SEATTLE COMMUNITY COUNCIL FEDERATION
Dr Glover Barnes
invite you to a
Saturday, August 23rd, 3-5 P.M.
at the home of Dr. Glover Barnes
3415 South McClellan Street
Meet and talk with other aware activists,
friends and, perhaps, candidates
Bring a dish, salad or desert to share
Coffee and soft drinks provided
Meeting Highlights - July 24, 2008
(These pages are based on the editor's notes --- they are not official minutes).
Paperwork Blitz: Wow! 22 separate handouts, a quarter inch thick, subjects from A (Aviation) to Z (zoning).
President's Report: The Federation sent letters to the City asking for an independent oversight committee on the Pike Market Levy; expressing concern about putting four projects in the new parks levy to replace natural turf with synthetic; commenting on the Children's Hospital draft environmental impact statement.
The workshop on June 21st adopted a work plan to support an ordinance establishing interim controls to stop development of townhouses from invading and destroying more neighborhoods.
Summer picnic potluck: The Federation accepted the generous offer of Dr. Glover Barnes to host our 2008 potluck at his home, 3415 S McClellan St, Seattle, on Saturday, August 23rd, 3-5 P.M. Please come.
Housing crisis for low-income residents: Seattle has lost 3870 units of rental housing for people earning below 50% of median income:
Year 2005 2006 2007 Total
Rentals lost to demolition 421 433 973 1828
Rentals lost to conversion 501 882 660 2042
Rentals lost to speculation (e.g.fixer-uppers) 500 500 500 1500
Newly built subsidized units (est.) 500 500 500 1500
Net loss of low income housing units 922 1315 1613 1633
5370 gross lost
1500 gross added
3870 net lost
About 3.6 low income units are lost for every new one built.
Instead of targeting tax breaks and zoning bonuses on replacing the low income housing lost, the City passed an ordinance granting developers a 12 year tax exemption for buildings if 20% of the units are rented for the next 12 years at "affordable" rates, i.e. $1,200 per month plus utilities for a studio apartment (no parking) subject to annual upward adjustment. A recent survey of 11 apartments built from 2000-2006 showed that all but the one downtown rented a studio at $ 1200 or less per month and the median rent for a one-bedroom unit was $1285. By 2080, the City has built 50% of the number of units needed to meet its target for 2024!
The tax freedom ordinance will accelerate the loss of low income housing since developers buy and tear down the older housing, which generally rents for less, and is therefore occupied by lower income people.
Density the mantra: Two years ago Mayor Greg Nickels wrote the Puget Sound Regional Council asking it to set a growth target of 350,000 more people in Seattle by 2040, more than a 60% increase in the current population. With that goal, the Mayor and the Director of Planning and Development ("DPD") are rolling out a red carpet for developers by making even more pro-developer interpretations and applications of existing codes; giving developers tax breaks; and proposing wholesale changes to the Land Use Code to assist townhouses and multi-family structures with the effect of crowding more people with less space per person; building higher, bigger, bulkier, and with fewer amenities; ignoring environmental impacts in the city and shifting costs of infrastructure for the growth to the public; cramming townhouses into single family zones, providing administrative up-zoning, and letting developers buy building height and bulk by paying into a fund. Already, the Mayor and the City Council upzoned downtown, limited SEPA requirements to structures with 100 units or more, cut parking and open space requirements, shelved neighborhood plans, and gave developers a 12 year tax holiday.
That's just starters. Without bothering to amend the comprehensive plan, as the Growth Management Law requires, the mayor and DPD are pushing for 212 pages of amendments to the Land Use Code. (See below). The City Council is listening to the developers more than ever before. The mayor's people say that cheap construction means lower rents, that concentrating housing and commerce in Seattle saves green space in the suburbs; and Shanghai-like heaping of people and business cuts commuting and greenhouse gases. No mention or thought occurs to the quality of life in Seattle.
Land Use Code Amendments: The City's Workforce Housing taskforce made its report to the City Council. Of the 27 members, 16 represent for-profit developers, 7 non-profit developers, 2 the Cascade Land Conservancy, 1 the Downtown Seattle Association and 1 the Chamber of Commerce.
