Shared Roof Appeal – March update

The Court Orders a Remand of “Shared Roof” Decision Back to the City Council

Background: Livable Phinney is providing the use of its website to apprise our neighbors about the legal challenge to City Council’s decision to allow a contested rezoning of the property at 7009 Greenwood (the “Shared Roof” project). More background information is in earlier posts on this site.

Superior Court Hearing and Outcome – A Partial Victory

Superior Court Judge Ken Schubert presided over the hearing on February 8th. The issues revolved around compliance with the Seattle land use code that requires building setbacks between single family and commercial zones unless there is a “major physical buffer.”  The code defines major physical buffers as “topographic breaks, lakes, rivers, streams, ravines and shorelines; Freeways, expressways, other major traffic arterials, and railroad tracks; Distinct change in street layout and block orientation and (lastly) open space and greenspaces.”

When the City Council approved the rezone, they added the condition that the undeveloped SF lot must remain a landscaped open space. However, that only provides a partial “buffer” since Shared Roof building will extend across the entire backyard of the developed SF home at 7010 Palatine.  Further the developer’s plans encroach on the backyard to build a wall and a concrete walkway behind the Shared Roof building. And the SF home at 7014 Palatine will also feel the effects of a 55-foot tall building at their SW corner.

At the hearing, Judge Schubert indicated that he could accept the concept of the vacant lot serving as a buffer but did not find evidence to support treating the backyard of the 7010 home as meeting that requirement. On March 5th, he remanded the matter back to the City Council to amend their decision. The problem is that his remand order is flawed. It usurps the Council’s authority to determine the appropriate mitigation and conditions for granting rezones and it specifies that the Developer gets to choose from two options selected by his attorney, neither of which resolves the fundamental problem which led to the appeal nor are they consistent with the code.

The Next Step – Seek Reconsideration of the Order

On March 15th the Appellants requested that the Judge reconsider his decision about the terms of the remand. Find the Appellant’s Motion here.

The Judge will entertain a motion for reconsideration and now we will have another round of briefing on this issue of how to write the remand order to preserve the authority of the City Council when authorizing contract rezones and the required conditions imposed when granting such a special privilege to a developer/property owner.

While the Appellants reject the loose interpretation allowing the vacant lot to be considered a major physical buffer, we are not seeking to overturn that aspect of the Court’s ruling. We are hoping that the Council, when they consider the implications of this decision, will further amend the terms of the contract rezone and reject the “development site” argument that allows a developer to buy their way out of compliance with the code by purchasing adjacent SF homes and calling their backyards a major physical buffer between zones. This would create a situation along many blocks of Phinney, Palatine and Greenwood, where developers will outbid potential homeowners for those houses adjacent to the commercial zone and allow oversized buildings to rob those backyards of light, air and privacy that the code is supposed to protect.

The complexity of this case has created even greater legal costs than originally estimated. If you can contribute we would be most appreciative!

PLEASE Donate Here.

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Thank you!

Irene Wall and Bob Morgan


Letter to Mike O’Brien with suggested MHA amendments

In January, Livable Phinney sent a letter to Councilmember Mike O’Brien with suggested amendments to the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) legislation that will upzone areas throughout the city, including Phinney Ridge.

To the best of our knowledge, Mr. O’Brien has completely ignored this letter and our suggestions.

The text of the letter is below. Click here to download the PDF.

January 15, 2019

Councilmember Mike O’Brien -Via email
Re: Amendments to MHA Legislation

Dear CM O’ Brien,

Livable Phinney is a Washington non-profit corporation that focuses on reasonable development for the Phinney Ridge neighborhood. We have reviewed the proposed MHA legislation and have several concerns about its potential impact on Phinney Ridge. To that end, we are proposing several amendments that we hope you will consider and sponsor as MHA gets amended over the coming months.

For Council members who are unfamiliar with our neighborhood, it is important to understand that Greenwood and Phinney Ridge are really two separate neighborhoods, although they are considered together in the Greenwood/Phinney Urban Village Plan that was created in the 1990s. The neighborhood plan for these two neighborhoods recognizes Greenwood Town Center at the intersection of Greenwood Avenue North and North 85th as the focal point of development in this area. Around that location, there is north /south and east/west bus service, there is a concentration of mixed use and multi-family zoning over several blocks in each direction, there are large grocery stores, the neighborhood library, and several other features associated with an “urban village.” This area is commonly known as “Greenwood,” and we take no position on the MHA impacts in this area.

Phinney Ridge begins at North. 75th Street and extends south along Phinney Avenue to where we intersect with the Fremont neighborhood at Market/46th.The Phinney Ridge portion of the Greenwood/Phinney Urban Village is the “tail” that terminates at North 67th. South of 67th, Phinney Avenue is the arterial, and that street is zoned mostly NC2-40 and LR3 (low rise residential, 30 feet). Every NC2-40 lot on the Greenwood arterial in the Urban Village, and every NC2-40 and LR3 lot on the Phinney Avenue arterial south of the urban village share their rear property lines with the adjacent single family zone. None of these are large lots and much of the L3 parcels have always been developed with single family homes, some of which are divided into multiple units, but appear as single homes.

