Residents want our seats back at the table. The right table where conversation with our local design review board began. The place where community works with that board and the developer. The place where they develop a building that transitions into the neighborhood appropriately and serves the community best. The place where negotiations to mitigate negative impacts into positives takes place.

Our voices have been paused. Willing participation has been forced into an unequal public process by COVID-19 Emergency Legislation by the City Council (CB119769). The public process for many such buildings is now fast tracked.

A recent administrative design review notice informed Magnolians a move “from community meetings with the design review board,” comprised of local experts in several areas of building element expertise, into a process of “administrative design review by one SDCI Planner” (Seattle Department of Construction & Inspection). Administrative review is for smaller building projects without significant impacts/design issues.

The Magnolia Albertsons/Safeway Project is not one of those.

This is in an expedited process that curtails public participation and benefits developers more than the communities those council members who voted for the change supposedly represent.

Council members justifying design board review to administrative review as an equivalent in public process are simply wrong!

Written comments in a 14-day period to a single planner for a decision do not resemble community meetings in an ongoing process between developer, design review board and community. It is not even close!

Using the excuse that city government cannot get public processes up in workable virtual formats quickly is disturbing. The City Council has been holding its regular public meetings virtually.

They have the technological resources and the citizen mandate of representation to get this going for all public processes yesterday.

Welcome to the new norm.

Council member Andrew Lewis says he is pushing to get this done. I hope he is — that he hurries to do it and with that accomplished this building gets back to the proper design review process!

This is a precedent-setting building for Magnolia in size with seven-plus stories and 138 condos, designed to be a city pilot project for a “living building.”

This is the very type of complicated project needing the design review board process — a project in which no single SDCI planner can provide due justice. Many lack professional design or urban planning background and may only have a codebook, the project timeline and the primary duty to process permits.

This legislation and the “shelter-in-place” mandate has affected citizen participation. The current comment period timeline ending today was unrealistic. It needs to be extended.

Lastly, it is my hope that community members and community organizations can band together and insist, if this project moves forward without proper design review, they intend appeal any decisions that do not serve the community appropriately.

Sign the petition at www.change.org/p/neighbors-albertson-s-redevelopment-6-stories-versus-7-stories-c31298e3-be05-44fb-a13e-cab74d5efc6e?utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=custom_url&recruited_by_id=eaceada0-619b-11ea-8e4d-fded06ec4779.

— Monica Wooton is a member of the Steering Committee of Concerned Neighbors for Magnolia Village Integrity. She can be reached at wootons@comcast.net.