The Report recommended:
(a) the 12-year tax holiday for developers;
(b) incentive zoning to let developers buy up-zones by contributing to a fund; and (c) a long array of code amendments to increase density and reduce amenities. SLUFAN, an association of developers in the South Lake Union area, proposed up-zones: the densest would add 38,000 dwellings and 12 million square feet of commercial development with height limits up to 400'; the second would allow 34,000 dwellings and nine million square feet of commercial development with 400' heights along Aurora and 300' in the core area; and the third calls for 25,000 more dwellings, 7,000,000 square feet of commercial development with height limits of 240'. All wall off Westlake Ave. by Lake Union Park with buildings at least 85' high and the densest plan, 300.' The Council is considering them.
Townhouses coming next door? The Mayor is proposing to amend the Seattle Municipal Code 23.34.013 to allow administrative reclassification of single family residential zones to multi-family as follows:
"B. multifamily-zoned areas are appropriately designated, especially when properties in the area are developed predominantly to the permitted scale, and if applicable density, of that multifamily zone.-
"D. Multifamily zoning is appropriate for areas that are generally within one half mile of existing or projected facilities and services used by residents, including retail sales and services, schools, parks and community centers."
In lay terms, Subsection B says up-zoning to townhouses is appropriate from single family zoning wherever the area is fully built up with homes. Subsection D says it's okay wherever the site is within half a mile of facilities, now or planned, for people to gather. (No single family site in Seattle is more than a half mile from a park, school, community center, church, mall or neighborhood shopping center or mall, or office building.) Under the scheme, developers could buy a house anywhere, apply for an administrative rezone, knock the house down, and build townhouses, and there would be no appeal to the hearing examiner. Since single family zoned lots sell for less than L-2 and L-3 lots, the change would be an incentive for developers to buy them and cram more townhouses into single family zones. No downzoning would be allowed. The overall plan is to make a "gradual transition in the scale and intensity of development." SMC 23.34.013 F.
Mercer Mess: To seek a solution, first identify the problem. For most Seattleites the "Mercer Mess" is the winding, slow driving between I-5 and Seattle Center and its resolution would assist the flow to move faster, safer, and more directly; for Paul Allen's Vulcan Properties, the mess is the volume of through traffic, and the solution is to reduce the amount, slow the flow, and create a seamless link between Vulcan's South Lake Union redevelopment area and the Lake Union waterfront. The Mayor and eight City Councilmembers bought into the Vulcan vision. By an 8-1 vote, the City Council approved the Mayor's Mercer Corridor Project that will cost at least $200,000,000, but the City Council has yet to appropriate the moneys and issue councilmanic bonds for it. The mayor wants to start breaking ground in two months. The plan calls for making a six block section of Mercer St. two-way traffic, six narrower traffic lanes, beautification and adding more stop lights; it changes so that Broad and Mercer Sts. will intersection Aurora and puts stop lights there.
2010 P.M. Peak hour travel time would increase:
No Action 2010 with Project
Westbound I-5 to north Seattle Center 10.8 min 11.4 minutes average
Eastbound north Seattle Center to I-5 7.3 18
Westbound I-5 to south Seattle Center 6.7 7.5
Eastbound south Seattle Center to I-5 9.5 16.1
Eastbound Westlake to I-5 8.3 15.1
Northbound Westlake 3.7 7.1
Mayor Paul Schell had proposed a South Lake Union plan, approved by the Cascade Community, that would smooth curves, build a pedestrian overpass to the former Naval Reserve Center, widen sidewalks, and beautify the streets with trees and landscaping all at one-fifth of Mayor Nickel's plan. Nickel's plan eliminates the overpass. The City's environmental assessment did not even consider the Schell plan in its evaluation of alternatives. The travel data was buried in a 200 page report that Seattle's Department of Transportation did not want to release. The Report did not discuss what the impact on I-5 might be or the effect of adding stop lights to Aurora. Proposals for rebuilding the Alaskan Way Viaduct include work on the project at the Mayor's urging. The councilmanic bonds would pledge parking meter revenues through 2023; those moneys now go for street maintenance, sidewalks, bridge repairs, and neighborhood projects. Both the Queen Anne Community Council and Magnolia Community Club wrote letters opposing the plan. The City's Economic Development Office says redevelopment of South Lake Union justifies impeding traffic flow; and some councilmembers say traffic congests because motorists drive and people just need to take buses or the streetcar and then congestion disappears. Those officials think it sounds good, but it isn't realistic.
