After 19 days of testimony before city Hearing Examiner Ryan Vancil, the appeal of the HALA Mandatory Housing Affordability upzoning is now in his hands. Friday was the last scheduled day of testimony – the 19th, in sessions spread across 2 1/2 months – in the appeal challenging the city’s Final Environmental Impact Statement on the plan. We listened to audio from the hearing’s conclusion to find out what happens next: Both sides have deadlines to submit their wrap-up briefs to Vancil, and he indicated he doesn’t expect to announce his decision before November.
HALA MHA would upzone commercial and multifamily property citywide, plus residential property in “urban village” areas, with developers allowed to build higher/denser as a result, while being required to include a certain level of “affordable housing” in their projects or to pay the city a fee to fund construction somewhere else. (Check the interactive map here to see how/whether any particular site would be affected.) The coalition of more than 30 neighborhood groups that filed the appeal last November (plus some individual challenges that were heard concurrently) contends that the FEIS is inadequate for a variety of reasons and wants the city to have to go back to the drawing board and work directly with neighborhoods to address their specific challenges and conditions. Until the appeal is settled, the City Council’s vote on HALA MHA – a proposal initiated before Jenny Durkan was elected mayor – is on hold. They’ve had a multitude of meetings and hearings on it, including in-district hearings that concluded with one June 5th in West Seattle (WSB coverage here). Meantime, documents in the appeal case, as well as minutes (detailing who testified but not the substance of their testimony) and audio, can be found here. The Hearing Examiner (whose role is explained briefly here) has the city’s final say in matters brought before him; a court challenge would be the next step.