AIA Kansas City: The American Institute of Architects

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

AIA KC commends KCMO Planning & Development Dept in the creation of a new Development Ordinance

The City of Kansas City Planning and Development Department recently completed a grass roots effort through a steering committee of citizens to update the existing zoning ordinance to create a new development ordinance for the City. AIA Kansas City was represented by several members on the steering committee and we thank Patty Noll, the director of this effort, for including those members.
AIA Kansas City supports the concept of “community environment” with neighborhood roots, which takes form in ordinances encouraging mixed use, higher density, walk-ability, efficient land use and restrictions on land use for vehicular-related needs. The organization also supports sustainable design and construction, both nationally with the publication of the 2030 Challenge, and locally through the many firms who practice sustainable design and volunteer members who serve on private and public committees.
We believe the City has critical issues to address such infrastructure management and replacement, better land use in redevelopment within its boundaries and control of land use in new residential subdivisions.
The proposed Development Ordinance as it appears in the draft dated August 24, 2007, encourages mixed use, higher densities, reduced parking requirements, smaller setbacks more efficient land use generally.
Therefore AIAKC wishes to support the effort that went into this document and to support the result. We wholeheartedly recommend passage of this document into law. However, as with most official documents, room for improvement exists and we offer the following as proposals to strengthen the Ordinance and to address issues of process.


The Development Ordinance should more adequately address sustainability issues
Action: Provide incentives in for each zoning district to use LEED certification goals for development and construction.
Increase allowable density (allowable height, building area, number of units; reduction of lot size, setbacks and parking requirements).
Complete 80-130-07 – Downtown Zoning Districts to include detailed incentives for use of LEED building standards.
All other zones
Provide sustainable development incentives for all zoning districts in the city

Storm water management is a significant issue for the City, and storm water control in building projects by individual citizens should be encouraged.
Action: Provide incentives for storm water capture, reuse, or retention within the boundaries of the site.

80-405: The Proposed subdivision ordinance provides many improvements but should more fully address alternative materials more compatible with sustainable practices.
Action: Allow for alternative materials and methods for subdivision infrastructure
Impervious paving
Surface storm water management in lieu of piping
Incentives for water recapture, reuse, and retention within the boundaries of the site.
Reduced setbacks, rights-of-way, access and lot frontages

The development ordinance should more effectively address redevelopment in existing neighborhoods.
Action: Provide incentives for using LEED certification goals for infill redevelopment, including density, set backs, lot sizes and allowable area.
Offer the fast-tract approval process suggested in elsewhere in this document..
Provide incentives for storm water management within the lot boundaries such as rain gardens, rain water recapture and retention.

The Neighborhood Character Overlay District 80-225 should be strengthened to encourage high quality design throughout the district. We suggest including changes to the language regarding “compatibility” of proposed design (including the deletion of language focused on stylistic standards) and the addition of

language requiring participation of a licensed architect in the preparation of design recommendations, and their subsequent enforcement.

The Development Ordinance widens the notification area for zoning applications in neighborhoods (80-505-07-C), but we believe it should be strengthened further.
Action: Change the statement to say the city will provide mailed notice to registered neighborhood associations, and may elect to provide additional courtesy notification, which may include Internet postings, and information signs posted on the subject property

The present building permit application and approval process should be more efficient and is in need of improvement.
Building permit approval can take months for modest projects, due to a lack of communication within and among departments.
Action: We propose that projects meeting LEED certification goals be fast-tracked by 1) moving them to the “top of the pile” over other applications in line, or 2) allowing authorized professional project representatives (those licensed by the State) to “self certify” engineering and architectural code requirements.

Public street improvements and guidelines should be coordinated among Planning and Development, Public Works and Parks and Recreation departments.
Action: Create bridge document addressing the Public Realm (space between buildings) with guidelines which all three public departments must follow.
AIAKC has presented such a document to the Mayor and City Manager and have attached it to this position paper.
Adopt or update details for infrastructure (streets, sidewalks, rights-of-way) which embrace sustainable practices. This would include alternative materials, quantities and dimensions in addition to standards already in place.
Please consider these suggestions as a supplement to the proposed Development Ordinance, which will significantly improve the built environment in the City of Kansas City.
Attachment: Guiding Principles for Civic Design

