Visual preference survey results shared at city council meeting

The survey was conducted at an April council meeting.

Bothell’s community development department updated council at its Sept. 10 meeting on the results of a recent visual preference survey that asked council members and city residents to help define the meaning of “high-quality” design for downtown “gateway” properties.

“It’s helpful for us as we look at what our current regulations allow or require,” said community and economic development director Michael Katterman, who led the presentation.

The survey was conducted during a council meeting in April. At the session, councilmembers and Bothell residents in attendance looked at 53 images related to streetscapes, public spaces, art, signage, building design and building massing and scale. For each image, councilmembers and the public were asked to share their thoughts on an area in question and categorize them as positive, negative or neutral.

“The purpose of the exercise was to gain a better understanding of what the council is looking for in terms of high-quality design,” Katterman said. “That’s something we’ve consistently heard from the council.”

At the Sept. 10 meeting, Katterman broke down key findings and shared which types of architectural characteristics received the most positive or negative feedback at the April session. Department staff was then able to conclude which attributes would be best applied to future downtown gateway properties.

For streetscapes, public spaces, art and signage, which was one of the three categories visuals, council and the public were more partial to developments that appeared safe and walkable (with high lighting, visibility and large sidewalk width) and more pedestrian friendly. For building design, properties constructed with recognizable Pacific Northwest materials, like wood, brick, glass and stone, were preferred. When looking at building massing and scale, people most consistently had a propensity for structures with broken-up façades and height variance.

Next, community development staff will be working to incorporate language reflecting the findings in future marketing materials, as well as analyzing what else can make gateway properties more “inviting” and “engaging.” Community development will also be identifying requirements, expectations and desires for the impending development agreement.

“The other thing this exercise has done for us is it gives us some examples and illustrations we can share with the applicants and the architects … It gives them a little bit more to go on,” Katterman said.

Councilmembers were receptive to the findings, though some noted that they would like to see more public involvement in the process. The survey only incorporated feedback from the 12 community members who attended the April meeting when the survey was conducted.

“The process, for me, was amazing to go through…hopefully there will be more opportunity for the community to be involved and engaged,” Councilmember James McNeal said.

“We need a larger voice from the community,” Councilmember Rosemary McAuliffe added.

Discussions surrounding “high-quality” design for the lots hosting the city-owned, downtown “gateway” properties discussed during the Sept. 10 meeting, D and EFG, began at the Jan. 8 study session. The council emphasized the visual importance of the properties due to their high visibility. After setting design expectations for the marketing of the parcels, the information collected will be used when marketing the future sale of Lot D.

Council action was not required at the Sept. 10 meeting, but when the preparation of marketing materials for Lot D is finalized, council approval will be required for the development agreement.

For more information about the visual preference survey, go to the Sept. 10 meeting agenda.