Setback on parking at City Council. Herbold stands up for us.

We are disappointed but not surprised to report that 7 members of the City Council voted today for the terribly flawed parking code change legislation. The exception was Councilmember Lisa Herbold, who spoke eloquently and factually in favor of her SEPA authority restoration amendment. Only Council president Bruce Harrell was willing to support this common-sense provision to allow consideration of mitigation of parking impacts in very limited circumstances. But in the end he voted to approve the legislation without this amendment. Kshama Sawant was absent today.

Lisa was the lone “No” vote, and we should all be grateful for her efforts on behalf of all of us, not just the people in her district. Thank you, Lisa, for being the voice of reason and fairness! 

The majority of people making public comment spoke in favor of Lisa’s amendment and asked the Council to reconsider the changes related to zero parking and redefining Frequent Transit Service. The voice of the people did not penetrate through the anti-car ideology and the fiction that housing will become affordable if developers can avoid the cost of building any parking.

We will be consulting with our attorney about the next steps, so watch for news later this week.

–Irene Wall for Livable Phinney

Parking: Read the letter to City Council from community leaders across the city

March 26, 2018

Hon. Bruce Harrell
President, Seattle City Council and all Council Members
600 Fourth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104

Re: Council Bill 119173 Neighborhood Parking Code Changes

Dear President Harrell and Council Members:

We are writing a second time to express our growing concern over the actions of the PLUZ committee on March 21st that took radical steps to advance the personal agenda of two council members in complete disregard for any opinions or facts offered by other Councilmembers and the public. Their actions reflect an ideological approach where anything contrary to their closely held belief that parking is unnecessary and must be stamped out citywide is dismissed.

Lisa Herbold has been the exception, listening and asking thoughtful questions about the lopsided legislation and asking for the restoration of SEPA authority to be used when parking impacts become truly significant. Even this reasonable request was rejected by members Johnson and O’Brien. A committee with such a wide difference of opinion should seek to resolve and adjust based on real life concerns expressed by a Council member to ensure that changes work on behalf of all people represented. But there was no quarter given to Herbold’s amendment and her reasoning for supporting it. This reflects badly on the Council and undermines the public trust that committees can find consensus on controversial issues.

We do not object to all aspects of the legislation, however several of the changes being proposed simply defy reality and will bring genuine harm to many parts of the city.

  • We ask that the Council enact Herbold’s amendment and restore SEPA mitigation authority for parking impact in all FTS areas when street parking is 85% utilized. Leave in place all options for mitigation to provide SDCI with the tools to achieve compliance with SEPA.
  • We ask that no changes be made to the current code definition of “frequent transit” until there is a valid study proving a nexus between transit proximity and parking demand.
  • We ask that you postpone action on CB 119173 until the companion RPZ legislation is made public.

Our major concerns are as follows:

There is no relationship between proximity to “frequent transit” and car usage and the need for safe places to park cars. Even SDCI acknowledges that a minimum of 30% to 35% of residents in “smaller sized housing in areas well-served by transit” still have cars! 1 At a minimum all developments should meet this very low threshold for on-site parking. The unfortunate effect of maintaining and expanding the zero parking areas is to create unsafe conditions on more residential streets with illegal parking and rising tensions as more and more cars are competing for limited parking places. People use transit for some trips but still need cars for other trips even if they live close to the bus. This includes people of all income levels, renters and homeowners. The push to eliminate parking negatively effects the freedom of the mobility-impaired and older citizens who can no longer walk easily, but are still able to drive to their necessary destinations. Parking is consistent with the Age-Friendly City initiative.

The neighborhood parking code change should not be divorced from pending RPZ code changes. These changes should be considered at the same time since they are so inter-dependent. There is no reason to push one ahead of the other except to hide this connection and possible negative consequences.

