Friday, July 20, 2012
July 18, 2012
To: Seattle City Council
From: Seattle Community Council Federation, City Neighborhood Council delegates and other concerned citizens and organizations
Re: “Regulatory Reform” Ordinance
Thank you for listening to our concerns over the past couple of months regarding the“Regulatory Reform” package. We appreciate your help to date in making this legislation better. And while many improvements have been made, we still have a few concerns and hope that you will act responsibly to amend the legislation in order to correct remaining flaws. Because some of the issues are so critically important and can have longlasting effects, additional time must be taken crafting and reviewing the legislative amendments. We urge you to delay a vote at full council until amendments to this legislation are available for consideration.
1. Protect Neighborhood Commercial Zones.
• We appreciate that the legislation has already been amended in committee to ensure that 59
currently mapped but not yet enacted P zone overlays citywide would be reviewed before allowing any changes that would eliminate the requirement to provide ground floor commercial space in those neighborhood commercial zones.
• We remain concerned however that some areas are exposed that are not on the city’s P zone study list and therefore part of the legislation since these areas represent on a fraction of the neighborhood commercial zone areas citywide. In particular we feel the station areas around Northgate and Mt Baker do not have adequate P zone protections (understanding that Northgate will be studied soon as part of preparation for the station). This is contrary to policy goals of creating compact, dense walkable communities around light rail stops. Additionally, other areas do not have full P zone protections which may be contrary to adopted neighborhood plans. While we do not know what criteria were used by DPD to identify the initial P zone study areas, we would like to see some level of protections for commercial uses at street level to continue, if warranted, for areas such as those identified above.
• We suggest that as a safeguard against inadvertent omission of an area that now meets or will meet the criteria for a P zone in the future (but not yet identified by the 2005 Main Street Mapping initial study) the legislation be further amended to ensure that for the remaining NC2/3 and C zones where commercial uses were once required at street level , some process be developed for determining what is the correct land use pattern – i.e. DPD oversight of these “optional zoning” choices being afforded to the developer.
• During the initial intake meeting with an applicant seeking to permit a single purpose residential use in any C1, NC2 or NC3 zone, the Department of Planning and Development should evaluate the blockface that includes the parcel(s) to be developed, and one blockface in each direction from the project site to determine if the area meets the criteria for a Pedestrian Overlay zone. If the area meets the rezone criteria, the project will be approved only as a mixed use project or as a single purpose residential project with City Council conditional use approval. The project could also be approved with the ground floor designed for conversion to a future commercial uses but with temporary live-work uses allowed for a period of 6 years.
2. Changes to SEPA thresholds in Urban Centers and Station Areas
• We strongly object to the changing of SEPA thresholds. While the rationale for this change originated when the construction sector was depressed as a means to spur development, we no longer face those conditions. SEPA affords many protections that, contrary to assertions by DPD, other review mechanisms and regulations do not fully ensure. The Maple Leaf Community Council has produced strong evidence of this. Since these changes are targeted at areas where there are often more poor or people of color, removal of these protections is a social justice issue.
• We understand that there are two scenarios being considered to amend the current legislation (which has raised the SEPA threshold from 30 units to 200 units). The first looks at resetting the threshold to 60, the second to 100.
• We believe that the threshold should not be set higher than 60 units in order to provide the greatest protections and rights to the affected communities. This is a doubling of the current SEPA threshold trigger. We ask that you support this amendment only if you find it necessary to raise the threshold.
• We request that requirements for notification found in SEPA today be added into the legislation. For example, the large white signboards that notify a community of a proposed project. Particularly since you recently enacted legislation limiting right of appeal to those who have submitted project comments, it is imperative that if you change SEPA thresholds that notification of Design Review be made prominent. The white notification boards are iconic and help provide that outreach.
3. Preserve appeal rights for renewals of Temporary Use permits.
• This legislation was introduced under the claim that the process to obtain a temporary use permit was
too onerous for uses like pop-up corner coffee carts, and renewals too expensive. Yet the vast
majority of temporary use permits are related to construction staging, construction trailers and
• The legislation has been corrected to address exemptions for homeless encampments and
construction uses. We would like to see further amendment to add temporary use parking lots be appealable on renewal.
• Temporary use parking lots, beyond 6 months, may be contrary to city policy objectives, and could be a burden on a community. Right of appeal rather than simple administrative renewal is important.
• A system where the application and first renewal is appealable but subsequent renewals are not is acceptable.
Thank you for considering our suggestions.
Phinney Ridge Community Council
United African Public Affairs Committee
Northeast District Council
Seattle Community Council Federation
Eastlake Community Council
Capitol Hill Coalition
Seattle Neighborhood Coalition
Maple Leaf Community Council