Letter to the Editor: Proposed Point Edwards building represents ‘visual pollution’

Dear Editor,
The proposed building #10 at the Point Edwards site, if allowed to be built as proposed, will be a declarative statement that Edmonds doesn’t give a damn as to its aesthetics.

While it is true that the Growth Management Act (GMA) requires that cities responsibly plan for and accept appropriate development for its projected population growth; there is no language in the GMA that addresses the impact of either exceeding or falling short of meeting the growth target.

The GMA does not deny Edmonds, (or any city in the State of Washington), the right to determine or define for itself what is appropriate development. Nor does the GMA deny Edmonds, any rights as to its choices of how it wants to look, beautiful or not – ugly or not.

Edmonds has that right of determining its appearance through the Supreme Court case, Berman v. Parker (1954).  Justice Douglas writing for the majority states, “The concept of the public welfare is broad and inclusive. The values it represents are spiritual as well as physical, aesthetic as well as monetary.  It is within the power of the legislature to determine that the community should be beautiful as well as healthy, spacious as well as carefully patrolled.”

Shekoofah Khedhri in his article, Aesthetic Revolution: An Evolution; “Aesthetic regulation proscribes activities or land uses which a legislative body determines are either a) detrimental to community appearance, or b) in some way unnecessarily offensive to the visual sensibilities of the average person.”

While architecture is the art form in which we live, architecture also, like any other art form, is a statement of how we perceive ourselves. It communicates semiotically, symbolically and politically. Architecture actually can communicate just as powerfully as speech.

A case in point is State ex rel. Stayanoff v. Berkeley (1970). This case is where one attorney argued that his clients interpreted a proposed pyramid-shaped home in their prestigious St. Louis suburbs as a political statement of rebellion against the community’s traditional values. This interpretation that the construction of a pyramid-shaped design should be protected as political expression was too difficult for the Missouri State Supreme Court to accept and Mr. Stayanoff, (a socialist – btw), was denied his building permit.
The other point made throughout the case was that if the proposed pyramid was allowed to be built the surrounding land values would be negatively impacted.

If the Edmonds Comprehensive Plan is to be believed, Edmonds wants to look attractive and have its aesthetics be appropriate with its surroundings. To that end, Edmonds has developed ‘Design Standards’ that are stated in both the Comp Plan and Municipal code.

The Comprehensive Plan also states Edmonds has policies regarding Air and Noise Pollution. Given the number of pages the Comp Plan devotes to the goals and objectives of ‘good design’ and, for the purposes of this letter, I interpret those pages to mean that the Edmonds has a policy against Visual Pollution too.

This proposed building #10, because of its size, is so far and away out of context with the rest of the development as to constitute visual pollution. It will be as if one painted a mustache on the ‘Mona Lisa’; a type of pollution which in turn causes the viewer to so completely focus on the out of context mustache as to not be able to see the art work, thus destroying its value. That is true vandalism and very real pollution.

As proposed, because of its location, building #10 will loom over Edmonds as does the Acropolis in Athens. The design of building #10 ain’t the Acropolis. Not even close.

The declarative statement of building # 10, if allowed to be built as proposed, is – Go ahead, buy the land, build what you want, screw your neighbor and make a profit while you’re at it, why?; because Edmonds doesn’t really give a damn about its appearance or its aesthetics.

Good aesthetics; good architectural design has value and can add value to the community.  Not only in monetary terms but spiritually and is for the benefit of all.

Eric Livingston

  1. You will have a chance to address the Edmonds Architectural Design Board (EDB) TONIGHT at 7:00pm at Council Chambers to contribute to the review of this proposal. This will likely be the last public forum to evaluate the proposed concstruction.

    Tom Waggener

  2. Thank you Eric!!!! Please no Mustache on “Mona Lisa”!! If most of the present development is any example of good architecture (Edmonds Way) the city of Edmonds will be painting mustaches!!
    Wake up Edmonds and give a damn.

  3. It is clear that the proposed building doesn’t fit Edmonds and is therefor violative of a number of the Edmonds Community Develoment Codes [ ECDC]. Your comments are directly on point and we can only hope that the ADB listens to the public tonight.

    Jeff Yocom

  4. The impact is not just in Edmonds, but around this portion of Puget Sound. Get on the Kingston Ferry and look in each direction and, other than in Seattle proper, you see no such disruptive structure. Richmond Beach doesn’t want their tall buildings either. If this is about meeting growth targets, well doggone it, annex Esperance once and for all. They will be no worse for joining this fine city.

  5. The eastern end of the proposed building 10 measures 58 ft. from ground to roof. This is allowed by some quirk in the building code that recognizes the building as 40 ft. tall. This defies common sense. The other Point Edwards buildings are stepped down along the slope of Pine St. This double building at 50 Pine should be stepped down as well.

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