Monday, June 6, 2011

Community Benefits Agreement

Yeah, this blog is still on hiatus, but after reading Ed Soja's Seeking Spatial Justice and reading a post on CHS about a new mixed use development on Capitol Hill, I got an idea. Here's what I wrote on CHS:

i just finished reading 'seeking spatial justice' by the UCLA geographer/urban planner ed soja and then saw this thread. first, i'm with everyone that thinks this style of building which is colonizing the neighborhood is repetitive, boring, and eyesore, etc. and though i admittedly, and embarrassingly, have never taken part in any of the dpd reviews, i have been curious about ways to resist this sort redevelopment.

anyhow, soja describes a community benefits agreements as 'a legally binding document negotiated by a defined labor-community coalition and developer' and explains how they can be used to require a developer to provide such things as affordable housing, child care facilities, space for local businesses, etc. in the case of this building, the way a cba might have worked would be that the community coalition would have ultimately approved the building and allowed it pass quickly through the review process, but only in exchange for, say, 25% affordable housing and 50% of the ground level retail dedicated to small and local business (or whatever, i'm making this up).

when i started my people's parking lot blog two years back, i had a similar idea, but had no idea such organizations actually existed (in los angeles, for example). it looks like it's too late in some cases, but i can't help but think that creating such a group might be the first step to exercising some sort of influence over development in the neighborhood. considering the strong reactions to these projects, this seems like something we could get started.


  1. I wonder if this may be something that the Champion Group might be interested in... I have been involved with the Urban Design Framework for the TOD at the new light rail station- development guidelines created by the "community". But the UDF is not legally binding, as I understand it, and has been described to me as a "non-regulatory document intended to be implemented by regulatory action" (um, what?) and I am not sure how much say the Champion group representing the community will ultimately have on what is developed there... it would be nice to have a policy in place that requires developments over a certain size/scale to create this type of legal community benefits contract with the community. As the 500 e Pine situation has made clear, as things currently stand it ultimately does not matter what the Neighborhood plan says or what the community thinks. A developer can build whatever shit pile they want. Im in if you want help looking into this over the summer.

  2. i think that's a great idea. when you get a chance, take a look back at the chs comment thread and you can see how a few people responded to this in a very helpful way. sharon sutton who sits on the review board for cap hill is also a faculty member @ uw so there might be a way to gain perspective on this from all sides, and maybe actually do something.

    my summer is going to be mostly spent reading and preparing for my general exams in the fall, but i'd like to be doing something real in the world at the same time...

  3. Keith, do you know about the Cascade Shelter Project (began 1970s)? Would love to chat, may need to be after your comps.

  4. I agree completely with you, there is a need of such ideas and there implementation is really required. Keep posting.

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