6:26 PM: Last Friday, we told you about a citywide coalition of neighborhood groups, including 3 from West Seattle, planning to challenge the city’s plan for HALA (Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda) upzoning, as released with its Final Environmental Impact Statement two weeks ago (this interactive map shows proposed zoning changes). Today, representatives of the more than 20 groups gathered in the City Hall lobby downtown to formally announce the appeal. Here’s our unedited video of the 20-plus-minute event:
The three West Seattle groups participating in the appeal are from three of West Seattle’s four urban villages: Morgan Community Association (Morgan Junction), Junction Neighborhood Organization (West Seattle Junction), and Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Coalition (Westwood-Highland Park). And we have just received the coalition’s official “notice of appeal” document – read it here, or embedded below:
We’ll be reading it in the hours ahead and adding notes; in addition, as mentioned today, several neighborhood groups are pursuing their own individual appeals – those include MoCA and JuNO, as well as some from elsewhere in the city; the city Hearing Examiner‘s files already show four appeals, from Beacon Hill, Wallingford, and Fremont groups, as well as an individual citizen from North Seattle.
From the city side, Councilmember Rob Johnson – whose office has a leadership role in the HALA process as he chairs the Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee – has published his reaction to news of the appeals, concluding:
Though Council is prohibited from taking final action during the appeal process, we will continue our planned 8-month outreach and deliberation process so that when the appeal is resolved, we can act quickly to implement a critical strategy that will result in more income and rent-restricted housing and more housing options across our city for people of all incomes.
ADDED 11:20 PM: We’ve read through the coalition’s 17-page appeal document, and also received the notices of appeal by the two local groups that have also filed their own, JuNO and MoCA. Those documents are after the jump, along with toplines from the coalition appeal if you don’t have the time or inclination to read through the full document:
In general, the argument of the appeal is that the city’s neighborhoods are unique and distinct, and the Final Environmental Impact Statement doesn’t recognize it as such. But first, from the opening paragraphs:
SCALE supports the concept of increased density and supports the broader goal of increasing affordable housing and livability in the City of Seattle. Many members of SCALE have worked for decades with the City to plan for growth productively. They have dedicated countless volunteer hours toward developing, creating and commenting on neighborhood plans, all in the interest of doing density right.
But the City’s approach with the Mandatory Housing Affordability program has been focused purely on increasing housing development capacity, not good land use planning. The City has disregarded numerous existing neighborhood plans and has not engaged in any meaningful, targeted, neighborhood specific planning or collaboration throughout the entire HALA/MHA process. Now we have an FEIS that reinforces this approach. Rather than disclosing and studying the unique impacts to each of the neighborhoods in the study area, the FEIS provides a non-specific summary of the existing environment, impacts, and mitigation for a generic urban village.
The appeal challenges two elements, “adequacy of conditions” and “adequacy of [the] EIS.”
It is the mission of SCALE to seek adoption of legislation that would accomplish the goals of increasing affordable housing based on wise land use planning that would promote maintaining all the things that make Seattle a great place to live, including adequate infrastructure (transit, roads, schools, and utilities) and resources essential for a livable community, such as parks, open space, and abundant trees.
….The FEIS … failed to adequately disclose and analyze the significant impacts that the MHA Program will have on SCALE and its members (and) failed to discuss reasonable alternatives that could accommodate the planned growth and generate more rent-assisted housing and affordable housing with less impacts to the quality of life of people who live in the city.
It’s suggested that the city could have done an EIS for each neighborhood. And it alleges that the FEIS doesn’t disclose that the MHA proposal conflicts with the city’s comprehensive plan and multiple neighborhood plans. (This is the subject of separate actions that some neighborhoods are taking, as well as the city – seeking dueling comprehensive-plan amendments to either remove the conflicting conditions in MHA, or the conflicting conditions in the neighborhood plans.)
The appeal also alleges the FEIS doesn’t adequately address a variety of potential impacts, from aesthetics to traffic to trees to noise to pollution, as well as parks, open space, public facilities such as schools, and small businesses.
It also suggests the FEIS is contradictory in spots, such as: “The FEIS claims that the City does not have a threshold for determining significance of tree loss. The FEIS then concludes that the tree loss anticipated as a result of the proposal is not a significant impact.”
Toward the goal of MHA, the appeal suggests there are other ways the affordable-housing goals can be reached, such as “increase in various funding sources, increased incentives in the Incentive Zoning program and other measures (including partnerships with major employers) … could generate more affordable housing, but none of these options is analyzed in detail. Other viable alternatives not analyzed in detail … include the option of directing more growth to the areas of the city with the greatest amount of under-utilized development capacity; providing low-interest loans to small landlords for major maintenance projects in exchange for limits on rent increases; incentivizing homeowners to build mother-in-law apartments or accessory dwelling units (incentives would include forgiving of permitting fees and dedicated staff to help with the permitting process) and phasing in the density increases discussed in the action alternatives so that each area can be evaluated in a finer-grained analysis (as has been done with the University District and lower Queen Anne).”
The appeal also goes into detail about displacement concerns, including saying it “fails to disclose the existing levels of housing losses in the city caused by redevelopment under existing zoning and the extent to which this will increase with any of the action alternatives. (Appeal contends) more homelessness will result.” Meantime, the appeal says, the FEIS acknowledges it’s “possible”that older housing provides more affordable housing than new construction and, that, therefore preservation – not destruction – of “historic” housing may benefit affordability efforts. But the complaint is that’s only mentioned in a discussion of historic resources which in turn doesn’t adequately assess those either, nor the potential for loss.
Another claim: That the assessment doesn’t adequately analyze areas outside of urban villages that are subject to MHA … (contending that) it therefore overlooks a significant percentage of affected areas.
And it alleges “a serious lack of true neighborhood outreach” as well as inadequate response to comments
Bottom line, the relief requested is for the Hearing Examiner to send the FEIS back to the city “with instructions to prepare a Supplemental EIS(s) as necessary to adequately assess the environmental impacts and mitigation for a reasonable range of alternatives, including an assessment of the impacts and potential mitigations that are associated with each individual neighborhood that is impacted by the proposal.”
The Hearing Examiner will set a date for a hearing.
Meanwhile, as mentioned, some of the participating groups are filing their own appeals. Late tonight we received the documents for those filed by the two West Seattle groups who have chosen to do so. We are working on a separate followup about the WS-specific concerns, but meantime, in case you’d like to read the documents for yourself, here they are. First, from JuNO – PDF here, or embedded below:
And from MoCA – PDF here, or embedded below:
If you haven’t browsed the Final EIS already, you can find it here.