In the current MHA legislation, every parcel on the Greenwood and Phinney arterials in Phinney Ridge would be upzoned. The NC2-40 lots would be upzoned to 5-story, 55+ foot buildings, and the LR3 lots would be upzoned to 4 stories. While that might make sense in some areas, it would be a terrible and unnecessary mistake in Phinney Ridge. We urge you to exempt Phinney Ridge from the MHA upzones, and we offer specific proposals to accomplish that at the end of this letter.

Phinney Ridge is one of the only areas in the city where there is absolutely no transition between the NC2-40 lots and the adjacent single family zone. Every NC2-40 lot on Greenwood Avenue in the Urban Village and on Phinney Avenue outside the urban village boundary shares its rear boundary with the adjacent single family zone. We recommend that you amend MHA to prohibit the NC2-55 zone for NC2-40 lots that abut a lot in the single family zone.

The Director’s Report on MHA recognized this anomaly on page 89 of that report. This edge condition is recognized in SMC 23.47A.014.B, of the current Land Use Code where the Code requires specific setbacks on all floors above the first floor for the buildings on the NC2-40 lots. The current MHA legislation proposes to increase the fifth floor setback by one foot. But we do not think the City should allow five story buildings anywhere where those NC lots share a property boundary with the single family zone. Therefore, we recommend that you amend Table A for Section 1 standard Zoning changes in the MHA legislation (this was the title in CB119184; we have not looked for amended legislation as of this letter) to specify that NC2-40 lots that abut lots in single family zones will not be upzoned to NC2-55.

Next, we recommend that you maintain the LR3 height limits at 30-feet along Phinney Avenue south of the urban village boundary. Because these lots are on top of a hill, the increased height has even greater shadow impacts on the adjacent single family zone. The current Land Use Code at SMC 23.45.514 (Structure height in LR zones) includes Footnote 2 that limits LR3 height to 30 feet for LR3 lots in an urban village that are adjacent to the SF zone, where the zoning would otherwise allow forty feet. The proposed MHA legislation increases LR3 to at least 40 feet inside and outside the urban village and removes that footnote that would otherwise protect single family zones. To preserve he LR3 at 30 feet in Phinney Ridge, we recommend that you keep Footnote 2 to Table A in SMC 23.34.514 and also specifically attach it to the LR3 zone outside the urban village where MHA proposes to upzone to 40 feet.

These amendments also address the very real transportation constraints in Phinney Ridge that would be needlessly exacerbated by upzoning. Unlike most other urban villages, there is only one bus line (Route #5) that serves the Phinney Ridge neighborhood., running north / south through downtown, which means residents of Phinney Ridge have far fewer convenient transportation options than residents of other urban villages and their nearby areas. Upzoning all of Phinney Ridge will exacerbate this problem past the breaking point. We know from personal experience that this bus is frequently overcrowded, late and generally unreliable now, and Phinney Ridge is not even close to being developed to its current zoning potential under the existing code. Overcrowding on the #5 bus negatively impacts our neighbors in Fremont as well. Buses are frequently unable to take on Fremont passengers south of 43rd.

We have reviewed parking studies for several recent developments in Phinney Ridge, and all of those studies confirm that the surrounding streets are already parked up past their capacity. Upzoning will make things even worse. There is currently a 55-unit, no parking building under construction. It that building were built to MHA zoning, it would have over 70 units on one single parcel. Phinney Ridge does not have transit or street parking capacity for upzoning.

Furthermore, Phinney Ridge already houses numerous affordable units in the existing old buildings. The City should not incentivize the demise of those buildings by upzoning them.

Thank you for your consideration of these proposals.


Livable Phinney
Michael Richards, Jan Weldin, Irene Wall

7009 Greenwood (“Shared Roof”) Appeal in Court, February 8th

On February 8th, our attorney will present our arguments to Judge Ken Schubert in our appeal of the City Council’s decision to grant the contract rezone for the 7009 Greenwood (Shared Roof) project. Our most recent memorandum to the Court can be found here. In this document we respond to the developer’s arguments defending the city’s erroneous decision.

We proceed to court after we were unable to reach a compromise on the design of the project. We initiated an offer to find a reasonable settlement; however, our ideas for any change in the design of the building were rejected by the developer.

It is important to recall why we are sustaining this appeal despite the mounting legal costs.

Allowing this decision to go unchallenged would establish a precedent for other developers to purchase and raze homes on single family (SF) zoned lots that share property lines with commercial lots to create the required “buffer” between zones. This condition exists all along Phinney and Greenwood on both side of the arterial where the NC2-40 zone is one lot deep and shares a property boundary with lots zoned SF since 1957.