(1) It looks like the City is diverting funds from the basics to unneeded projects and then will come back in a few years for more special levies for the basics.
(2) The citizenry aren't informed because City Council meetings are not broadcast as frequently, project material is promotional rather than informative; and despite disclosure requests, withhold anything unfavorable. The City Council needs to rebroadcast its meeting; insist on objective disclosure and independent evaluations; and change disclosure policies to comply with the spirit of the Public Disclosure Act.
(3) Projects of this size and expense should be a capital item submitted to the electorate rather than financed by raiding funds, and
(4) The City should have done an environmental impact statement with public input invited.
Motion passed: The Seattle Community Council Federation opposes the Mayor's Mercer Corridor Plan as making traffic flow worse, as a misallocation of resources, as too expensive for the benefits that may accrue, as too precipitous, without adequate disclosure or public input.
Streetcars: Hon. Jan Drago would like to leave as her legacy a streetcar system throughout Seattle. Step # 1 is building a streetcar connection to First Hill. The Sound Transit ballot measure contains $120 million for it, but the cost is $160 million. The four lines ( Ballard-Fremont, First Hill, Central Area, and U District) for a network would cost $685 million and the University District extension alone, $190 million. Streetcars cost about 50% more to operate than Metro buses and are slower than the electric trolleys. The United States won't fund streetcars because it does not consider them to be rapid transit.
The City issued a report that streetcars could the operating pay assuming:
(1) The METRO subsidy for the bus routes serving that area would be transferred to the streetcars;
(2) fare collections would cover 31-50% of operating costs; and
(3) businesses along the route would sponsor lines.
None of these assumptions are certain: METRO is unwilling to make any such commitment; fare collections are 14% of operations (20% for the waterfront line); and, except for South Lake Union, businesses aren't happy about assessments for construction (1.5% to 3% of their property value) or volunteering sponsorships. Motion passed to oppose expanding the streetcar system into a network and the proposed extension to the University District in particular. Both the four line network system and the University District line would take too much capital; improving the existing METRO system with better service is a wiser use of public moneys; and the financial assumptions seem doubtful. If the Sound Transit tax passes, the Federation may consider the First Hill line by itself as a separate subject.
Noise Ordinance Amendments: Good news, Bad News.
The Good: civil penalties are added and DPD is empowered to issue citations, stop-works orders and revoke noise variances.
The Bad: It ends public hearings for proposed variances and the right of appeal of temporary variances (DPD could issue an indefinite succession of "temporary" variances); and it allows an extensive variance for "major public projects" (defined as construction likely to last more than six months). Variances would have a one year term, renewable; apply to all sites citywide, low fines, and be exempt from appeals. DPD declared that the ordinance has no environmental impact.
Chris Leman is appealing to the Hearing Examiner. The "major public projects" effectively covers SR 520 replacement, Sound Transit extensions, Alaskan Way reconstruction, Mercer Corridor Work, construction by major institutions, and almost any substantial undertaking on arterials by the City's Department of Transportation.
Motion passed to oppose the bad elements and authorize letters to appropriate City officials.
