Perhaps you thought that being an architect was all about creativity and drawing pretty pictures? Wrong. I probably would have been better served to go to law school in order to design buildings.Idiocy like he describes is not unfortunately confined to Seattle; it is worldwide. There is no shortage of it here in Auckland -- the same people he describes sit behind the same desks here -- and all you can do as an applicant is smile and nod and grit your teeth. All of us pay the cost for the bumbling and the interfering; for the ignorance and the bossiness and all the stupid rules and guidelines, all administered by morons. Whether you're building or just living or working in a building -- and that of course makes all of us -- we all pay the cost, and we're all poorer for the nonsense he describes. Why, I wonder, do we all just sit back and let it happen?
One of my hard and fast rules when preparing documents to present to permitting authorities is this: it is impossible to underestimate the intelligence of a plan reviewer, or to overestimate their inefficiency and lack of work ethic. I drill this rule into the heads of my assistants, and keeping it in mind has served us well on many occasions. Plan reviewers, of course, are inextricably bound by the rules of bureaucracy. Their only accountability, such as it is, is to other bureaucrats. They have essentially permanent job security (it is much harder to fire an assistant land use planner than it is to impeach a President or indict a crooked Congressman). Most of them are shockingly ignorant, even of their own professed specialties, and there are strong disincentives for them to be otherwise. They also have a tendency to be extremely bigoted in a narrow range of prejudice: rabid environmentalism, extreme moral elitism, and intellectual narcissism.
There are exceptions, of course, and we are fortunate that is the case. However, the pressure on these exceptions to conform to the mediocracy is very high, and they tend not to last. Beware the land use planner who has a degree in planning, more than a decade of seniority, and no experience working in the private sector.
Every time you clamour for a new stupid rule you give these people power, you add costs, you increase delays, and the unintended consequences of your stupid rule are generally worse than what your rule was intended to solve. Why do we let you do it?
Linked Post: More Adventures in Bureaucracy