The pattern of modest commercial buildings and lowrise apartments is fast giving way to much taller, larger new mixed-use buildings. The economic incentive to build taller and larger buildings, especially if Mandatory Housing Affordability upzones legislation passes, will lead developers to seek the same deal that Shared Roof is demanding. The longstanding code requirements that call for gradual transitions in height between zones, and minimum setbacks from property lines between zones to preserve light, air, and privacy between residential and commercial zones, must be protected.

It appears the only way to do this is through the courts.

The Council made a mistake in approving the contract rezone; that mistake can be corrected without preventing construction of the Shared Roof project at this site if the legal setbacks are provided.

Please help us turn this around before a bad land use precedent is created that will have implications for the future of the Phinney-Greenwood neighborhood and every other place in Seattle where historic zoning boundaries provide no transition between zones. If this decision stands, homeowners can expect to see 5-plus-story buildings rising at their backyard fence.

Share this information with your neighbors and anyone concerned with transparency and fairness in the city’s application of the land use code.

Donations to defray legal costs can be made by clicking the “Donate” button below, or drop by the Homestreet Bank at 73rd and Greenwood and make a deposit to the Livable Phinney account. To date, donations total less than 7% of incurred and anticipated expenses.

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–Irene Wall & Bob Morgan

Setback on parking at City Council. Herbold stands up for us.

We are disappointed but not surprised to report that 7 members of the City Council voted today for the terribly flawed parking code change legislation. The exception was Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who spoke eloquently and factually in favor of her SEPA authority restoration amendment. Only Council president Bruce Harrell was willing to support this common-sense provision to allow consideration of mitigation of parking impacts in very limited circumstances. But in the end he voted to approve the legislation without this amendment. Kshama Sawant was absent today.

Lisa was the lone “No” vote, and we should all be grateful for her efforts on behalf of all of us, not just the people in her district. Thank you, Lisa, for being the voice of reason and fairness! 

The majority of people making public comment spoke in favor of Lisa’s amendment and asked the Council to reconsider the changes related to zero parking and redefining Frequent Transit Service. The voice of the people did not penetrate through the anti-car ideology and the fiction that housing will become affordable if developers can avoid the cost of building any parking.

We will be consulting with our attorney about the next steps, so watch for news later this week.

–Irene Wall for Livable Phinney

Parking: Read the letter to City Council from community leaders across the city

March 26, 2018

Hon. Bruce Harrell
President, Seattle City Council and all Council Members
600 Fourth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104

Re: Council Bill 119173 Neighborhood Parking Code Changes

Dear President Harrell and Council Members:

We are writing a second time to express our growing concern over the actions of the PLUZ committee on March 21st that took radical steps to advance the personal agenda of two council members in complete disregard for any opinions or facts offered by other Councilmembers and the public. Their actions reflect an ideological approach where anything contrary to their closely held belief that parking is unnecessary and must be stamped out citywide is dismissed.

Lisa Herbold has been the exception, listening and asking thoughtful questions about the lopsided legislation and asking for the restoration of SEPA authority to be used when parking impacts become truly significant. Even this reasonable request was rejected by members Johnson and O’Brien. A committee with such a wide difference of opinion should seek to resolve and adjust based on real life concerns expressed by a Council member to ensure that changes work on behalf of all people represented. But there was no quarter given to Herbold’s amendment and her reasoning for supporting it. This reflects badly on the Council and undermines the public trust that committees can find consensus on controversial issues.

We do not object to all aspects of the legislation, however several of the changes being proposed simply defy reality and will bring genuine harm to many parts of the city.

  • We ask that the Council enact Herbold’s amendment and restore SEPA mitigation authority for parking impact in all FTS areas when street parking is 85% utilized. Leave in place all options for mitigation to provide SDCI with the tools to achieve compliance with SEPA.
  • We ask that no changes be made to the current code definition of “frequent transit” until there is a valid study proving a nexus between transit proximity and parking demand.
  • We ask that you postpone action on CB 119173 until the companion RPZ legislation is made public.

Our major concerns are as follows:

There is no relationship between proximity to “frequent transit” and car usage and the need for safe places to park cars. Even SDCI acknowledges that a minimum of 30% to 35% of residents in “smaller sized housing in areas well-served by transit” still have cars! 1 At a minimum all developments should meet this very low threshold for on-site parking. The unfortunate effect of maintaining and expanding the zero parking areas is to create unsafe conditions on more residential streets with illegal parking and rising tensions as more and more cars are competing for limited parking places. People use transit for some trips but still need cars for other trips even if they live close to the bus. This includes people of all income levels, renters and homeowners. The push to eliminate parking negatively effects the freedom of the mobility-impaired and older citizens who can no longer walk easily, but are still able to drive to their necessary destinations. Parking is consistent with the Age-Friendly City initiative.

