ALERT: Developer files court challenge

Friday, August 11th, 6 pm.

Johnson & Carr – the Phinney Flats developers – have today (Friday) filed a Land Use Petition in Superior Court challenging the Hearing Examiner’s decision in the Livable Phinney case.  We just received this news late today. We will consult with our attorney next week and will keep you appraised of our next steps ASAP.

However, this adds urgency to our request for donations to cover our legal costs.  Sadly, Johnson & Carr prefer to escalate rather than make a few changes to bring “Phinney Flats” into compliance with the land use code and to be a reasonable neighbor.

Please help us with additional donations. Click the button below to donate via credit card, or send a check to Livable Phinney, 6537 Greenwood Ave. Seattle, WA 98103, or drop off a check at the HomeStreet Bank at Greenwood Ave. & 73rd St. Thank you!

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KOMO News: “Phinney Ridge housing project delayed over Metro bus ruling.”

From the KOMO News story, August 2:

Irene Wall and her fellow neighbors with the group Livable Phinney argued that the No. 5 bus doesn’t run frequently enough. Now it’s possible that her battle with the builder could reshape Seattle’s long-term growth plans.

“What we’ve discovered is the city can make mistakes and they do need to be challenged sometimes,” Wall said.

The mistake, Wall said, is how often buses drive by. The developer used bus schedules to say transit was frequent enough that no on-site parking was needed. Members of Livable Phinney checked that against Metro’s actual performance data. They found that bus service failed to meet that every 15 minutes rule nearly 40 percent of the time.

Read the whole story here:

July 26: Livable Phinney issues press release.

Here’s the text of a press release issued July 26, by Livable Phinney. Click here to download a PDF version.


Phinney Ridge Appeal Stops Building with No Onsite Parking

SEATTLE – In a decision issued July 24, 2017, Deputy Hearing Examiner Ryan Vancil
reversed and remanded the City’s approval of the controversial “Phinney Flats”
project, a 57-unit building with no onsite parking in the Phinney Ridge
neighborhood. The project had generated unprecedented opposition in the

“This Decision is a game-changer for making the City accountable for
applying the Land Use Code properly,” said Irene Wall, a board member of Livable
Phinney, the Washington nonprofit corporation that had appealed the City’s
approval of the Phinney Flats project.

The Examiner agreed with Livable Phinney that: 1) the building was too
close to the rear property line and violated the required setbacks, and; 2) the
building had an illegal rooftop structure that did not meet the definition of a
clerestory, and that this structure was placed improperly on the rooftop. A revised
building design will be required.

And, in a ruling with city-wide ramifications, the Examiner also agreed with
Livable Phinney that the City was required to look at actual bus frequency, not just
bus schedules, when allowing an exemption from onsite parking requirements. The Land Use Code allows a multi-use project in an Urban Village to proceed without any onsite parking, regardless of parking impacts, if the site is located within a specified
distance of “Frequent Transit Service,” which requires 15-minute intervals between
buses. The City insisted that a bus schedule showing 15-minute intervals was

But Livable Phinney presented a statistical analysis of actual Bus Route #5 bus times, derived from King County Metro data, which showed that actual intervals between buses grossly departed from scheduled intervals.

“While analysis of bus schedules might be sufficient in most circumstances, when
presented with reliable data showing that bus service does not meet the definition
of frequent transit service well over a third of the time over a period of months, the
[City] cannot simply ignore such information,” the Examiner concluded, and
remanded this issue to the City to consider the actual data.

“This is the first time that statistical evidence has been used to show that bus
schedules are meaningless in the ever-increasing traffic congestion in Seattle,” Wall
explained. “When a bus is unreliable, the City cannot expect people to forego their
cars and rely on unreliable public transportation, and people who ride the bus also own cars.” If the project site does not qualify for the “frequent transit service exemption,”
onsite parking will be required. The developer’s own traffic analysis concluded that
the project will generate more cars than can be accommodated on the surrounding

In addition, Wall noted, “this decision is timely in light of the city’s ongoing
study of parking code changes and changes to the design review process. Despite
extra review sessions, the code violations were overlooked in the case of Phinney

Although the Examiner upheld certain aspects of the City’s decision, the
Examiner’s reversal on key Land Use Code provisions halts the controversial project
for now.


