More here, including my own comments, both there and cross-posted here, below:
Overall I think it's a good urban building. In fact from what I can see in the drawing I like the way it looks and the way it behaves in terms of meeting the sidewalk and thus is largely in compliance with the City's Design Review principles. And I'd like to testify to that should -- God forbid -- this case ever come to trial. (And fwiw I was on the committee which put together the City's Design Review principles & process etc etc blah blah blah)
Based on what I can see, I am astounded and saddened that anyone would try to stop it.
Btw, I wonder if part of the problem here is "unrealistic expectations" brought on by too much starchitecture and Mudede rapture? i.e. a lot of people want a work of "cutting edge brilliance."
Well what for better or worse (and I say better) there is simply not very much brilliance around when it comes to architecture and urban planning, which as I say could be a good thing since the rules for creating a good walkable neighborhood have been known for a long long time and don't need to be reinvented. Brilliance is not even remotely part of creating a good walkable city. In fact most self-absorbed works of "cutting edge design" are quite often anti-urban and turn away from the sidewalk -- the Downtown Library, for example -- and so don't promote a walkable city.
Dennis Saxman. Like others here I admire your energy to fight City Hall though I think we come to different conclusions about this specific building. But a you say, of course I haven't seen detailed plans and so I might change my mind. But let me go through some of your points as I see things now because you raise interesting ones.
"Build to the Sidewalk" is certainly the default position but it is a rebuttable presumption. For non-lawyers that means that if a developer makes a good-enough argument about why a set-back should be allowed, then there should be that freedom to do so. Now not having heard the arguments about the "piazza" nor knowing the exact steps in the setback or grade differences etc etc it's hard to be sure if the piazza works as a public space. But it is at the southwest corner of the block and will get as much sun-light as Seattle allows. So it's a reasonable place to put what (presumably) will be outdoor seating for a coffee-shop or restaurant etc. That strikes me as a reasonable argument on the surface. Where do I err?
As to the "credibility of the developer," it strikes me that the Hearing Examiner was correct in every way to ignore that issue.
To the larger issue of design review (and I wonder what you found in the archives?!) it's my feeling now that the city's Design Review over-reaches and tries to do too much and should be cut back and simplified dramatically. The Land Use Code for many zones already requires adherence to the "Three Rules" and its corollaries such as "no reflective glass." I am not quite sure what Design Review adds to the party and I think now (and I thought then when the idea was first broached in our Advisory Committee) that specific "Neighborhood Design Guidelines" (different in the same zone class depending on the area of town) were absurd, a political sop and would lead to unrealistic expectations, to pointless effort by everyone and almost all of it paid for by the developer.
I hear complaints in these comments that this building could be anywhere in Seattle or even Toronto etc etc. Damned right! What do people expect? Dancing monkeys? It's a building, for god's sake and it must and will respond to human needs and street patterns very much the same in Seattle as it will anywhere. Long time ago a very fine local architect, Jim Cutler, told me (it's a long story) that "there are certain truths about floorplans." What he meant is that there are certain logical ways to lay out a dwelling and every site will suggest the same basic lay of entrance, garage, living areas, kitchens, bathrooms etc etc to every designer.
The same can and should be said about buildings. A mixed-use building in Paris (in a neighborhood similar to Pike-Pine) will have the same basic site plan as one in Seattle. And I think that part of our problem is caused by our unrealistic expectations brought about by starchitecure (every building must be unique) and now that I think of it, over-reaching design guidelines (every building must be unique because every neighborhood is unique.) 'Fraid it's just not so. People behave similarly pretty much everywhere and human behavior is where design starts (or should start.)
And thanks for the kind words about City Comforts.