SEPA mitigation authority for parking impacts must be restored without limitation. The city comprehensive plan and code still acknowledge that parking is an element of the environment. However, in 2010 the council singled out parking in “frequent transit areas” for denial of mitigation, regardless of the significance of the impact. Now we have the bizarre situation where developers produce parking utilization studies showing no capacity to absorb more on street parking, but SDCI is powerless to impose any reasonable mitigation and developers of high density projects produce no parking for either their tenants or customers of the commercial uses in NC zones. Mitigation must include the potential to require some onsite parking or rebalancing the demand with the available parking supply. Creative mitigation options such as a car-free lease should be given full consideration and not dismissed out of hand. This has the potential to balance the “no car” theology with reality and reduce the number of parking spaces needed. The cost savings from building less parking could then be shared with the tenants who agree to the car free lease conditions while they live in that building.

Actual rents are not related to the cost of constructing parking on site. Except for MFTE units and income restricted units, the market determines the rent. Allowing developers to externalize the cost of parking does not reduce rents. Mandatory unbundling (charging separately for parking) could end up increasing the cost of housing for renters as they get priced out of their on-site parking spaces even though no additional construction costs have been incurred. The unbundling conditions should be more nuanced.

Over parked streets harm neighborhood business, undermine the livability of urban villages and turn people against urban density. When residential parking usurps commercial spaces, local small business suffers. Few neighborhood businesses survive with walk in customers only. Residents in new mixed-use buildings and apartments should have safe places to park their cars without having to circle for blocks hoping to find a place to park.

We need to refocus on improving transit before withholding parking. Improving transit access, speed, and reliability will do more to reduce congestion and decrease vehicle miles traveled than reducing the parking supply. The current proposal relies on a simplistic definition of “frequent transit” that ignores overcrowding and Metro’s current and projected shortage of capacity.

Many people are negatively impacted by the cost of housing and traffic congestion. However, we need a calibrated and pragmatic approach to addressing these challenges. Merely eliminating parking (both on street and on-site) does not address either of these problems.

Like all land use matters, parking has become divisive and that is why the entire Council should take the time to study the details, only then will the reasonable solutions be found that address the needs of all Seattle citizens today as well as tomorrow.

Thank you from the undersigned concerned citizens of Seattle:

  • Irene Wall, Phinney Ridge
  • Mike Mcadams, Greenwood
  • Cindi Baker, Morgan Junction
  • Sandra Wheeler, Eastlake
  • Martin Kaplan, Queen Anne
  • Steve Sewell, Phinney Ridge
  • Deb Barker, Morgan Junction
  • Donn Cave, Wallingford
  • Tim Motzer, Lake City
  • Maria Batayola Beacon Hill
  • Alex Pedersen, Roosevelt
  • Kathryn Keller, Central Area
  • David Moehring, Magnolia
  • Susanna Lin, Wallingford
  • Jessica Cunningham, Fremont
  • John Shepherd, Phinney (Red Mill Burger)
  • Toby Thaler, Fremont Neighborhood Council
  • Mira Latoszek, North Beacon Hill
  • Susan Grote, Fremont
  • Jeffrey Cook, Rainier Beach
  • Jon Lisbin, Ballard
  • Tamsen Spengler. Morgan Junction

Parking showdown! Attend April 2 City Council meeting!

 Join us at April 2 City Council meeting to counter aggressive anti-parking advocates!

The April 2nd City Council meeting is shaping up to be a showdown over neighborhood parking. (See the call to action below from 350Seattle.)

Please show up to counter this “opposition” who are mistaken in so many ways about the effect of the proposed parking code legislation, which is NOT the environmental band-aid they claim it is.