Jeff Eustis, attorney for Livable Phinney: 206-625-9515
Irene Wall, Livable Phinney Board Member: 206-501-9684

Livable Phinney Wins on Key Issues: Phinney Flats Stopped for Now

In a decision issued July 24, the Hearing Examiner ruled in our favor on almost every important issue.

The building must have greater setbacks, the clerestories on the rooftop are unlawful, and the City will be required to evaluate the actual bus headway data we presented before allowing this project to proceed without any onsite parking. This decision will be a game changer for all Urban Villages dealing with the application of Frequent Transit Service parking exemptions.

We will write more later, but we wanted you to know this terrific news. Click here to download the Hearing Examiner’s decision as a PDF.

Thank you for your support in this long struggle! We couldn’t have gotten this far without you. We will be reviewing the decision closely with our attorney to determine next steps.

Livable Phinney has incurred significant legal fees to date. Please help us with additional donations to pay the legal bills for this victory. Click the button below to donate via credit card, or send a check to Livable Phinney, 6537 Greenwood Ave. Seattle, WA 98103, or drop off a check at the HomeStreet Bank at Greenwood Ave. & 73rd St. Thank you!

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June 30 Update: Successful Motion to Supplement the Appeal Record

On June 27th our attorney was successful in getting additional bus headway data into the appeal record. This is good but it may mean some delay in getting a final decision on the substance of our appeal. We anticipate a decision by July 7th or shortly thereafter. Watch this website for breaking news.


At the May hearing, we presented statistical evidence that 38% of the time, the #5 bus does not meet the 15 minute headways required to build Phinney Flats without any on-site parking. This was a crucial issue in the appeal. The City and the developer’s attorney argued that two additional trips in the morning added in March could “fix” the problem but they did not produce any evidence to prove this. However following the close of the hearing, we were finally able to secure additional data from Metro and conduct the same statistical analysis showing that even with the added trips, the bus did not meet the headways 37% of the time. This study is now before the Hearing Examiner in addition to the original report and testimony.

The City planners continue to insist that bus schedules, regardless of late arrivals and skipping stops due to full buses, are all that is needed to characterize frequent transit performance. We have argued that actual bus performance data must be considered before eliminating all parking requirements.

The decision will affect all urban villages with so-called Frequent Transit Service. Please share this information with your friends inside and outside Phinney Ridge and urge their support for our cause.


Since our fundraising begin in early February, we have received 170 donations totaling over $31,000. Individual donations have ranged from $20 to $1,500. Several individuals donated more than once. The Fini Condo Association contributed $2, 500. THANKS TO ALL OF YOU! This shows what a concerned neighborhood can do when challenged with a bad decision. It also shows how expensive land use appeals really are.

BECAUSE we are not done paying the bills!

We estimate the need for another $10,000 to cover the preparation of the closing brief and the unexpected motion described above. Please click to donate:

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Or send a check to Livable Phinney, 6537 Greenwood Ave. Seattle, WA 98103 or drop off a check at the HomeStreet Bank at 73rd and Greenwood.


To join our mailing list, or to ask us a question, please email us at



One of the expenses associated with this appeal was the requirement to pay a $3,150 fee to the city to get a written explanation of how the planner applied the land use code when approving the project. This fee presents a real financial burden on citizens’ rights to appeal since many times appeals are tossed out because the appellant did not pay for an Interpretation.

Livable Phinney worked with other activists in West Seattle and Council member Lisa Herbold to help resolve this. There is now a code change pending to remove this requirement.

There is a quiet public hearing on the amendment July 18th at 9:30 am in the regularly scheduled Planning, Land Use and Zoning Council Committee. Please write an email by July 17th to council member and cc in support of Council Bill 118985. Say you support the intent of removing the Interpretation requirement and ask that the effective date of the ordinance be made retroactive to January 1, 2017. The latter request is a long shot but if successful, will help us claw back the fee we paid.


The impacts of spillover parking from new development along Phinney/Greenwood into the already full adjacent residential streets was highlighted in the LivablePhinney appeal. Irene Wall, who is also a City Neighborhood Council committee member, proposed an amendment to the Comprehensive Plan to address this situation.

#4. Application by the City Neighborhood Council to amend land use policies to reduce the spillover of parking from urban centers and villages into the surrounding community. Follow this link to read this and other amendments in Clerk File 320265 by searching for File Number 320265.

There will be a Public Hearing on Monday, July 24 at 5:30 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall to advocate for amendments to be “docketed” for consideration. Send written comments in support of Amendment #4 to Council member Rob Johnson c/o