Emergency Interim Ordinance on Townhouses: At the June Federation workshop, Livable Seattle showed that Seattle's Land Use Code allows more housing than three times the growth anticipated by 202O and probably 4 to 5 times it. The City is micro-permitting, i.e. issuing a series of permits piecemeal to let developers avoid SEPA environmental analysis, design review, and putting in public improvements; The townhouses have shorter setbacks (as little as 5'), cover more of a lot than an apartment house would, and by their closeness, shadow neighbor's lots. More lot coverage leaves less room for natural vegetation and speeds up storm water runoff. Although townhouses often have party walls, no sprinklers are required for fire safety; narrow driveways restrict access, especially for fire trucks. Many lack turning radii and turn-arounds; often overhangs are too low for larger family vehicles. Designs frequently follow a monotonous pattern. Many times abutters don't get notice and see their trees and shrubbery near the boundary damaged during construction, and utilities may trespass. The proposed interim ordinance would stop issuance of new permits until the excessive crowding is remedied. It sets development standards on height, set backs, lot coverage and drainage that would correct the worst abuses. See http://www.liveableseattlemovement.org/. Communities need to get involved as soon as possible.
Motion passed to recommend the emergency interim ordinance and designate Beth Means and Anna Nissen as contact persons and spokespeople for the Federation.
Long-term Air Transportation Study: The Washington State Department of Transportation, Aviation Division, invited comment on draft aviation policies prepared by a task force comprised of aviation interests and airport operators. The Environmental policies make no mention of noise or drainage; the stewardship section announces a goal of maximizing revenues; the Land Use section advocates giving the transportation planning authority a veto so that it can prohibit uses "incompatible with aviation", such as schools, parks, medical facilities, and day care centers near airports or under flight paths; and the Capacity Section would not build any new ones until the existing airports max out. The draft policies would let the aviation industry bar facilities that people need from Beacon Hill and Georgetown, concentrate aviation at Boeing Field and Sea-Tac and operate them for maximum usage, and let aviation ignore adverse noise and contamination of ground waters and watersheds in their daily operations.
Motion passed to send a comment to WSDOT for protecting communities from aircraft noise and watersheds from pollution an environmental policy; to add regard for the environment and communities to stewardship responsibilities; to reject any veto by aircraft interests over growth of the communities; and to encourage development of new airports while space is available.
Magnuson Park: The Seattle Times reported that the City Council rejected a proposal by Parks and the Mayor for a sweetheart lease of Building 11 and grounds for 50 years to a private operator, who could assign the lease after ten years to anyone. The operator and its clientele spoke for it; the neighborhoods were strongly opposed. A community representative said that the United States had concerns whether the giveaway would comply with the conveyance of Magnuson Park to Seattle for public park and recreation purposes.
Motion passed to send a thank you letter to Hon. Tom Rasmussen and the City Council on its rejection.
Small business loans: Washington CASH (Community Alliance for Self Help) is offering loans, advice and instruction to entrepreneurs with low incomes to start or expand small businesses.
Pipers Creek and Golden Gardens: Broadview is cleaning up the overflow of sewage and storm drains from last winter's flooding. 72 homes were damaged, 31 filed claims, 0 have been paid. SDOT plans to repair the washout of Golden Gardens Drive before the next rains come. Last December, a section of the slope slid, carrying a lane of traffic downslope. The City closed the westerly lane, sand-bagged the slope, piped rainwater and routed traffic around, and laid fabric to secure the ground.
Children's Hospital Expansion: The Laurelhurst Community Club submitted a careful, detailed analysis by their land use consultant of the draft environmental impact statement prepared by Children's for its expansion plans. The analysis cited violations of the City's Comprehensive Plan and policies and requirements of the Land Use Code and recommended adoption of an alternative submitted by Laurelhurst earlier.
Motion passed to support the stand and alternative recommended by the Laurelhurst Community Club. See Childrens Action for additional info.
South East District Council (SEDC): SEDC was organized with 11 members: 6 community councils and 5 business associations. 28 more organizations now attend meetings and vote. None of the 28 are community councils; none hold regular open community meetings; none are known to elect their representatives . Four neighborhood based community councils applied to join, but were not admitted. Three of the 28 are part of City government itself, (Community Police Team of the Police Department; Rainier Valley Community Development Fund; Rainier Community Center). South Seattle Community College in Delridge and UW Senior Health Project are also members. Most of the 28 are social service agencies, some have a single purpose, e.g. Angel/Morgan P-Patch, BikeWorks, South Pacific Islanders Educational Support; some cater to a citywide clientele from an office in the district, e.g. Tenants Union; or they orient their services to an ethnic group (e.g. Eritrean Association, Horn of Africa Services, Vietnamese American Economic Development Association). Three are residence councils of the Seattle Housing Authority. Most of the 28 depend on grants through the City e.g. Southeast Effective Development ("SEED"), Racial Disparity Project, funded indirectly through the Defender Association, Representatives of the agencies at meetings are officers or paid staff, rather than volunteers, and of those on payroll at meetings, many do not even live in Seattle. Homesight employs or provides office space for five representatives of the 28; others are also affiliates of member organizations. Some of the 28 have less than a handful of members. The agencies far outnumber the community councils. At SEDC meetings, the agencies shape the agenda and discussion to focus on needs and funding programs that are down their line or for their economic interests; on controversial land use issues, they cater to the mayor's stance regardless of the neighborhood opinion. Sometimes discussions are like haggling and log rolling of lobbyists. The community councils protested and appealed to the Department of Neighborhoods about the way the agencies have taken control and run SEDC. They have now formed their own district council, Southeast Neighborhood District Council (SENDC), comprised of community councils of residents in the area and business associations based in the district and oriented toward the local community, all democratic in organization, with regular elections, regular reporting to their constituency, and reflecting back constituent response. The new/old organization has applied to the City Neighborhood Council for admittance as an at-large member. The new organization carries out the intent behind District Councils. See this Seattle P-I article for additional info.
(a) to support the application for at large membership; and
(b) to write to the Washington State Auditor asking for a performance audit in light of the appearance of conflict of interest in the structure and alleged practices of SEDC.
If your community group hasn't yet done so, please send in 2008 Federation dues ($50) to:
Seattle Community Council Federation treasurer
2511 W Montlake Pl E
Seattle WA 98112
If you’re not sure, please call treaurer Doris Burns, (206) 324-1311
Pasted below are the July 2008 Federation newsletter and the July 24th, 2008 Agenda. You may wish to print a copy of the Citizen's Two Step Plan for your reference at the meeting.
Please read this post carefully and be prepared to speak to these issues at the July 24th meeting.
On June 21st, the Community Council Federation held a workshop to continue the dialogue initiated at Sally Clark's Planning and Land Use Committee Forum on the townhouse emergency (June 7th.) Those in attendance voted unanimously to accept the Work Plan below for citizens to start developing a proposed Emergency Interim Controls ordinance and to gather the support that will be needed to get it enacted .
At the June Federation workshop, Livable Seattle presented their report showing that Seattle has a housing capacity for three times the growth anticipated by 2020. Raw zoned capacity numbers are not available, but likely to be 4-5 times anticipated growth. (For a copy of their report, go to
They also concluded that this overzoning itself is negatively impacting affordability because the overzoning drives up land costs and, during booms, encourages demolition of more affordable housing than can be replaced. John Fox, from the Displacement Coalition, said their statistics confirm huge loses of affordable housing during the recent boom.
The main emergency land use issue is with the townhouses, which are being built in all multifamily zones at unexpected densities in ways that practically force neighbors out and demolish entire blocks of existing, viable neighborhoods. At present, although the City Council has discussed fixing the townhouse problem, doing so has been delayed pending a total rewrite of the whole multifamily code. At the Federation workshop, Livable Seattle suggested that this is unnecessary. An emergency interim ordinance could be adopted to halt only improper townhouse development, effectively stopping the bleeding without shutting down all townhouse construction until a long-term fix can be developed. They also pointed out that the City does not need to change the entire multifamily code to cure the townhouse problems. In fact, the changes proposed in December would not do anything about the townhouses.
Those in attendance voted unanimously to accept the following Two Step Work Plan for Citizens to start developing a proposed Emergency Interim Controls ordinance and to gather the support that will be needed to get it enacted.
to Fix Seattle's Residential Land Use Emergencies
and Prevent More
STEP ONE: Get the City Council to Enact an Emergency Interim Ordinance
At the Clarke Townhouse Forum, Councilmember Burgess, Planning Commissioner Eanes, and a citizen wondered if a "moratorium" would stop the townhouse invasion from destroying more neighborhoods and affordable housing. The better way to stop the bleeding is an Emergency Interim Controls ordinance which, while it doesn't stop all townhouse development assuredly halts bad development until a long-term fix can be developed.
STEP ONE PROPOSAL:
The City Council adopt "Interim Controls" on an emergency basis (3/4 vote), as is typically done in Seattle, to halt and resolve serious errors. The task, in this case is to remove the over-encouragement of townhouses. While the emergency is in effect, the Council could figure out the most effective way to cure the current problems and to restore the townhouse's intended role as an important, but not domineering, housing type.
STEP ONE CITIZENS' TASKS:
• Understand the difference between a moratorium and emergency interim controls:
A Moratorium stops development awaiting some missing condition, e.g. no sewers. Seattle avoids moratoriums. Former Councilmember Kraabel had a good explanation why this is so: "a total moratorium of all construction in specific zones is a significant disruption. With each special exception, our land use laws become more and more erratic. We must, therefore, have very substantial provocation for a moratorium."
Emergency interim controls are another story: they stop the bleeding with a strong and certain fix and use the learning during the interim to inform the long-term fix, as measures somewhat less drastic become more apparent. Seattle uses them regularly: #113858 et al 1988-89, # 114428 '89, #114928 '90; # 116205 '92, #116616 '93, and Council Bill #113149 '00. http://clerk.ci.seattle.wa.us/~public/CBOR1.htm
• Review with Single Family zoned neighborhoods whether they want to pursue emergency interim controls to stop megahouse abuses in Single Family while Councilmember Conlin's proposal is being reviewed, possibly amended and hopefully adopted late this year. (A PLUNC meeting takes an introductory look at Conlin's proposal on July 9th)
• Build the necessary support for a 3/4 Council vote by advocating the 2 Step approach to neighborhood government organizations (CNC, SNC, SCCF's member councils), ad hoc issue-based or professional organizations, and the media.
• Consider and reach agreement on what development standards, etc. to propose modifying to use as the interim controls.
STEP 2: Create a Long-Term Fix
At the Sally Clark Townhouse Forum, panelists from both ends of the spectrum suggested mutual respect: simple rules that assure prompt permitting of "everyday projects" and freedom to explore new directions and high quality work.
STEP 2 PROPOSAL
Strengthen the two-tier nature of the existing code. Create a more foolproof first track—clear, simple, and fast for those who just want to follow the code and a second track that allows departures when they more effectively achieve community goals. The present two tiers aren't working at all. The first tier is so complex nobody can understand it, and the proposed updates are even worse. The departure track is similarly complex and also time-consuming, arbitrary, and totally ineffective at turning destructive projects back on course, much less enabling desirable ones.
First tier— "As-of-right" procedures impose strict requirements in return for prompt permits.
"As-of-right" is a legal term meaning entitlement upon compliance. To work well, as-of-right standards must be simple to understand and restrictive enough to assure that projects are in context with their current or envisioned surroundings (the latter is the case in urban villages). Environmental and design review would be required for projects that exceed designated thresholds. Guidelines and procedures would be improved (see also second tier below).
Such standards are also needed as more rational bases for a growing list of incentives and floating bonuses. This list nears epidemic proportions—already so many that the City is at serious risk of violating the "first-do-no-harm" and the equity principals of zoning.
Second tier— "Optional design departure" procedures that hold "better ideas" to clear and lucid tests we can all understand.
"Clear and lucid" is plain English for the legal term "rational nexus" (connection). To avoid being "arbitrary and capricious" and get intended results, individualized departure decisions must be managed for results. Design guidelines must prove themselves concise; review procedures must prove themselves sound; reviewers must prove themselves qualified; and outcomes must prove themselves effective at ensuring long term appeal and good manners, which means taking only one's share of sunlight, view, tranquility, streetscape and street use, etc.
