February 11 – Neighborhoods Workshop on HALA Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) Upzones

The Seattle Neighborhood Coalition is hosting a workshop on Saturday February 11 for community organizers who are trying to bring attention to HALA’s Mandatory Housing Affordability upzones and connect them to other neighborhoods in order to share tools and ideas to get the word out and to respond to what is happening.

We will have a panel discussion and Q&A covering:

  •  crafting a message
  •  organizational building
  •  getting ‘technical’ land use acumen
  •  inclusive outreach to underrepresented communities and renters
  •  partnerships
  •  communication tools

Some neighborhoods are well organized and have a variety of responses to working with the City, others are just getting started, and others are not engaged. This workshop will allow community members an initial chance to “become aware and share” and meet with other neighborhood leaders to make connections.

We want to empower communities to make their own choices on how to respond and understand what is happening related to the zoning changes that will affect them.

If you are interested in helping your community respond to the upzones and become more engaged in the process, please join us.

*** NOTE:  the meeting will start at 8:30am with networking and a coffee/light breakfast.  Panel discussion will start at 9am, followed by Q&A and breakout sessions.

January 14 – Backyard Cottages, SEPA, and Assessing Growth Impacts

While it may seem like so much happens around us that is beyond our control, Washington citizens have more tools than citizens in most of the US. Washington is one of only 16 states which has enacted environmental policy legislation based upon NEPA, the National Environmental Policy Act, initially passed in 1969.  And it is one of just 5 states which have made citizen review of development possible.

Recently the Queen Anne Community Council successfully appealed to the Seattle Hearing Examiner the City’s Determination of Non-significance of the impacts that could be caused by the proposed changes to rules regarding the productions of backyard cottages and mother-in-law units (DADU, ADU – Accessory Dwelling Units, Detached Accessory Dwelling Units) in Single Family zones.

Beginning in 1993, Washington State law allowed local governments to allow permitting of “accessory apartments” subject to certain local limitations (RCW 43.53A.215; RCW 36.70.677).  The City of Seattle initiated a pilot program in 2006 allowing DADUs on single-family zoned lots, and in 2010 adopted regulations which allowed either an ADU or a DADU on single family lots throughout the City.  By the City’s own count, as of December 2015, only 221 DADUs had been built. City code limited such units to a maximum size of 800 square feet of gross floor area.  Between 2012 and 2014, DADUs averaged 632 square feet, and were built at an average cost of $55,000.  Rents for these units were reported ranging from $650.00 – $1,800.00 per month.

In 2104 the City Council requested a report from the Department of Planning and Development regarding the status of such development and also analysis of policy changes which might increase housing through production of more ADUs and DADUs.  The Office of Planning and Construction Development [OPCD] determined, in its report of October 2015, that given existing land use codes, which limited such development to lots of 4,000 square feet or more, there were 75,000 single-family lots upon which DADUs could be built.  OPCD noted that with a reduction of the minimum lot size, to just 3,200 square feet, the City could permit another 7,000 units, on up to 82,000 single family lots.

Curiously, expansion of ADU/DADU options was one of the HALA recommendations, but did not make the cut from Mayor Murray on work items to be pursued.  However Councilmember Mike O’Brien, working with OPCD, prepared a draft ordinance which would, among other provisions:

  • allow both an ADU and a DADU on the same single-family 3,200 square foot lot;
  • allow an increase in floor area size of a DADU to 1,000 square feet (excluding garage/storage areas);
  • change the ownership requirement so that a 50% owner would only be required to occupy the property in the first year the DADU was built, and could be an absentee thereafter;
  • allowing an increase in the total amount of lot area which could be covered by residential structures to just over 46% for small lots;
  • allow an increase in the total rear yard space for a DADU which was up to 15 feet high;
  • and increasing total rear yard permissible coverage to 60% (as measured from the centerline of any abutting alley);
  • totally remove the existing requirement of on-site parking for any ADU/DADU within an urban center or urban village; and
  • ease restrictions on locations of building entrances, roof structures, increases on interior living spaces and “projections” from DADU structures.

OPCD prepared a SEPA environmental checklist, with limited acknowledgement of some potential impacts, such as from vacation rentals (not regulated), parking, and transportation, as well as public utilities were “negligible,” and thus issued its Determination of Non-Significance.

This issue had been watched carefully by many, including the Land Use Committee of the Queen Anne Community Counsel who appealed the decision to the Seattle Hearing Examiner arguing that the proposed ordinance could not go forward to the City Council for action until a full Environmental Impact Statement has been prepared.

After multiple days of testimony, and briefing which continued over a 6-week period, Seattle Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner issued an opinion on December 13 which found in favor of the QACC, and ordered that the City must complete the entire SEPA process.  That process will include the ability of citizens all over Seattle, and not just in Queen Anne, to review potential impacts of the proposed legislation and to offer official comment.