The neighborhood parking code change should not be divorced from pending RPZ code changes. These changes should be considered at the same time since they are so inter-dependent. There is no reason to push one ahead of the other except to hide this connection and possible negative consequences.

SEPA mitigation authority for parking impacts must be restored without limitation. The city comprehensive plan and code still acknowledge that parking is an element of the environment. However, in 2010 the council singled out parking in “frequent transit areas” for denial of mitigation, regardless of the significance of the impact. Now we have the bizarre situation where developers produce parking utilization studies showing no capacity to absorb more on street parking, but SDCI is powerless to impose any reasonable mitigation and developers of high density projects produce no parking for either their tenants or customers of the commercial uses in NC zones. Mitigation must include the potential to require some onsite parking or rebalancing the demand with the available parking supply. Creative mitigation options such as a car-free lease should be given full consideration and not dismissed out of hand. This has the potential to balance the “no car” theology with reality and reduce the number of parking spaces needed. The cost savings from building less parking could then be shared with the tenants who agree to the car free lease conditions while they live in that building.

Actual rents are not related to the cost of constructing parking on site. Except for MFTE units and income restricted units, the market determines the rent. Allowing developers to externalize the cost of parking does not reduce rents. Mandatory unbundling (charging separately for parking) could end up increasing the cost of housing for renters as they get priced out of their on-site parking spaces even though no additional construction costs have been incurred. The unbundling conditions should be more nuanced.

Over parked streets harm neighborhood business, undermine the livability of urban villages and turn people against urban density. When residential parking usurps commercial spaces, local small business suffers. Few neighborhood businesses survive with walk in customers only. Residents in new mixed-use buildings and apartments should have safe places to park their cars without having to circle for blocks hoping to find a place to park.

We need to refocus on improving transit before withholding parking. Improving transit access, speed, and reliability will do more to reduce congestion and decrease vehicle miles traveled than reducing the parking supply. The current proposal relies on a simplistic definition of “frequent transit” that ignores overcrowding and Metro’s current and projected shortage of capacity.

Many people are negatively impacted by the cost of housing and traffic congestion. However, we need a calibrated and pragmatic approach to addressing these challenges. Merely eliminating parking (both on street and on-site) does not address either of these problems.

Like all land use matters, parking has become divisive and that is why the entire Council should take the time to study the details, only then will the reasonable solutions be found that address the needs of all Seattle citizens today as well as tomorrow.

Thank you from the undersigned concerned citizens of Seattle:

  • Irene Wall, Phinney Ridge
  • Mike Mcadams, Greenwood
  • Cindi Baker, Morgan Junction
  • Sandra Wheeler, Eastlake
  • Martin Kaplan, Queen Anne
  • Steve Sewell, Phinney Ridge
  • Deb Barker, Morgan Junction
  • Donn Cave, Wallingford
  • Tim Motzer, Lake City
  • Maria Batayola Beacon Hill
  • Alex Pedersen, Roosevelt
  • Kathryn Keller, Central Area
  • David Moehring, Magnolia
  • Susanna Lin, Wallingford
  • Jessica Cunningham, Fremont
  • John Shepherd, Phinney (Red Mill Burger)
  • Toby Thaler, Fremont Neighborhood Council
  • Mira Latoszek, North Beacon Hill
  • Susan Grote, Fremont
  • Jeffrey Cook, Rainier Beach
  • Jon Lisbin, Ballard
  • Tamsen Spengler. Morgan Junction

Parking showdown! Attend April 2 City Council meeting!

 Join us at April 2 City Council meeting to counter aggressive anti-parking advocates!

The April 2nd City Council meeting is shaping up to be a showdown over neighborhood parking. (See the call to action below from 350Seattle.)

Please show up to counter this “opposition” who are mistaken in so many ways about the effect of the proposed parking code legislation, which is NOT the environmental band-aid they claim it is.

Monday, April 2 at 2:00 PM, City Council Chambers… Get there early to sign up for public comment period at the top of the hour

Talking Points

  • ADOPT Council member Herbold’s proposal to restore SEPA authority for parking mitigation in frequent transit areas. See details below for vehicle ownership facts by Council District and the need for relief from overcrowded street parking with new development.
  • The number of cars in Seattle increases with our growth; people are bringing cars and buying cars. They are also taking transit. They are not mutually exclusive realities.
  • If streets are for people, then put the cars BENEATH BUILDINGS! More density means more cars so store them underground.
  • Less on site parking means MORE DRIVING AROUND LOOKING FOR PARKING
  • Most apartment unbundle parking now, making it mandatory is only LINING THE POCKETBOOKS OF DEVELOPER WHO WILL CHARGE TENANT MORE THAN THEY ARE PAYING NOW and further burdening landlords with more regulations.
  • Less on site parking does not lower rents… have Seattle rents gone down since 2010 when the FTS zero and reduced parking code went into effect? NO BECAUSE MARKET DEMAND DICTATES RENT, NOT PARKING..
  • Flexible use parking is ok but will not work if new buildings do not provide ANY parking to flex!
  • Remember Parked Cars are Not Polluting!
  • GO ahead with the bike parking code changes. We have no argument with that.


