Livable Phinney is a Washington non-profit corporation that focuses on reasonable development for the Phinney Ridge neighborhood. Phinney Ridge, like the rest of Seattle, is growing and changing at a faster pace than recent years, and more development is coming. That means we need to be vigilant to ensure that new developments comply with the Land Use Code and do not impose unlawful impacts on our community.
Livable Phinney was formed in 2016 when a group of Phinney Ridge residents became concerned with the potential impact of the controversial “Phinney Flats” development proposed for 6726 Greenwood Avenue North -50+ “small efficiency dwelling units” (apartments of approximately 200 square feet) and no onsite parking. Livable Phinney retained a lawyer, and appealed the decision to allow the project in early 2017. Community support for our appeal was remarkable.
Our successful appeal forced the developers to shrink the size of their building to comply with the Land Use Code, but unfortunately, we could not force the City to require onsite parking. Shortly after our initial victory, the City Council changed the parking laws to allow this building – and all future mixed-use buildings in the Phinney Ridge Urban Village and in urban villages throughout the City — to be built without onsite parking. Livable Phinney added its voice to the widespread opposition to that legislation, but we couldn’t stop it. We realized it was more important than ever to be vigilant and monitor new legislation and developments that are rapidly changing our neighborhood and the whole City.
The “Shared Roof” Project – 7009 Greenwood Ave. N
One new development proposal, the “Shared Roof” rezone at 7009 Greenwood Avenue North, got our attention because it raises many of the same issues as the Phinney Flats project: a building that violates the required separation between commercial and single family zones, would be out of scale with the neighborhood, and will have an outsized impact on parking in the area. The 7009 project would obtain a custom, site specific rezone of the commercial land on the northwest corner of Greenwood and North 70th Street to allow a five story building (only four stories are allowed there now), and the proposed building would be built right on the property line shared with the adjacent single family lots (the Land Use Code requires at least a 15-foot setback on all floors above the first floor) and it would be topped with a 12-foot high greenhouse, creating a building almost 70 feet tall. The traffic studies estimate over 300 car trips per day from this project and 20 daily truck deliveries for a restaurant proposed for the building.
The approval of this project also affects the future of the entire Phinney Ridge commercial strip because it prejudices the approval of the proposed MHA 55-foot zone for this area. If this zone is OK for this owner, do we imagine the City Council will deny the rezone for all the other similar owners on the Ridge?
The City Council approved rezone but admitted that there was no law that allowed the developers to avoid complying with Code requirements,. Two Phinney Ridge residents filed a Land Use Petition to appeal that decision on August 27, 2018 alleging numerous violations of the Land Use Code. If the appeal is successful, this project and the rezone would be denied, but the developer could still design and build a four-story building that complied with the Land Use Code. It was the builder’s choice to seek special privileges and suffer the delays and uncertainties inherent in that process.
Livable Phinney has decided to support this appeal and assist with fundraising efforts because this case raises many of the same issues that we fought for in the Phinney Flats case: a building too large for what the Code allows or is compatible with the Phinney Ridge commercial area, and unlawfully close to the single family zone. If the 7009 project is approved, it has the potential to change how Phinney Ridge might be developed, with no separation between the new mixed use buildings on Greenwood and the single family homes behind them. And it will encourage more developers to buy their way out of Code requirements by acquiring adjacent single family lots, and pushing the single-family zone back without a rezone, even though there is no law that allows this. When SDCI and the City Council turn a blind eye to Code requirements, we need to support citizens who step up to hold them accountable.
Livable Phinney believes the 7009 site can and should be lawfully re-developed with the setbacks from the single family zone that the Code requires. If the City won’t force developers to keep their buildings within what the Land Use Code allows, then private citizens remain the last line of defense. And that is why Livable Phinney decided to help support to the appeal of the 7009 decision.
We have wrapped up our fundraising for the Phinney Flats case (Thank you!), so all funds raised now will be used to support the 7009 appeal.
Questions? Email us at LivablePhinney@gmail.com