Our featured guest speaker is Seattle architect Martin Henry Kaplan, Chair of the QACC and former Planning Commission member.  While serving on the Seattle Planning Commission, he helped author the current Backyard Cottage legislation.

At our January meeting we will explore the history of Seattle’s decision to allow and encourage more intense development in Single-Family residential zones, the failure of OPCD to acknowledge the impacts of the proposed ADU/DADU legislation through the SEPA process, and the implications of the Hearing Examiner’s decision on future zoning decisions that could have significant environmental impacts.

Join us for what should be in informative conversation.

A native 3rd generation Seattleite, Marty Kaplan has been principal of honored Seattle-based architectural firm Martin Henry Kaplan, Architects AIA for over 30 years.  Besides practicing in many areas of the U.S., he has consistently contributed his time and expertise to local community service serving on boards such as AIA Seattle (5 yrs), the Intiman Theatre (10 yrs); Pike Place Market Historical Commission (6 yrs); Seattle Planning Commission (2005-2012); Blaine Co Idaho ARCH Community Housing Trust (4 yrs); Queen Anne Community Council and Land Use Review Committee-LURC (14 yrs), South Lake Union and Mercer St Stakeholders Group (11 yrs); Uptown UDF Stakeholder (7 yrs) and many others.  He ran for Seattle City Council in 2009.

[Special Notice:  Our February Meeting will include the SNC Annual meeting.  SNC is a Washington Non-Profit Corporation.]

December 10 – Seattle Times ‘FYI Guy’ Gene Balk

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.  Or so sayeth Mark Twain.

Statistics is the science of analyzing and learning from data.   And Twain’s sarcasm was in regards to the erroneous interpretation of data, intentional or not.

Seattle has a new rock star of data interpretation: Gene Balk, the Seattle Times columnist, ”FYI Guy”.

Gene’s  columns began appearing a few years ago and initially were ‘lighter’ in character, looking at favorite brand of coffee or  ethnic origins of the Seattle Freeze or which neighborhood is the most vegetarian.

In the last couple of years however Gene has started paying greater attention to larger demographic and economic trends in the region.   Statistically speaking, Gene has become one of the most consistent chroniclers of growth and change in the Puget Sound region.

Whether the issue is density, gentrification, traffic congestion, property taxes, or the effect of Amazon on housing costs, it seems that Gene has studied it, and has something to say about it.

Join us for what should be an engaging conversation about Seattle and the region.

November 12 – Panel Discussion: Seattle journalists’ post-election analysis and tea-leaf reading

After a long and blustery election season it’s finally time for analysis of the election results and some examination of what lay ahead.

Locally we were given the chance to approve the largest public transportation initiative ever: the $54B Sound Transit 3 expansion.  We were also presented at the state level the option of the nation’s most progressive climate policy action.  And locally we had some of the most highly contentious legislative battles between lefty candidates in recent memory.

And with the national election over, what do the results mean for us and the region?

Finally, what are the predictions for Seattle in 2017?  Will we in the second year of our homelessness ‘state of emergency’ see progress?  Will HALA begin to deliver on its promises?  And what can we expect in the local Seattle election for Mayor, City Attorney and the two at-large City Council seats.

We are excited to be joined by esteemed local journalists Joe Copeland (Crosscut), Casey Jaywork (Seattle Weekly) and George Howland (Outside City Hall).

Joe Copeland is a writer and editor for Crosscut, primarily overseeing political coverage. He has worked for Crosscut since 2010. He was an editorial writer and editorial columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer from 2002 until its closure in March 2009. His editorial writing included the higher education, environmental and political beats. Before joining the P-I, he worked at The Herald in Everett as editorial page editor, city editor and a reporter. He is the author of an e-book, “Peace Quest: The Survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

@CaseyJaywork is a reporter for Seattle Weekly, where he covers City Hall as well as homelessness, police reform, drug policy, and other issues that affect poor people. He was one of this year’s New Journalists of the Year for the local chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He does not understand Instagram, and likes it that way.

George Howland Jr has been a Seattle-based journalist for 28 years. He was The Stranger’s first news editor and worked as news editor at Seattle Weekly under Knute Berger. He spent five years as a flack at City Hall (AKA his time in hell). Currently, he is an independent journalist under contract with Outside City Hall, the website of Seattle Displacement Coalition.

Join us for what should an insightful conversation.

October 8 – ST3? Try, try again…

Public transit in Seattle and the Puget Sound region has had a fitful history.  November’s ballot initiative Prop 1, the $54B Sound Transit 3 (ST3) expansion is yet another chapter.