SUPPORT LISA HERBOLD’S SEPA AMENDMENT TO THE LEGISLATION. It’s a sensible way of allowing reasonable mitigation depending on individual location circumstances to provide safer streets, protect local businesses and give newcomers a safe place to park their cars.


District 1

  • In the southwest end of the district there are three census tracks that have car ownership rates of 80%, 88%, and 95% yet due to the C line and the 21 line, the proposed legislation will be reducing parking by 50% in certain areas. On Avalon there is a car ownership rate of 87%, but the proposed legislation will reduce parking by 50% in certain areas.
  • In the Morgan Junction urban village they have a car ownership rate of 83%, but no parking minimum. (Argument for including SEPA mitigation)

District 2

  • In Beacon Hill there’s a census block with 87% car ownership, but the proposed legislation will reduce parking by 50% in certain areas.
  • In the majority of Columbia City urban village there’s a car ownership rate of 84%, but no parking minimum (argument for including SEPA mitigation).
  • In the North Beacon Bill urban village there’s a car ownership rate of 84%, but no parking minimum (argument for including SEPA mitigation).

District 3

  • On the eastside of the 23rd & Union-Jackson urban village there is a car ownership rate of 82%, but no parking minimum (argument for including SEPA mitigation).
  • Just southeast of the 23rd & Union-Jackson urban village there is a car ownership rate of 80%, but the proposed legislation will reduce parking by 50% in certain areas.
  • Just east of the Madison-Miller urban village there’s a car ownership rate of 89%, but the proposed legislation will reduce parking by 50% in most areas.

District 4

  • In the north part of Laurelhurst there’s car ownership rates of 94% and 98%, but the proposed legislation will reduce parking by 50% in certain areas.

District 5

  • Just south of the Lake City Urban Village, along Lake City Way, there are car ownership rates of 81%, 85%, and 88%, but the proposed legislation will reduce parking by 50% in certain areas.
  • In the South end of the Aurora-Licton Springs urban village there is a car ownership rate of 90%, but no parking minimum (argument for including SEPA mitigation).

District 6

  • In the north end of the Greenwood-Phinney Ridge urban village there is a car ownership rate of 86%, but no parking minimum (argument for including SEPA mitigation).
  • In south end of the Crown Hill urban village there is a car ownership rate of 95%, but no parking minimum in the urban village (argument for including SEPA mitigation) and a 50% reduction outside of the urban village.
  • In north end of the Ballard urban village there is a car ownership rate of 85%, but no parking minimum in the urban village (argument for including SEPA mitigation) and a 50% reduction outside of the urban village.
  • In the Freemont urban village there are car ownership rates of 83% and 92%, but no parking minimum in the urban village (argument for including SEPA mitigation) and a 50% reduction outside of the urban village.
  • In the Wallingford urban village there is a car ownership rate of 79%, but no parking minimum (argument for including SEPA mitigation).

District 7

  • In Queen Anne there are care ownership rates ranging from 92% to 69%, with an average of 83%; however in the Upper Queen Anne urban village there are no parking minimums (argument for including SEPA mitigation) and a 50% reduction outside of the urban village.


–Irene Wall for Livable Phinney

Please spread the word!

See below for the 350Seattle message with the false promise of what this legislation can do. It will do NONE OF THESE THINGS!

Imagine legislation that could lower rents, relieve congestion, reduce carbon emissions and other pollution, and make bicycling easier. Changing city rules for off-street parking in new buildings can do all these things!

Come support prioritizing streets for mobility (transit, bikes, and pedestrians) rather than for parking: at City Council on Monday, April 2nd at 2pm. Whether by holding a sign or giving testimony, you can help us make it clear to the Council that Seattle must begin taking steps to build the healthy, affordable, and sustainable city we all deserve.

The legislation under consideration will:

  • Require landlords to unbundle the cost of parking from rent, so those without cars don’t have to pay for spaces.
  • Reduce how much parking a developer must construct in those parts of the city served by frequent transit, and therefore leave more room for housing and other uses.
  • Allow for off-site rental of underused private parking, which will also reduce the amount of new parking construction.
  • Improve bike storage and bike parking options.
  • Set stronger, more uniform standards for bicycle parking.

Curious to learn more about why we shouldn’t be seduced by easy parking? Watch this video.

Fixing the systems causing climate change will mean adaptations large and small to what our cities look like. De-prioritizing private cars is an important step in making Seattle healthier, safer, and easier to get around in. Please join us Monday!

In solidarity,

Andrew Kidde & the Transportation team

PLUZ Committee to vote on parking bill, Wednesday, March 21. Email your Councilmembers now!

Urgent Notice!