PreambleHE PUBLIC REALM is a city’s face to the world. Great cities are distinguished by the quality of their public places, the integrity of the built environment, and the social and cultural vitality of their public life. As citizens, public officials, professionals and property owners we are all stewards of the public realm; collectively, we are charged with the responsibility to provide and maintain a built environment that represents the pride, spirit, dignity and enterprise of Kansas City. T
As history shows us, Kansas City has consistently endeavored to find its own character. A city is a living ecology of many natural and man-made forces – earth, infrastructure, streets and sidewalks, buildings and public spaces – and people. Each of these features functions independently and as part of a dynamic whole. The regional landscape, the city’s growth and metropolitan development, and the social structure and culture of our city are all embedded in an ongoing process of dynamic change. Because the city is ever changing, we need to draw on common, agreed-upon principles to fashion policies that maintain and build upon past successes.
With this in view, we offer these ten Guiding Principles for Civic Design.

Nurture design excellence through leadership by example.
Public buildings and public spaces – parks and the public right-of-way – should set a high standard of architectural and urban design excellence, and serve as deliberate opportunities for innovative design and set an example for private developers to emulate. Good design should be a key consideration in the development of new public buildings, as well as the basic infrastructure that shapes the character and vitality of a city’s streets, sidewalks, parks and plazas.
ACTION: Support and implement the Streetscape Master Plan for the Downtown Loop. Establish a City-wide Landscaping Plan to address areas outside of the Loop. Use a Qualifications Based Selection approach in selection professional services for public facilities and new design and renovation. Reward quality and innovation publicly and privately.
Create an authentic sense of place.
The physical form, patterns, activities and uses of the public realm should embody the unique characteristics of the people, place, natural environment and civic intentions of our city. Local planning and zoning, building regulations, and development policies should enable entrepreneurial investments in urban places by reducing startup costs, mitigating risk, and helping to build an active base of consumers to support locally-owned and operated ventures.
ACTION: Identify what that unique experience is, and determine how we capitalize on it. Use marketing and physical implementation of improvements. Build partnerships and promote the experience. Honor the diversity and uniqueness of Kansas City and develop innovative ways of promoting it.
Design streets for people.
The safest street is one animated by a high level of human activity and presence. A city where streets are dominated by and designed exclusively for automobiles is unlikely to convey a positive impression either to visitors or locals. No street should serve a single purpose or function; rather, streets should simultaneously support and encourage automobile, transit, bicycle, and pedestrian travel, and enable ease of movement among a range of buildings, uses, and activities.
ACTION: Design for a balance between pedestrians and automobiles. Promote wide sidewalks, trees, rest stops, parks, boulevards and cafes. Consider scale and a livable environment as they relate to human beings. Pay attention to visual, physical and perceived connections, focal points, pathways and corridors.
Provide quality art in the public realm.
Public art selected through public process creates local identity and adds experiential dynamism to the public realm. By celebrating Kansas City’s rich artistic culture, we enhance the city’s national identity and help invigorate the economy by attracting tourists and new residents.

ACTION: Utilize the Municipal Art Commission as it was established in the City Charter. Continue to utilize and expand the one-percent-for-art program and its methodologies to integrate art into the public realm.
Sustain and improve urban neighborhoods.
The public realm provides the physical glue that defines the character and integrity of urban neighborhoods. Housing that is safe, affordable, well-constructed and designed to fit the character of its neighborhood contributes to a vibrant public realm, increases quality of life, and builds social equity and civic engagement among neighbors. Healthy neighborhoods are also built on a mix of incomes and lifestyles, and offer varied options for shopping, employment and entertainment.
ACTION: Promote private reinvestments in the City. Seek out and create programs that invite a range of residents into the neighborhoods. Identify affordability gaps and support creative financing programs which encourage mixed-income infill housing and small retail development. Support quality urban planning principles and housing code compliance.
Respect the integrity and value of the urban fabric.
Like a human being, the City is alive and, as it matures, it continues to refine and develop its own sense of character. The Crossroads, West Side, Brookside, Hyde Park and 18th and Vine Districts exemplify a balance between excellent design and organic evolutionary process. Different building forms, scales and types, as well as complementary land uses, should be allowed and integrated into the texture of any urban area. Older buildings help define the contours of the public realm, and public policies should facilitate their adaptive reuse for new uses and activities without compromising architectural character or imposing inappropriate or unrealistic regulatory burdens on property owners.
ACTION: Take time to understand and benevolently capitalize (without exploiting) upon the existing natural fabric and culture of the neighborhoods. Communicate and work with local entities to assure an authentic understanding of the indigenous values, integrity and character of place.
Strengthen Kansas City with integrated public transit.
Effective public transit serves the City and the region by improving access to the urban core and reducing traffic congestion and pollution. Transit also strengthens the urban fabric by supporting walkable neighborhoods, urban density, and mixed-use development. Development policies and incentives should promote transit-oriented development, and transit should be used to foster stronger connections between urban and suburban areas.
ACTION: Educate and advocate for the continued development of an effective public transit system. Include Bus Rapid Transit, bus service interconnections with other municipalities and an efficient but expandable light rail transit network.