Using Forward Thrust as the starting point of this saga, voters in 1968 and 1970 rejected plans for an urban subway system that would have seen as much as 75% of the $1.3B price tag federally funded.  A 60% vote was needed, which was hard to achieve during the severe “Boeing recession.”  In 1972 voters approved an all-bus Metro system, then in 1990 as a result of the passage of the Growth Management Act, planning was authorized which led to the formation of Sound Transit.

The first Sound Transit ballot initiative in 1995, a $6.7B package that included at-grade light rail from Lynnwood to Tacoma and across I-90 to Overlake, along with bus and commuter rail was rejected, but a downscaled initiative passed in 1996.  That package, called Sound Move, proposed a starter light rail line between Northgate and SeaTac and included more express bus services. It has resulted in the 14.6 mile Central Link line that runs between the UW Husky Stadium and Angle Lake (below SeaTac airport) today.  Failed negotiations with potential contractors resulted in delays and management turnover, so Sound Move has cost nearly $5B and had overruns of over 86% more than originally projected.

A second stage for Sound Transit was proposed as part of a regional transportation ballot measure in 2007. The joint highways and transit measure (called the Regional Transportation Investment District, or RTID) was defeated, but the transit portion was brought back to voters in 2008 as Sound Transit 2 (ST2). That $17.8B measure was approved to expand Central Link north to Lynnwood, east to Bellevue and the Microsoft campus, and south to Federal Way.   When built out in 2023, this expansion to the system will have added another 36 miles of light rail service.

Now with the original Sound Move’s final stations open (UW Husky stadium stop opening just this spring and Angle Lake and its 1,100 parking spaces last week) voters will decide this Fall whether to fund ST3, a $54B package that will add 62 more miles to the light rail system completing the original system vision mandated in Sound Transit’s state enabling legislation to connect Everett, Seattle, Tacoma and Bellevue with a spine of high capacity transit service. Continue reading

September 10 – Neighborhoods Mini-Summit

Last month’s panel discussion, The Future of Neighborhood and District Councils, was in response to Mayor Murray’s executive order dissolving the City’s support for Neighborhood District Councils. It was moderated by Nick Licata, and can be seen here.

The panel discussed the history and intent of the District Council system and neighborhood engagement, and they dispelled many of the falsehoods being perpetuated by the Murray administration and provided correctives to them.

There was much discussion about next steps and what should be done.  There is already community action on pulling together a citywide neighborhoods summit (the SNC arranged one years ago with over 350 attendees to discuss how to get the City to implement the newly adopted neighborhood plans).

Hence the theme for this month’s meeting – a mini-summit on what to do next:

  • what are the core issues for your neighborhood and District, and which of these are shared across districts or unique
  • what can the City be doing better to empower neighborhoods and facilitate communication with the various and diverse neighborhood interests
  • how can neighborhoods broaden citywide communication and response to the City
  • what should District City Council members be doing to improve communication with their constituents
  • what can neighborhoods do to counter the developer-funded HALA and 2035 propaganda from astro-turf organizations like Seattle for Everyone and the tightly controlled conversation in the HALA Focus Groups
  • what should a citywide neighborhoods summit look like
  • what can individuals and groups do to make their communities better

We want to hear from neighbors in each of the seven City Council Districts.

As usual, you are encouraged to sit wherever you like for breakfast. We will ask you to chat with your table-mates about the questions above.  Please take notes about what you hear and jot down your own ideas.

After breakfast, we will ask you to shift to marked geographic tables 1-7.  Each of the 7 groups will talk about the issues they see within their neighborhood, District and what they’ve heard from others throughout the city.

In the last hour, we will compare notes, and give feedback on the ideas which seem the most compelling — as a “to do” list for community organizers, City Council and the Executive.  We will make note of the proposed action items, and prepare a report from this meeting for you to share with your own neighborhood.

Please join us on Saturday, September 10th  at 9:00am for for this important discussion  Bring your neighbors and help spread the word about this program.  We look forward to hearing from you.

More information can be found here.

June 11 – Who speaks for the neighborhoods?

Former Mayor Mike McGinn ponders “who speaks for Seattle’s neighborhoods” in a recent Crosscut op-ed.  This month we will hear from a panel of neighborhood activists who represent organizations that feel they speak with a “neighborhood” voice:

  • Catherine Weatbrook – Co-chair of the City Neighborhood Council and past chair of the Ballard District Council
  • Ruedi Risler – President of the University Park Community Club, a neighborhood council that does not allow renters to be members
  • Zachary Pullin – President of the Capitol Hill Community Council, a neighborhood  council that tries to engage renters in the organization
  • Deborah Jaquith – Chair of the newly formed Crown Hill Urban Village Committee for Smart Growth

Read more about the issue here…