Council Bill (CB) 119173 will be presented before the Planning, Land Use, and Zoning (PLUZ) committee of the City Council on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. If the committee approves, the entire Council may vote as early as Monday March 26. If the Council decides to vote this legislation in, it would only have to be signed by the Mayor to become our new way of having much less parking – both on our residential streets and along any business district close to so-called “frequent transit.”

NOW is the time to make our voices heard and get in touch with our representatives – both the City Council and Mayor’s Office.

Livable Phinney has reviewed CB 119173 carefully. If approved “as is”, this bill would allow Phinney Flats to go ahead without any on-site parking, and create a negative parking impact throughout much of Seattle. Below is a summary of our major concerns about CB 119173:

  1. Frequent Transit Associated with Parking. This bill continues to associate parking and car ownership (and the need to park) with frequent transit. That association is fantasy! Just because folks who do not have a car might choose to live near a bus route, it’s in error to conclude that those of us who live near that route don’t need a safe place to park cars. There is absolutely NO study that justifies elimination of parking to the extent that nearby streets would be way over capacity or local businesses will lose customers. This is legislation is based on ideology, not independent study or a practical, rational approach.
  2. One Size Fits All Policy. CB 119173 is not neighborhood specific but instead blankets the entire City. Parking need, and capacity for less parking, varies considerably by area/neighborhood. What might be reasonable for Capitol Hill might not be so for Greenwood or West Seattle.
  3. Redefining Frequent Transit. We were able to challenge the permit for Phinney Flats (a high density project with no parking) by proving the #5 bus didn’t meet the definition of frequent transit. Now, the Council PLUZ Committee wants to redefine “Frequent Transit” to the scheduled, hypothetical frequency of service, to justify proliferation of the parking exemption for developers along nearly all of the in-city King County bus routes.
  4. Restore SEPA Authority. The Council should restore SEPA authority to require mitigation for parking impacts when on-street use of parking capacity reaches 85%. This has been the practice citywide, but is currently prohibited in urban villages with “frequent transit within ¼ mile.” This exemption encourages developers to build apartments with many tiny units like Phinney Flats with no on-site parking, even when surrounding streets lack capacity for more cars.
  5. No Parking Required for Low Income Housing. CB 119173 seems to discriminate against low income residents by assuming they don’t need or have cars. How fair is that?
  6. Is CB 119173 “Age Friendly”? We think not – especially for residents currently in single-family homes who desire to keep their homes that are now affordable and/or age in place – and continue to drive. Unless one only goes downtown, transit simply doesn’t go where residents need to. Some areas (like Phinney Ridge) have steep grades that would preclude walking 1/4 mile to one’s car. Seattle has inclement weather. Making it difficult to find parking in areas that are already at capacity is not age friendly. Seattle has committed to being an Age Friendly City (
  7. Will Providing Less Parking Result in More Affordable Housing? According to the City, this is a major justification to CB 119173 (see FAQs at this link). Once again, the City Council is jumping to a conclusion without facts to back up the theory. There is no accepted study, including King County Right Sized Parking Study, that shows that reducing the parking supply results in more affordable housing. What reduced parking does lead to is an undersupply of parking – especially in areas already at full capacity. The only “gain” from undersupplying parking is profits for developers. The often quoted $50,000 per parking space in residential construction is at the very highest end of the spectrum – $25,000 is the more commonly agreed upon estimate. If properly priced, such parking will pay for itself over time just as apartments do. The connection between undersupply of parking and affordable housing is simply not there.
  8. Public Use of Accessory Parking. CB 1119173 proposes to mandate public access to unused parking – presumably in private parking areas. It is incredibly unclear how the City proposes to do this without legal challenges by those who own, use and pay for secure private parking.


The Council needs to hear that creating an undersupply of parking in new buildings is NOT going to result in more affordable housing. Ask the council to withdraw any code changes associated with Frequent Transit until we can work out a right-size parking approach. Rather than changing the definition of “Frequent Transit,” they should focus on improving transit performance and rider appeal so more people will reasonably use transit for more trips (and leave their car parked safety at home!)

E-mail address for City Council Members:

The Mayor’s email address is:

Thank you!

–Livable Phinney

We’re Still Fighting!

We recently received notice from SDCI that they have finally arrived at a “Supplement to Interpretation No. 17-002.” This is in response to the Hearing Examiner’s ruling in our appeal last year.

In a nutshell, the City would allow Phinney Flats to proceed with construction of 55+ units and NO PARKING. In the supplemental interpretation, the city again argues that the #5 bus meets the current definition of frequent transit based on the printed schedule and that using the schedule is the only way to measure frequent transit. We disagree because we know that actual performance, regularity and crowding conditions should be used, not just a schedule, to define frequent transit. We continue to challenge the connection between bus frequency and car usage, but that is a matter for the City Council and outside the legal boundaries of this interpretation.

However, the supplemental interpretation can be appealed, and we have done that. Click here to read the appeal we have filed, in PDF format.

