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.