(Photo by Long Bach Nguyen – densifying Avalon Way SW is at center)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
Appeals of city development decisions aren’t uncommon.
Rulings in favor of the appellants are.
(Keep in mind, the Hearing Examiner has to give more weight to the city’s original decisions, meaning challengers have steep hills to climb.)
Today, the West Seattle-based group Seattle NERD (Neighbors Encouraging Reasonable Development) is celebrating one of those rare rulings – reversing the city’s Design Review and Determination of (environmental) Non-Significance (DNS) decisions regarding a ~100-apartment building proposed for 3078 SW Avalon Way.
As Paul Haury exulted via e-mail, “We won! 2+ years and tens of thousands later. We won! A neighborhood that pulled together prevailed.”
A key point of contention regarding the DNS was one of West Seattle’s most-contentious current issues, parking impacts; this building is proposed with about 60 spaces, and is within a block of one built and two planned “microhousing” projects totaling about 200 living units with no planned offstreet parking.
You can see Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner‘s full ruling here as a PDF, or below:
We are still reading it and will add more to this story shortly.
ADDED 4:36 PM: First, note that this is not a ruling against development on the site. It is a ruling in favor of the challenges to specific decisions made during the process, and sending them back for reconsideration. We have asked DPD for comment on the decision and information on what happens next.
Reading the entirety of the 16-page ruling, key points from the Hearing Examiner’s conclusions, which start on page 11:
In conclusion #6, the Examiner writes that DPD went too far in telling the Design Review Board that it did not have authority to reduce the project by a story if it chose: “It must be remembered that in most cases, the design review process is also the City’s process for mitigating height, bulk, and scale impacts under SEPA. It may be unlikely that the Board would determine a one-story reduction was necessary for the proposal to comply with (a guideline). Regardless, the Board has the authority to do so and to recommend the reduction to the Director.”
Conclusion #7 begins, “It is clear from the record that the Board struggled with the issue of compatibility between the proposal and the adjacent single-family neighborhood, yet felt constrained by the Director’s emphasis on retaining all site development potential allowed under the Code.” (This related to another emphasis point for neighbors, who called attention to a section of the late-’90s neighborhood plan saying that the character of their single-family neighborhood along 32nd SW north of Avalon should be protected.)
Regarding parking impacts, it’s noted earlier in the ruling that an analysis of cumulative parking effects from this prospective project and the three microhousing buildings would result in up to parking usage of more than 130 percent of the area’s capacity. Conclusions #9, 10, and 11 deal with parking, including the declaration “The evidence in the record shows that the Director’s analysis of cumulative parking impacts was incomplete in that it failed to consider the impact of several nearby projects that would likely produce spillover parking into the 800-foot parking shed for the subject proposal.”
In conclusion #12, the Examiner writes that a suggestion that the department wouldn’t require anything to mitigate parking impacts “is not relevant to the analysis of those impacts. Nor is the question of whether or not a proposal would be consistent with City policy decisions on encouraging transit over automobile use.”
The decision, as spelled out on its final page, represents the final decision of the city; if a challenge is sought, it would have to be in court. We’re checking to find out if anyone plans to seek that, and also to see how the Hearing Examiner’s order, sending the project back to Design Review and to DPD staff for the environmental analysis, will be carried out. But the project’s future was revealed during the appeal hearing to have already been at issue, with legal action pending involving the site.