Monday, April 2 at 2:00 PM, City Council Chambers… Get there early to sign up for public comment period at the top of the hour

Talking Points

  • ADOPT Council member Herbold’s proposal to restore SEPA authority for parking mitigation in frequent transit areas. See details below for vehicle ownership facts by Council District and the need for relief from overcrowded street parking with new development.
  • The number of cars in Seattle increases with our growth; people are bringing cars and buying cars. They are also taking transit. They are not mutually exclusive realities.
  • If streets are for people, then put the cars BENEATH BUILDINGS! More density means more cars so store them underground.
  • Less on site parking means MORE ON STREET PARKING – WHICH MEANS LESS SAFETY FOR BIKES
  • Less on site parking means MORE DRIVING AROUND LOOKING FOR PARKING
  • Most apartment unbundle parking now, making it mandatory is only LINING THE POCKETBOOKS OF DEVELOPER WHO WILL CHARGE TENANT MORE THAN THEY ARE PAYING NOW and further burdening landlords with more regulations.
  • Less on site parking does not lower rents… have Seattle rents gone down since 2010 when the FTS zero and reduced parking code went into effect? NO BECAUSE MARKET DEMAND DICTATES RENT, NOT PARKING..
  • Flexible use parking is ok but will not work if new buildings do not provide ANY parking to flex!
  • Remember Parked Cars are Not Polluting!
  • GO ahead with the bike parking code changes. We have no argument with that.

MOST IMPORTANT

SUPPORT LISA HERBOLD’S SEPA AMENDMENT TO THE LEGISLATION. It’s a sensible way of allowing reasonable mitigation depending on individual location circumstances to provide safer streets, protect local businesses and give newcomers a safe place to park their cars.

EFFECTS ON OUR NEIGHBORHOODS

District 1

  • In the southwest end of the district there are three census tracks that have car ownership rates of 80%, 88%, and 95% yet due to the C line and the 21 line, the proposed legislation will be reducing parking by 50% in certain areas. On Avalon there is a car ownership rate of 87%, but the proposed legislation will reduce parking by 50% in certain areas.
  • In the Morgan Junction urban village they have a car ownership rate of 83%, but no parking minimum. (Argument for including SEPA mitigation)

District 2

  • In Beacon Hill there’s a census block with 87% car ownership, but the proposed legislation will reduce parking by 50% in certain areas.
  • In the majority of Columbia City urban village there’s a car ownership rate of 84%, but no parking minimum (argument for including SEPA mitigation).
  • In the North Beacon Bill urban village there’s a car ownership rate of 84%, but no parking minimum (argument for including SEPA mitigation).

District 3

  • On the eastside of the 23rd & Union-Jackson urban village there is a car ownership rate of 82%, but no parking minimum (argument for including SEPA mitigation).
  • Just southeast of the 23rd & Union-Jackson urban village there is a car ownership rate of 80%, but the proposed legislation will reduce parking by 50% in certain areas.
  • Just east of the Madison-Miller urban village there’s a car ownership rate of 89%, but the proposed legislation will reduce parking by 50% in most areas.

District 4

  • In the north part of Laurelhurst there’s car ownership rates of 94% and 98%, but the proposed legislation will reduce parking by 50% in certain areas.

District 5

  • Just south of the Lake City Urban Village, along Lake City Way, there are car ownership rates of 81%, 85%, and 88%, but the proposed legislation will reduce parking by 50% in certain areas.
  • In the South end of the Aurora-Licton Springs urban village there is a car ownership rate of 90%, but no parking minimum (argument for including SEPA mitigation).

District 6

  • In the north end of the Greenwood-Phinney Ridge urban village there is a car ownership rate of 86%, but no parking minimum (argument for including SEPA mitigation).
  • In south end of the Crown Hill urban village there is a car ownership rate of 95%, but no parking minimum in the urban village (argument for including SEPA mitigation) and a 50% reduction outside of the urban village.
  • In north end of the Ballard urban village there is a car ownership rate of 85%, but no parking minimum in the urban village (argument for including SEPA mitigation) and a 50% reduction outside of the urban village.
  • In the Freemont urban village there are car ownership rates of 83% and 92%, but no parking minimum in the urban village (argument for including SEPA mitigation) and a 50% reduction outside of the urban village.
  • In the Wallingford urban village there is a car ownership rate of 79%, but no parking minimum (argument for including SEPA mitigation).

