) for state code language for wood buildings of up to 18 stories based on work completed by the International Code Council’s Ad Hoc Committee on Tall Wood Buildings. The SBCC’s approval directs its staff to begin the adoption process by writing draft code language. There will be two hearings held in the fall on this draft language—one in Spokane (Sept. 14) and one in Olympia (Oct. 12). The SBCC will make a final decision in November based on public comment from these hearings. If the SBCC gives the final okay, the new code language will go to the State Legislature for approval in January. This process will include adding code language on two parallel paths: 1) amending the 2015 International Building Code and International Fire Code to include the ICC’s language on tall wood buildings; and 2) working to get the language into the 2018 code. Should the entire effort be successful, the 2015 amendments would be effective July 1, 2019. In contrast, the ICC won’t include its tall wood buildings language (pending final approval) until the 2021 code.
AIA Members Invited to Attend Tax Structure Work Group Meeting
State legislators on the House Tax Structure Work Group are holding a workshop on the state B&O tax in Seattle, and AIA members interested in weighing in on how the tax can be changed or replaced are invited to attend. Previous meetings were held in Spokane, Yakima and Vancouver. The Seattle event will take place on Monday, Sept. 10 from 10:00am-1:00pm at the Washington State Convention Center. The agenda will include a staff briefing on Washington’s current tax structure, small group discussion and report out and public testimony. More info and RSVP here.
Climate Fee Initiative on November Ballot
A reminder that Washington Initiative 1631, which would establish a carbon fee to reduce incentives for fossil fuel use, generate funds to invest in renewable resources and promote energy efficiency, will appear on the November 2018 ballot statewide. The Board of Directors of both AIA Seattle and AIA Washington Council have endorsed I-1631. If any firms would like to endorse the initiative, they may do so here. Opportunities to volunteer in support of the initiative may be viewed here.
AIA Seattle Members Weigh in on City’s Incentive Zoning Update
Seattle’s Incentive Zoning program allows new development in certain areas to voluntarily achieve extra floor area in exchange for providing certain public benefits. Incentive Zoning has been implemented piecemeal in different zones and geographic areas over the last 20 years with significant expansions in the last five years. The city is now proposing to consolidate standards from many zones and to update requirements for incentives in specific zones. For example, some changes would only impact downtown, including changes to the requirements for open space, adding green building incentives (already in place in other zones), and addressing child care facility incentives. More info on the proposed changes can be found here.
AIA Seattle met with the city’s Office of Sustainability and Environment and Office of Planning and Community Development on the changes related to green buildings as part of our coalition work with Shift Zero, a zero carbon building alliance. Members will be meeting with the city on other areas of the planned update as well. If you would like to offer comments on the proposed changes, please contact Kirsten Smith.
Accela Portal Update
AIA Seattle’s letter to Mayor Durkan and City Councilmembers on the city’s online permitting system received press attention this month. In a statement to AIA Seattle, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) provided the following information on the department’s progress with Accela:
Right now, we’re in Phase III of our implementation. Accela is an off-the-shelf system with some great features and some limitations. Phase III focuses on key improvements we want to make to the customer interface and to internal processes. We’ve identified a number of places where we’d like the system to perform differently and we’re working with Seattle Information Technology (Seattle IT) to prioritize, create, and implement solutions.
In general, Accela is operating correctly for most processes. Data conversion issues created some significant backlogs in a couple of key processes, such as preliminary applications and permit issuance. As a result, projects are taking longer to move through the system than is acceptable to us and our customers. Teams are working hard to clear them so that they can process the high volumes of new applications in a timelier way. We know this is frustrating to customers using the new system.
Where there are glitches, we’ve created interim solutions while we work with Seattle IT to fix the problems. In the first few weeks after launch, there were some significant issues that have since been corrected—account access, server capacity causing the system to shut down, inability to upload documents, and fee payment among them.
SDCI asked for specifics on problems that our members are experiencing with Accela. If you continue to experience problems that are impacting your ability to secure permits, please contact Kirsten Smith.
AIA Promotes Residential Energy Performance Disclosure
Through our membership in Shift Zero, AIA Seattle is collaborating on a letter to Mayor Durkan, asking her to support a policy to require energy performance disclosure of homes when a residence is listed for sale. Energy performance disclosure would help homebuyers understand how energy efficient a potential home is and whether they would benefit from making upgrades. It is also an effective step in creating more awareness about the environmental and cost benefits of efficiency measures for homes. To enact such a policy, the City Council would need to pass legislation.
AIA Seattle Forms New Task Forces on Transportation and the Public Realm
AIA Seattle’s Public Policy Board will be establishing two new Task Forces to address issues related to transportation and the public realm. Task forces generally meet monthly and focus on developing AIA’s position on the topic and coordinating AIA’s response to related issues that arise over time. If you are interested in participating, please contact Kirsten Smith.
Sound Transit Seeks North King County Representative on Citizen Oversight Panel
Sound Transit is seeking a volunteer from north King County to serve on its Citizen Oversight Panel (COP). The COP independently monitors Sound Transit and make sure it meets its commitments to build and operate a regional bus, light rail and commuter rail transit system. Its 15 members represent a variety of interests, professional expertise and experience. More info and apply here.
AIA Members Sought for Zero Waste Policies
AIA Seattle’s Public Policy Board is looking for members who are interested in working on policies related to zero waste, including outreach efforts to inform designers and building users about recycling best practices for efficient building material use, recycling and composting. For more information, please contact Kirsten Smith.
September 4, 5:30-7:00 pm @ the Center | 1010 Western Avenue, Seattle
Join the Public Policy Board for an exploration of AIA Seattle’s policy agenda related to transportation issues, including bike, pedestrian, cars, transit and more. Help us identify AIA’s priorities as we identify a policy work plan going forward. More info and RSVP here.
Sound Transit is holding community workshops to provide updates on route and station locations, solicit your input and provide opportunities to speak with staff.
West Seattle – Saturday, Sept. 8, 9:00-11:30 am, Seattle Lutheran High School Gym
Downtown Seattle – Tuesday, Sept. 11, 5:30-8:00 pm, Union Station
Ballard-Interbay – Monday, Sept. 17, 5:30-8:00 pm, Ballard Eagleson VFW
AIA Seattle Committee & Task Force Meetings
AIA Seattle members are invited to attend these policy-focused committee meetings, which occur monthly:
Committee on Homelessness. Sept. 11, noon – 1:00 pm @ the Center.
Housing Task Force. Sept. 13, noon – 1:00 pm @ the Center.
Policy-Related Events at the Seattle Design Festival (SDF)
Alliance of Trust: Shift Zero and the Collective Push for Real Climate Action in Architecture
Monday, Sept. 10, noon-1:00 pm, @ the Center
Urban+: Adding Density While Building Character
Thursday, Sept. 13, 6:00-8:00 pm, @ b9 architects
Building Trust Through Community Planning: Discussion of HALA/MHA Process & Initiatives
Thursday, Sept. 13, 5:00-7:00 pm, @ DLR Group
Autonomous Seattle: The Robot Car in the Emerald City
Wednesday, Sept. 19, 5:30-7:30 pm, @ the Center
Trusting the Public(s): Using Design Thinking & Co-Design to Improve State Government
Thursday, Sept. 20, 11:45 am -1:15 pm, @ Impact Hub Seattle
For more information on these or any other topics, or to join a task force, please contact: