Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Minutes for April 24, 2012


Minutes for April 24, 2012

Meeting called to order at 7:04 PM.

Speaker: Mike Podowski, DPD, walked us through a  handout on the proposed land use code changes in the new Regulatory Reform.  This document outlines the changes in parking requirements; exemption of larger buildings from SEPA notice and appeal; allows commercial businesses in residential zones; releases many existing buildings from currently required street level retail; lengthens temporary use permits to 18 months (often used for parking lot and construction storage) from the current 6 months and eliminates the citizen right to appeal; and  expands accessory dwelling units. 
Mr. Podoswki's explained that the Regulation round table wanted to be consistent with existing goals but create new opportunities.  The presentation was continually interrupted by questions as follows:
When asked, Mr. P defined Mid-rise buildings as 3-7 stories. (Topic 1)
One question asked about traffic analysis as a recent First Hill development found the traffic analysis was based on very old date.  (Bruce Bowden on Seneca Tower)
Chris Leman expressed concern that no appeal process is available if SEPA is not involved.
Podowski said that there can be an administrative appeal.  Jeannie Hale pointed out that means going straight to Superior Court at 4 times the expense.
Mike P said there are only 30-40 appeals per year and Chris Leman asked why go to so much trouble to do this if so few appeals.
Bill Bradburd asked "What is the objection to SEPA?" but this was not answered.  Bill also expressed concern that a store like Safeway could get 1000 cars a day and if parking is restricted,
it impacts neighborhoods.
Oliver Osborne (Capitol Hill) expressed a concern that there was no transparency and citizen involvement in this process.  He also asked about illuminated sigs.
The answer is that illuminated signs are allowed in the neighborhood stores but not in home businesses.  Jeannie Hale told of a distracting blinking illuminated sign in her neighborhood.
Bill Bradburd said that small neighborhoods cannot afford to litigate.
Chris Leman said this process began over a year ago and the package is presented to the City Council two months ago with no citizen input and the public is just now hearing about it. 
A concern was expressed that some small retail businesses might be pushed out.
When asked about the temporary permits, Mike P. mentioned a small coffee shop and bike repair in a temporary shelter at Othello and MLK.
Chris Leman countered with the fact that most of the temporary permits (34) are for construction storage and parking lots.
Bill Bradburd wanted to know who created the Round Table but Mike P. did not know.  He had to leave at that point as he had a prior engagement.
President's Report: Jeannie reported that Laurelhurst CC and the Federation had challenged the proposal to allow essential facilities to be placed anywhere regardless of existing codes, even the Shoreline Management Act restrictions.  The proposal allowed waiver of development regulations and siting of these undefined facilities in all zones, including residential zones. Aside from SR520, this could include facilities such as crisis centers and drug treatment centers. The city had not complied with the public records request when first requested. 
The hearing examiner dismissed the appeal on April 10 on "standing" grounds.  The Municipal Court has a liberal standing rule for these matters.  A DNS is subject to appeal to the Hearing Examiner by "any interested person." An interested person is defined in the SMC (25.05.755) as "any individual, partnership, corporation, association, or public or private organization of any character, significantly affected by or interested in proceedings before an agency, and shall include any party in a contested case."
The ruling would make it difficult, if not impossible, for the Federation or any community group to file appeals to the hearing examiner in the future.  The ruling has very broad implications. 
Laurelhurst CC, co-appellant in the Hearing Examiner appeal, will be appealing the Hearing Examiner decision.  The Federation needs to decide if it would like to be a petitioner on the LUPA petition to be filed in Superior Court.  

MOTION: Chris Leman moved that the Federation be a co-appellant with the Laurelhurst CC in appealing this ruling.  Bill Bradburd offered the second. VOTE: unanimous.

Greg Hill told of an appeal by Wallingford CC and nearby neighbors opposed to a Skanska development in the neighborhood  The Hearing examiner tossed out the appeal by the neighbors for "lack of standing".  Chris Leman told of another important case involving the Roanoke Reef.  MOTION : Chris moved that a letter should be written to the City Council about the distorted hearing examiner process. Second: Kathryn Keller.  VOTE: Unanimous.
Discussion about the Skanska project: a Brooks shoe facility that is supposed to be a "living building".
 Living Buildings
A “living building” is the next generation of “green building,” made of sustainable materials and using only as much energy and resources as it is able to generate on-site. The pilot project will allow up to 12 unique “living buildings” to be developed in Seattle over the next three years. Seattle’s land use code doesn’t currently allow for the unique characteristics required to meet living building standards, so the City Council gave the Department of Planning & Development the authority to grant developers the flexibility they need to meet project requirement.
MOTION:   Chris Leman moved to authorize a letter regarding the "living building" ordinance and how it is being implemented.  Second: Kathryn Keller .  Vote: Unanimous
Greg Hill presented the following concerns about the new reform:  Commercial zones: originally we had street car lines which are now bus lines.  Businesses developed along these lines.  Northgate was originally like this but now a covered mall.   Visibility and synergy are critical to business.  There has been a common resource: street parking.  The RPZ happened to allow residents to have access to parking.  In Vancouver, BC, parking is a science.  Small businesses must have on street parking. Under the new plan, in multi-family zones parking will be for commercial. In mixed use zoning, commercial must be on the ground floor.
Greg mentioned that Seattle was a leader in the years 89-90 in getting bankers to do the loans for developers. They have a 12 month horizon; can rent 4 units month and all units in a year but parking is a harder sell; it takes 2 years to rent parking space.  Developers have to work harder to rent the commercial spaces.  Greg feels that all the neighborhood plans are wiped out with these new regs.  SEPA thresholds: if we are to become denser, we need a more fine grained code not a looser one.
MOTION: Chris Leman moved that we authorize a second letter  to address regulatory reforms as defined here in the meeting.  Second: Rick Barrett. Vote: unanimous.
Bill Bradburd said we must educate the City council members.  He had met with Wayne Barnett, who encouraged him to file an ethics complaint on the Roosevelt issue.  Greg suggested walking and talking to commercial businesses.   Oliver Osborne commented on the presentation; said it was great and we need to get it out to all communities.  Jeannie Hale said we should set up meetings with City Council members; it is to be decided May 9. Bruce Bowden said it  needs more public hearings.
Eviction issue: Ted Jonssen is being forced out of his work/living space after almost 50 years.  Ted's story and challenges with the City and the UW are detailed in his document which is filed with the notes.
MOTION made by Colleen McAleer to authorize the Federation to write letters to both the City and the UW urging he be allowed to stay as long as he wanted.  Second: Rick Barrett.  Vote: Unanimous.
Colleen McAleer showed pictures of what are being called "sentinels" that beam rainbow lights to be placed along the proposed 520 bridge.
MOTION made by Kathryn Keller to authorize letters to WDOT and the Citizen Design Commission. Second: Rick Barrett. Discussion: Chris Leman questioned about designing of walls.  Colleen answered No; the state has run out of money after adding a lid for the Eastside and there is no money left for the Montlake lid.  VOTE: unanimous.
Bruce Bowden announced that Citizens Rethink Yesler would invite 6 City Council members to the co-sponsored forum in middle to late June.
Chris Leman, treasurer, reported $4100.17 in the treasury. 
MOTION made to approve minutes by Kathryn Keller; second Rick Barrett.  Vote: unanimous.
Meeting adjourned at 9 PM.

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