We simply don’t think this proposed re-definition is in the best interest of our neighborhood or what our supporters wanted as they have thus far generously donated to fight this decision. Though we have already gained a few concessions from the developer, Johnson and Carr (2nd floor setback, removal of the north clerestory, etc.), the primary neighborhood-wide concern was the addition of potentially 40+ more cars to park on our already overcrowded streets.

We will once again incur legal fees to present our case. Please help spread the word. We need to fight this together – as a neighborhood that cares about responsible growth – not a reduction in livability!


Donations can be made through the Pay Pal button below. Checks can also be deposited directly to our account at the Home Street Bank, 73rd & Greenwood. We thank you very much for your continued support.

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Only two more meetings of the PLUZ Committee (3/7 and 3/21) before final Council vote.
Livable Phinney is also addressing the changes to parking policy being considered by the City Council. We attended a public comment session 2/21 at City Hall and spoke up for more sensible parking policy. Though we were outnumbered by a large group of organized folks representing the pro-HALA agenda, we hope our voices were heard. Please refer to the previous Update for a summary of that proposed change to city-wide parking policy. A video of that meeting and comments given can be found on the Seattle Channel:

The Council needs to hear that providing enough parking in new buildings is NOT PROMOTING POLLUTION. Mainstream environmental groups have dominated the conversation and are even promoting the concept that there should be NO CAR PARKING in any buildings within ½ mile of a “frequent transit stop.” The would double the distance from the current code which is bad enough. This would excuse developers from providing any parking virtually everywhere new dense development will occur.


Ask the council to withdraw any code changes associated with Frequent Transit until we can work out a right-size parking approach. Instead they should focus on improving transit performance so more people can reasonably use transit for more trips (and leave their car parked safety at home!)

Please help spread the word and Thank you all,
Livable Phinney

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Time to Call City Hall About Parking Code Changes

The City Council will soon be voting on major changes to the land use code concerning parking in new and existing buildings. The purpose of these changes is to make parking cars more difficult and more expensive everywhere.  The theory is that people will give up their cars in favor of bus rides, bike rides and walking.  The other theory is that housing without parking is less expensive to build and those savings will “trickle down” to renters.

But there is no guarantee that letting developers produce zero on-site parking will achieve either of these goals.  We know that our streets are already full, and on-site parking is needed even when people take the bus to work. Rents have escalated steadily in the face of massive housing development and reduced parking requirements since 2010. No trickle down.

These code changes persist in connecting parking requirements to frequent transit. There is no justification for this. The code changes are driven by wishful thinking and getting ahead of reality and well ahead of King County Metro’s ability to provide sufficient transit service.  They impose a “one size fits all” approach which ignores the differences in topography, parking availability, and transit service in different neighborhoods.

You can read about the proposed changes at the city web site below:

Public Hearing February 21st at City Hall in the Morning – 9:30 AM

Here’s the Notice:


We hope to have a large turnout at the February 21st public hearing of Livable Phinney supporters and everyone who want reasonable parking policy in Seattle. The PLUZ Committee is recommending expansion of the “No Parking Required” policy and a change to the definition of Frequent Transit that will allow Phinney Flats and many other projects to proceed without providing parking – even outside of Urban Villages!

Plan to attend that public hearing and/or send in written comments to members of the PLUZ Council Committee ASAP.  The PLUZ will have more discussion about the proposal at their February 7th meeting where they will discuss changes to the definition of Frequent Transit Service. PLUZ member email addresses are below.


Livable Phinney has been following this proposal and our concerns are summarized below.

Problems with the current proposal:

  • Changes persist in connecting parking requirements to proximity to bus stops with “frequent transit,” People living close to frequent transit still have cars and need a safe place to park them even if they take the bus to work.
  • Redefines transit headway time to 18 minutes without any justification. Who considers an 18-minute wait for a bus to be “frequent transit” when Metro defines frequent transit as 15 minutes or less?  The proposed changes do nothing to increase the reliability or relieve crowding on Metro buses.
  • Using the new 18-minute headway allows expansion of the parking exemption into areas beyond Urban Villages (anywhere within 1/4 mile of ‘so called’ frequent transit).
  • Ignores the difference between bus schedules and actual bus arrivals in defining “frequent transit.” This, in effect, ignores the Hearing Examiner’s Decision in the Livable Phinney case which required SDCI to consider the differences between transit scheduled headways and actual headways.
  • Imposes new maximum limits on parking spaces in multi-family buildings – in effect eliminating otherwise available parking for tenants.
  • Mandates unbundling of parking spaces from rent in multi-family dwellings. This will push more cars onto surrounding streets and increase the cost of rent for current tenants. Lower income renters are most likely to suffer under this rule.
  • Removes the parking requirement for affordable housing units (don’t those tenants need or have cars too?)  Most affordable housing is subsidized by local, state and federal sources so Seattle tax payers are already absorbing much of the cost of these developments.

