The city’s HALA Mandatory Housing Affordability upzoning plan has yet to go before the City Council for a final vote because the neighborhood coalition appeal of its Environmental Impact Statement remains unresolved. Testimony was scheduled to resume this morning before city Hearing Examiner Ryan Vancil. This is the 11th day of testimony, but the 10 days so far have not been consecutive; it began with one week in late June (June 25-29) and continued with one week in late July (July 23-27). This entire week is also blocked for testimony, Monday-Friday, and four more days are on the HE calendar too – August 30th and 31st and September 4th and 7th. This week, the neighborhood coalition is scheduled to wrap up its case with witnesses today and Tuesday and in the first hour of Wednesday, before the city calls more of its witnesses. Those testifying this week, according to a document provided to the HE, will include West Seattleites Christy Tobin-Presser and Cindi Barker as part of the appeal case; city witnesses will include city employees and consultants including Geoff Wentlandt, the city Office of Planning and Community Development lead in preparing the EIS. The proceedings are in the Hearing Examiner’s chambers on the 40th floor of the city Municipal Tower downtown (700 5th Ave.), open to the public; audio of each day’s proceedings is posted in the online case file.
BACKSTORY: The proposal would upzone property in urban villages, as well as commercial/multifamily property everywhere in the city, while requiring developers to either build affordable housing in their projects or pay fees to fund it elsewhere. The appeal was announced in November, two weeks after the city released the EIS. Five West Seattle neighborhood groups are among the 31 organizations from around the city in the coalition – Alki Community Council, Fauntleroy Neighborhood Association, Morgan Community Association, West Seattle Junction Neighborhood Organization, and the Westwood-Roxhill-Arbor Heights Community Coalition. An appeal is not a lawsuit, though it could be a precursor to one; once the HE rules – usually within a few weeks of the end of testimony – that will be the city’s final decision in the matter, but the decision could be challenged in court. In city appeals, the burden is on the appellants to prove that a city decision should be overturned or amended. The City Council has continued to review the legislation that would implement HALA MHA, though its Select Committee on MHA has yet to schedule its next meeting.