Tacoma Urbanist

Apr. 6, 2008 at 12:14am

Muliti-Care Prevails in Steam Plant Variance Request

Last week in the mail I received the Land Use Administrator's Decision granting Multicare's application for a variance to reduce "the required transparency from 50 percent to 21.2 percent." 

Here's the list of commenters who were notified of the decision granting Mulitcare's Land use variance application. 

That means that Multi-Care can build the steam plant with far more blank walls than they were required to under city code.

The decision painfully noted:

Eight public comments were received and all were in opposition to the proposed variance.

Instead of building the steam plant to meet the most minimal design requirements, Multicare was able to avoid them by tacking on "art" to the outside of the building including:

North Elevation: Large Relief Panels:  Allegorical bas relief sculptures in fired clay relief panels, similar in color to the bricks.  These are to be above the left and right windows.

Here's how the steam plant will look unless the variance decision is successfully appealed.

Here is the "art" which relives multi care of placing more windows on the facility.


Although it was a technical loss, the ultimate design is much better than originally proposed as a result of neighbors and commenters and a variety of active people.

comments [3]  |  posted under tacoma


by Erik on 4/7/2008 @ 12:53pm
The tribune appears to have picked up the follow up story:


by Todd K. on 4/7/2008 @ 1:49pm
Hi Erik,
I appreciate your zeal! But I wanted to point something out to you...the wall that is the subject of the variance is the north wall, which faces South 3rd Street. The three sides you show in these photos are not subject to the variance request.

In the pictures, you are saying the north side, but showing the elevation for the south side and east sides. The south side is where there will be an overhead door for deliveries and such, and it will be screened from street view. The south side doesn’t face a street, but a parking lot, so the transparency requirement doesn’t apply.

Also, the middle picture is the rear of the building, which faces our parking garage, so unless you are in the alley, you won’t see it. You show three sides, but it is the forth side that is the source of the variance request.

The reasoning for the request is not an attempt for us to usurp city codes or the wishes of the community, but to achieve the required seismic specifications. In essence, more windows means less structural integrity.

Thanks for letting me chime in!

Todd K.

by Erik on 4/7/2008 @ 1:54pm
Thanks for posting Todd and giving some additional information and context.

One of the reasons I posted was not just for the Multicare issue but that we have had the unfortunately experience in Tacoma of developers trying to place black walls in pedestrian areas for the last 40 years which has resulted in a lot of dead zones in the city.

Then they try to tack "art" up or put in a "water feature" to get around good urban design requirements.

Here's the Safeway discussion in the issue: