We filed our opening brief for the upcoming February 8th hearing in Superior Court. A big THANKS to everyone who has helped defray the costs of this appeal to date. Significant costs remain so all donations are truly appreciated.
The brief can be found here. It’s worth noting that the appeal is a challenge to the City Council’s decision to allow the rezone while illegally ignoring the current, applicable land use code. When the Council approves a contract rezone, they are acting in a quasi-judicial capacity, NOT a legislative capacity. They can’t just make up new regulations, they are bound to conform their decisions to existing land code. In this case the Council acted outside their authority.
THIS APPEAL AFFECTS THE WHOLE CITY
The Shared Roof project is the catalyst for the appeal but the impetus for the appeal is to prevent this erroneous decision from being applied to other developments in the future. The issue has serious implications for all neighborhoods, where commercial zones share lot lines with residential zones. The code clearly and wisely recognizes the need for upper level setbacks between these very different scale buildings. Air, light, and privacy are important for quality of life and economic value. That setback must occur on the higher density commercial lot being redeveloped.
In the Shared Roof project, the developer is attempting to buy a personal Land Use Code by acquiring the adjacent single-family parcels. SDCI was complicit in allowing this, and the Council knowingly looked the other way. This is not only illegal but sets the terrible precedent that developers could buy their way out of code compliance. The result could be the loss of single family homes when it’s more lucrative for a developer to purchase (and raze) the home on a shared property line to avoid the setback and provide the code-required “buffer” between zones on the newly vacant lot.
THE COUNCIL IS IGNORING THE LAND-USE CODE
The 7009 rezone also does not meet the rezone criteria in the Code. It is also based on an assumption that the future Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) legislation will be applied in this area. But that legislation is still being developed. Many communities are submitting amendments to the original legislation including amendment to strengthen and increase the code required setbacks, and limit the areas where it applies at all.
We cannot let Council members casually ignore the land use code in deference to the profit expectation of private investors and developers (on the hope that a few units of “affordable” housing will result). The rules must be applied evenly, fairly, and as written. That is the goal of this appeal.
Note that the hearing has been changed to February 8th. Please consider donating to defray the substantial legal costs of this appeal!
–Irene Wall and Bob Morgan
My name is Sandra Lange and I live at 6737 Sycamore Ave. N.W, Seattle, WA, 98117. I have lived in the Phinney Ridge area since 1973, and have seen our Seattle residents become increasingly nervous every about what every new “Land-Use Propsal” poster will mean for them, their house, their neighborhood and our City because of the relentless demolishing of everything that was good here and the construction of so many covert projects that are bad. Bad because they fray the strong and shining fibers of what any great community is.
This is happening in this formerly working class part of town and everywhere else too – Capitol Hill, Central District, University District, West Seattle – wherever developers can get property with the potential to make super-profitable construction. Generally much bigger, taller, closer, denser, less access/parking, fewer trees and vegetation, etc. very formulaic. Every proposal approved by the City now seems to take away positive things and bring negative things.
I retired from Shoreline, Coastal, Floodplian and Land Use Planning three years ago, but I worked with many wonderful City of Seattle Planners through the past 25 years, and I think something is very wrong with the way Seattle is implementing their City Comprehensive (GMA) Plan and Land Use Code standards and development regulations. When I worked with their Planners we would research and establish what Zoning existed for a parcel(s), uses – allowed or conditional, what the Standards are (height, bulk, setbacks), and the process by which any of those things could be changed. In this subject project, it is clear the Developer has been calling the shots from the beginning and the City is either acquiescing to their desires, ot the City has become an advocate for the Developer to the point it is comfortable being a bully to the neighborhood residents who are those who will have to live forever with whatever construction gets thrown up at that site.
The City should remember that is true for all the projects that people do not want to see built in a greedy, oversized way that can often kill the commercial or residential spirit by it’s very existence. I beseech you, the City DPD or SCDI, to trust and rely on your Planners and your Seattle Plans and Codes, which have been hammered out through changing times, new needs, and an assessment of where we are now. As a GMA Planner in the early Oughts, I know that Seattle reached its GMA growth and density targets long ago, and that the new “housing” being added at such a breakneck speed has little to do with “affordable” housing or homing the homeless – the speed is for greed at this point and it should be curtailed now!
Resume implementation of the Comprehensive Plan and Seattle Land Use Codes as they are written. Do not make off-the-cuff administrative variances and spot re-zones that cause unjustifiable inconsistencies.