Council directives may have gotten lost, but the assignment is quite clear: Resolutions 29860 (11/98), 30075 (10/99) —ask for a code that is "understandable, user-friendly and can be administered and enforced in an efficient and effective manner;" Resolutions 30138 (3/00), 30161 (4/00)— set out to "reduce complexity and increase understandability of the Land Use Code." http://clerk.ci.seattle.wa.us/~public/RESN1.htm
The ‘98-‘99 resolutions grew out of and reference a consultant's report "Land Use Code Simplification" Issues and Options 9/98 (Cedar River Associates, paper copy only). Similar, more abbreviated recommendations appear in the May 1997 conference report cosponsored by the Puget Sound Regional Council (page 38). http://www.smartgrowth.org/pdf/LIVABLE.pdf
Guidelines to consider in reconsidering existing guidelines: the Uptown CC's 1997 proposal to clarify Citywide Guidelines (paper only at the moment) and SHA's guidelines for developers at HOPE VI @ Highpoint http://www.seattlehousing.org/development/highpoint/Images/HighPointDesignBook2.pdf
(a take-off on the "standard plans" approach mentioned at the Townhouse Forum).
CITIZENS' STEP 2 TASKS
• Persuade the City to make use of information learned during the interim periods in resolving final fixes that reliably and consistently achieve community goals and are much easier for citizens and applicants to use.
• Persuade the City to leave the remainder of the Residential Land Use Code as-is and instead 1) simplify the as-of right standards by gradually removing exceptions and classifications not worth the complication, and 2) improve the clarity of design guidelines and departure procedures to effectively deal with special situations.
• Persuade the City to adopt and place in permanent memory the idea that land use codes need to accommodate change in the same way that nature limits and culls mutations—improving the as-of-right standards through regular and candid review of design departure, looking regularly for consistently better results from commonly requested departures.
Offered for Consideration, by the Livable Seattle Movement http://www.livableseattlemovement.org/
(At the LSM website just noted, see also Four Point Seattle City Council Action Plan and Citizens' Master Agenda . The two-step plan we are discussing here follow points 2 and 3 of the Master Agenda.)
NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency), Pacific Marine Center on Lake Union
1801 Fairview Avenue East
Thursday, July 24, 2008
The Future of Seattle Neighborhoods
Councilmember Nick Licata and
John Fox, Seattle Displacement Coalition
Councilmember Nick Licata will provide a rundown on current plans and legislation on the Council’s docket likely to significantly affect our neighborhoods over the coming months and leading to the Fall budget process. Councilmember Licata will provide suggestions on strategies to ensure that neighborhood needs come first.
John Fox of the Seattle Displacement Coalition will provide his insights on the density debate and to will challenge the notion that by simply adding density in Seattle we either prevent sprawl or guarantee affordability. He also will talk about his efforts to form a coalition of community leaders whose aim is to ensure that neighborhood and housing issues come first at election time and that we elect candidates who are first responsive to these issues.
If you have informational materials you would like distributed at the meeting during the round robin, please email electronic copies or links to Jeannie Hale at firstname.lastname@example.org and copies will be provided at the meeting.
7:00 Call to Order and Introductions
1. Changes to the agenda
2. Treasurer’s report
3. President’s report
7:15 Councilmember Nick Licata and John Fox, Seattle Displacement Coalition
8:30 Round Robin
1. Land Use Issues—update on legislative proposals
2. Proposed Changes to the Noise Ordinance
3. Parks and Green Spaces Levy
4. Market Levy
5. South Seattle Transit Plan
6. Other Issues/Projects
NOAA is a federal facility on high security alert, so attendees must enter by the security gate and may need to present photo ID. If you haven't attended a recent Federation meeting, please send your name, contact information, and address to email@example.com to be added to the entry list. No e-mail? Call 206-365-1267. The building is ADA compliant, with ample parking in front.
Alert - Please read the following post before attending the July 24th Federation meeting.