Respect natural ecosystems and the beauty of the regional landscape.
Sustainable design is an ethical necessity in the face of dwindling energy stocks and natural resources. Design and development regulations should work in concert to ensure that the public infrastructure that supports private development actively conserves and protects sensitive natural environments. Design solutions also should be tailored to the specific climate, ecological, and topographical conditions of the regional landscape. Kansas City’s parks and boulevards have succeeded in part because design was used to foster a new appreciation for the natural beauty of a rugged landscape that had long been considered an obstacle to rapid urban development.
ACTION: Develop and implement regulations that work in concert to assure that the provision of public infrastructure and development practices actively conserve and protect sensitive natural environments. Tailor design solutions to the specific ecological, geological and topographical condition of the landscape.
Invest strategically in public spaces.
Buildings that successfully engage with the public realm enable vitality, beauty and economic success. The space between buildings, in turn, is given life by the planning, organization and design of the buildings along its edges. Investments in the public realm build the value of the city’s tax base and promote long-term economic sustainability and public control of the city’s destiny. This is good for the property owner and the public — both enjoy long term economic stability because the public realm is more beautiful, better maintained and fulfilling its role in the urban life of the people of Kansas City.
ACTION: Study traffic patterns and the behaviors of the users of a space. Define focal points, destinations and experiences within the City’s districts. Design and create people-friendly, safe and attractive public spaces that people will use and enjoy.
Practice stewardship for the public realm.
A shared physical environment that encourages frequent and informal interactions between strangers enhances public safety, helps build community identity, and promotes civic duty and citizenship. Local government therefore has a responsibility to its citizens to ensure long-term security and stability of the public realm. Local decision making processes should be made more accountable and transparent by supporting public collaboration in the design of the built environment.
ACTION: Create an atmosphere of cooperation among City Agencies which nurtures a collaboration of stewardship to maintain the public spaces within the City. Simplify the Bureaucratic process to encourage teamwork among agencies.
About the Guiding Principles
This document was developed by a working group consisting of representatives of Mayor Kay Barnes’ Office, AIA Kansas City, the Kansas City Design Center, and the City of Kansas City, Missouri. Inspired in part by the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s Guiding Principles for Federal Architecture, which were adopted by the General Services Administration to foster design excellence in public architecture, the Guiding Principles seek to provide a values-based framework for public deliberations about design policy issues.
Each of the ten discrete principles will be coupled with detailed case studies of distinguished places and public realm features of Kansas City and other American cities, as well as specific recommendations for key stakeholders and public policies.
Implementation Framework
Our plan is to introduce and refine the Principles through public forums and in consultation with key stakeholders. Over the next 2-3 months, we will be seeking endorsement of the Principles by civic, business, and professional organizations and associations. We expect the Principles to be adopted by the City of Kansas City, Missouri as a companion resolution or ordinance to the City’s updated zoning and subdivision ordinances.
Members of the working group include
Ben Allers AIA, BNIM Architects, representing AIA Kansas City’s Urban Design Committee
Porter Arneill, Director, Kansas City Municipal Art Commission
Steve McDowell, FAIA, BNIM Architects
Donovan Mouton, Director of Urban Affairs, Mayor’s Office, City of Kansas City, Missouri
Daniel Serda, Ph.D., Executive Director, Kansas City Design Center
Debra Smith, AIA/AICP, Division Head, Planning, Preservation and Urban Design, Department of City Planning and Development, City of Kansas City, Missouri