HALA UPZONING: Neighborhood groups’ appeal hearing starts Monday

(WSB photo, November 2017)

Seven months after representatives from neighborhood groups around the city stood together at City Hall to announce they were appealing the Final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed HALA Mandatory Housing Affordability upzoning, the hearing starts tomorrow.

Quick recap, if you’ve lost track: HALA MHA proposes upzoning the city’s urban villages – West Seattle has four (Admiral, West Seattle Junction, Morgan Junction, Westwood-Highland Park) – and commercial/multifamily property, while requiring developers to either provide a certain percentage of “affordable” housing in each project, or pay a fee into a fund that will pay for it elsewhere. The appeal contends that the FEIS does not adequately address potential impacts of MHA – for example, it argues that neighborhoods’ unique challenges are generally not dealt with in neighborhood-specific ways.

So far, three weeks are set aside on the city Hearing Examiner‘s calendar for the appeal – one this month, one in July, one in August – and there’s a possibility of a fourth. The City Council’s work on the bill to implement MHA has proceeded in parallel, meantime, with the last in-district hearing held almost three weeks ago here in West Seattle (WSB coverage here). The case file for the appeal hearing, meantime, has grown longer (see it here), and there have been some rulings on pre-hearing motions (summarized here [PDF]). Other changes since the appeal was announced include additional community groups joining the coalition – in West Seattle, the Alki Community Council and Fauntleroy Community Association have joined the appeal, whose original parties included the Morgan Community Association, West Seattle Junction Neighborhood Organization, and Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Coalition.

The witness lists are here (coalition) and here (city). First scheduled witness tomorrow in support of the appeal is Peter Steinbrueck, current Seattle Port Commissioner and former Seattle City Councilmember, who is expected to “testify about the inadequacy of the MHA EIS disclosure and analysis of alternatives and impacts relevant to land use impacts and relevant to the Urban Village Study” – referring to a study conducted by his consulting firm three years ago.” The coalition witness list adds that “He will also testify about the history of neighborhood planning and comprehensive planning to the extent that it is relevant to the MHA proposal and the inadequacy of the MHA EIS disclosure and analysis of land use impacts.”

In proceedings before the Hearing Examiner, the city basically gets the benefit of the doubt unless the challenger can prove otherwise. The examiner’s ruling – usually made a few weeks after proceedings end – is the city’s last say in a matter, so after that the next stop would be court.

Proceedings before the Hearing Examiner, by the way, are open to the public; the hearing room is something like a small courtroom, and it’s on the 40th floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower (700 5th Avenue) downtown.

8 Replies to "HALA UPZONING: Neighborhood groups' appeal hearing starts Monday"

  • ballardite June 25, 2018 (12:53 pm)

    I hope they will point out the Seattle Times Article on the front page today:  https://www.seattletimes.com/business/real-estate/free-amazon-echo-2-months-free-rent-2500-gift-cards-seattle-apartment-glut-gives-renters-freebies/.  This shows that we have high vacancy rates and are already overbuilt.  Once the rents come down there will be plenty of more affordable units without any of the upzones that the city insists are needed.

    • CAM June 25, 2018 (2:08 pm)

      Those high vacancy rates were limited to the downtown core neighborhood. The outlying neighborhoods still had very little vacancy and had ongoing rent increases as compared to last year. And the cost of renting an apartment is still far too high. The article had a handy map in it that broke down the vacancy rates and rent changes by general vicinity. 

    • Kram June 25, 2018 (3:20 pm)

      You can also find on the Seattle Times that Seattle is constantly one of the countries fastest growing cities. Maybe we are heading towards a flattening but not planning for the future continued population growth has got us in trouble before. You can’t cram everyone downtown and in Capitol Hill. 

  • TJ June 25, 2018 (3:04 pm)

    The bar for rents has been set here, and that bar is high. Developers don’t like working backwards and go down on recenue. And being investors, they are extremely savvy to trends and once they see rents stabilizing, new construction will slow. The job market here, while crazy good, will slow down, and population growth will slow with it (developers won’t listen to crazy off the wall comments from politicians that we will see “climate migrants” coming here in the near future). We are not going to build a market where rents are $1200 a month for a apartment here. The only way that will happen is with a severe market turndown

  • steve June 25, 2018 (10:14 pm)

    I read the times article. Not very informative. There’s one mention of an apartment that rents for $1300. Yeah, sure….I suspect most of these are the $3500, $4000 a month downtown, Belltown, etc, apartments.  All the way down to Rainer Ave.   I think people are realizing that there’s better value in the outer surrounding areas, and are leaving these overpriced boxes.    

  • ConcernedAboutTheFuture June 26, 2018 (8:06 am)

    I hope that the HALA MHA upzones come to pass sooner rather than later. Homes are already priced beyond what a median family can afford. Keeping housing from being built will only make it worse. What happens when families are priced out of the city entirely? I don’t want my city to turn into some closed off enclave to the old and/or wealthy property owners. It’s unhealthy for the city, unhealthy for communities, and unhealthy for the future.

  • jm18 June 26, 2018 (12:02 pm)

    I’m doubtful on any more delays, the Urbanist had a great article on how the city scored some early victories on the ‘neighborhood’ groups appeal.  From what I hear, it’s already anticipated and pre planning being done for final approval early fall.https://www.theurbanist.org/2018/06/11/city-scores-early-victory-mha-appeal-brought-homeowner-groups/

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