Will Make New Messes
Last winter, the Mayor issued a Multi-Family Update (MFU). It was supposed to simplify the multi-family code and fix problems with townhouses. A working group of citizens began evaluating it. All agreed that the townhouses being built in huge numbers and crammed on sites in ill-planned double rows were destroying once pleasant and affordable neighborhoods. The working group also discovered that the Mayor's MFU, much more than a minor update, would:
• Not fix the townhouse glitch.
• Not stop "micropermitting" where a large development is broken into many small permits in order to avoid street improvements and required design and environmental reviews.
• Reincarnate Mayor Royer's 1982 apartment house disaster.
• Focus on ratios and other means of calculating capacity and the value of property instead of on the livability and long term appeal of the new buildings.
• Wipe out the current focus on how buildings relate to their neighbors both in form and in function.
• Wipe out investment security by destroying physical predictability.
• Increase allowed lot coverages at the expense of natural vegetation and infiltration of stormwater—the least cost, most effective ecological response.
• Replace clear and concise rezoning criteria with vague criteria so that upzones anywhere become unchallengeable, doing away with the urban village strategy of matching development with infrastructure to produce livable urban communities.
• Set the stage for selling upzones, a new and untried concept in Seattle, by eliminating corrective downzones.
In March, the working group called on the City to fix the townhouse glitch and not make any new messes by rushing to adopt the Multi-Family Update. MFU never reached the Council for some reason, but the townhouse problem continued.
At its June 2008 townhouse workshop, the Seattle Community Council Federation adopted a resolution that called on the city to immediately enact an emergency ordinance that places interim restrictive controls on townhouses and then take the time needed to come up with a code that is both simpler to administer and which improves the way buildings fit together with their neighbors and encourages good design.
In July, the Mayor announced the townhouse glitch would be resolved through more careful administrative review. He turned out to be speaking of MFU2. MFU2 turned out to be MFU1 with all its problems along with an additional explanation claiming that the code would now be simpler because of increased flexibility. For the neighbors, unfortunately, "flexible" means unpredictable, at least to those not interested in developable square feet, unit counts, and capacities. And for good designers, MFU2 still features a very brief, very nanny-state set of inflexible design standards for only the fronts of only small buildings.
You might have heard that the micropermitting, aka “piecemealing”. issue is to be fixed by taking all townhouses through administrative design review. What this means is that the same overburdened staff, untrained in design and focused on "we need the housing" (Stranger, July 18, 2007) will add review of all townhouses to their design departure workload. Because there is nothing, no authority in MFU2 or any existing design guideline, that would allow any reviewer to fix the townhouse glitch, we would still have with us:
1. Cramming too many units on the lot because extra lot coverage and building depth is granted townhouses (over that permitted apartment buildings). These exceptions would not only be retained for townhouses, but extended to apartment buildings, bulking up those buildings again as well.
2. Cramming too many units too close together to meet front yard, back yard, and open space requirements. All the yards would become mere setbacks as small as 5 to 7ft.
3. Encouragement for doubled rows of unsprinklered townhouses (dubious fire-safe in neighborhoods without alley access).
4. Inadequate driveways, turning radii, turn-arounds, and too low overhangs, resulting in over-burdened street parking and restricted fire department access. Language being informally interpreted to encourage this is to be left unclarified.
5. Profit-driven speculators and builders encouraged to outbid anyone interested in either the existing ground-related housing or quality design, resulting in accelerated loss of pleasant, affordable neighborhoods during booms and its replacement with less affordable housing with very short term appeal.
6. Use of bad manners to impact neighboring property and encourage forced sales.
You may not be aware that this plan would not be adopted until next spring. In the meantime, many more townhouse packs would most likely rush to get in under the wire, still micro-permitted and with undersized access.
Conclusion: The Federation's resolution calling for emergency interim controls followed by a better MFU with standards and means of departure to assure that both everyday and leading edge buildings are good neighbors in appealing neighborhoods, is needed more than ever!
The City Council needs to hear:
that your neighborhood will support them in declaring an emergency to stop the bleeding and then taking the time to focus of where we are, where we want to be, and how to most effectively get there.