Amendments Needed For Reasonable Parking Requirements

#1. Restore authority under SEPA (environmental policies and code) to mitigate for parking impacts in new development in “frequent transit” areas. Today even when parking impacts are considered “significant” and street parking is already over capacity, SDCI can do nothing to mitigate the problem because the city intentionally reduced its own authority under SEPA.

#2. Institute a new Car-Free-Lease requirement.  Developers who don’t produce enough parking to meet demand should be required to have terms in their leases disallowing tenants from parking cars in overcrowded areas (more than 85% on street parking utilized). In return, these tenants should get a discount on their rent or a transit pass. This will acknowledge that the money developers save by not building parking is shared with tenants not getting parking.  Trickle down at work.

#3. Better definition of frequent transit is needed.  Maintain the 15-minute headway definition and require that compliance is based on recent bus performance, not merely printed schedules or maps generated by SDCI every two years as proposed. The data on transit performance is readily available. Enhance the definition of frequent transit to include crowding conditions.  People will not give up their cars when buses are too often late and very often overcrowded.  Metro produces an annual report on bus performance. That report could be used to determine if frequent transit criteria is met on any bus route at no additional administrative cost to the city or developers.

#4 Make the Decisions on Parking Requirements Data-Driven.  We live in the city of big data – we should use real data on transit performance, parking utilization, capacity and demand by neighborhood and type of development. The city is making decisions blindly or based on a few older studies, or done by self-interested entities.  The King County Right Size Parking Calculator needs to be updated to reflect conditions in Seattle in zero parking buildings.


  1. Submit written comments to the City Council.
  2. Attend the public hearing February 21st at the City Council Chambers at 9:30 am in City Hall (600 4th Ave. 2nd floor – entry at 5th and Cherry)
  3. Spread the word!

Thank you for keeping Seattle Livable for Everyone

Councilmember addresses:

Please write to City Council about new parking rules

Livable Phinney has been successful so far in winning some improvements to the Phinney Flats project and contesting the estimated 40+ additional cars that would be parking on our neighborhood streets. The favorable parking ruling was largely based on proving that the #5 bus did not meet the City’s definition of “Frequent Transit Service” based on 15 minute headways. The City’s parking exemption for Development in Urban Villages is based on the unsubstantiated belief that residents living close to frequent transit won’t have or need cars.

Now it looks like the City’s response to our successful parking exemption appeal will be to simply weaken the definition of Frequent Transit Service to the “Scheduled” arrival times rather than the actual bus headway performance. Since city buses often perform poorly to schedule, this change will make it much easier for developers to get an exemption from the parking requirement, which for many of them is only about profit. If the City Council pushes through this change, Phinney Flats will presumably be in compliance with the “new” definition and be able to move ahead with 55 units and NO PARKING! The resulting loss of Urban Village residential and commercial parking will mushroom throughout the entire City. The fake assumption that tenants there won’t have cars would be exploited not only in our neighborhood, but throughout the entire city.

Some members of the City Council continue to ignore the obvious fact that living in proximity to frequent transit (downtown and back) has little to do with vehicle ownership. We all know that many of us need cars for a multitude of reasons, such as ferrying our children for east-west city travel, recreation trips, weekly shopping trips, etc. Yet the City and some Council members continue to use this fallacy to push their agenda that creates parking mayhem in our neighborhoods. Car2Go and Uber don’t reduce car miles and still require parking spaces.

The Council is poised to take up the series of parking code amendments, including the redefinition of Frequent Transit Service. The legislation was briefed on January 3rd and will come before the PLUZ committee on January 17th.

People concerned with inadequate parking and the disconnect between transit use and car parking are urged to write to all PLUZ Committee members. A few suggested points to make:

  • Not providing parking does not result in cheaper rents
  • The amount of parking any development provides must be related to the
    demand it will generate – not proximity to a bus stop.
  • Overflow parking from an Urban Village into the surrounding
    neighborhood, and the ability of that neighborhood to absorb additional
    Parked vehicles, needs to be considered. Estimated parking demand over
    and above a neighborhood’s capacity should trigger required mitigation.
  • Buildings that do not provide adequate parking for the number of residents
    that will predictably have cars should be excluded from receiving Restricted
    Parking Zone (RPZ) Permits.
  • A means to enforce a “No Car Lease” can be developed for buildings or
    apartments that have units reserved for tenants without vehicles. A “No
    Car Lease” is entirely consistent with the city’s rationale that people
    without cars “self- select” to live in buildings with no parking on site.

Livable Phinney submitted a letter when the proposed parking code changes were first announced last fall. You can see a copy on our website, posted on September 30th. CLICK HERE.

PLUZ Committee website:

PLUZ Committee Members:

Thank you! Please make time to write to the committee members!

Livable Phinney

NOTE: A public hearing will be scheduled in February. Check for the
announcement of this date at: http://www/