District 7

  • In Queen Anne there are care ownership rates ranging from 92% to 69%, with an average of 83%; however in the Upper Queen Anne urban village there are no parking minimums (argument for including SEPA mitigation) and a 50% reduction outside of the urban village.

THANKS!

–Irene Wall for Livable Phinney

Please spread the word!


See below for the 350Seattle message with the false promise of what this legislation can do. It will do NONE OF THESE THINGS!

350Seattle.org

Imagine legislation that could lower rents, relieve congestion, reduce carbon emissions and other pollution, and make bicycling easier. Changing city rules for off-street parking in new buildings can do all these things!


Come support prioritizing streets for mobility (transit, bikes, and pedestrians) rather than for parking: at City Council on Monday, April 2nd at 2pm. Whether by holding a sign or giving testimony, you can help us make it clear to the Council that Seattle must begin taking steps to build the healthy, affordable, and sustainable city we all deserve.

The legislation under consideration will:

  • Require landlords to unbundle the cost of parking from rent, so those without cars don’t have to pay for spaces.
  • Reduce how much parking a developer must construct in those parts of the city served by frequent transit, and therefore leave more room for housing and other uses.
  • Allow for off-site rental of underused private parking, which will also reduce the amount of new parking construction.
  • Improve bike storage and bike parking options.
  • Set stronger, more uniform standards for bicycle parking.

Curious to learn more about why we shouldn’t be seduced by easy parking? Watch this video.

Fixing the systems causing climate change will mean adaptations large and small to what our cities look like. De-prioritizing private cars is an important step in making Seattle healthier, safer, and easier to get around in. Please join us Monday!

In solidarity,

Andrew Kidde & the Transportation team

PLUZ Committee to vote on parking bill, Wednesday, March 21. Email your Councilmembers now!

Urgent Notice!

Council Bill (CB) 119173 will be presented before the Planning, Land Use, and Zoning (PLUZ) committee of the City Council on Wednesday, March 21, 2018. If the committee approves, the entire Council may vote as early as Monday March 26. If the Council decides to vote this legislation in, it would only have to be signed by the Mayor to become our new way of having much less parking – both on our residential streets and along any business district close to so-called “frequent transit.”

NOW is the time to make our voices heard and get in touch with our representatives – both the City Council and Mayor’s Office.

Livable Phinney has reviewed CB 119173 carefully. If approved “as is”, this bill would allow Phinney Flats to go ahead without any on-site parking, and create a negative parking impact throughout much of Seattle. Below is a summary of our major concerns about CB 119173:

  1. Frequent Transit Associated with Parking. This bill continues to associate parking and car ownership (and the need to park) with frequent transit. That association is fantasy! Just because folks who do not have a car might choose to live near a bus route, it’s in error to conclude that those of us who live near that route don’t need a safe place to park cars. There is absolutely NO study that justifies elimination of parking to the extent that nearby streets would be way over capacity or local businesses will lose customers. This is legislation is based on ideology, not independent study or a practical, rational approach.
  2. One Size Fits All Policy. CB 119173 is not neighborhood specific but instead blankets the entire City. Parking need, and capacity for less parking, varies considerably by area/neighborhood. What might be reasonable for Capitol Hill might not be so for Greenwood or West Seattle.
  3. Redefining Frequent Transit. We were able to challenge the permit for Phinney Flats (a high density project with no parking) by proving the #5 bus didn’t meet the definition of frequent transit. Now, the Council PLUZ Committee wants to redefine “Frequent Transit” to the scheduled, hypothetical frequency of service, to justify proliferation of the parking exemption for developers along nearly all of the in-city King County bus routes.
  4. Restore SEPA Authority. The Council should restore SEPA authority to require mitigation for parking impacts when on-street use of parking capacity reaches 85%. This has been the practice citywide, but is currently prohibited in urban villages with “frequent transit within ¼ mile.” This exemption encourages developers to build apartments with many tiny units like Phinney Flats with no on-site parking, even when surrounding streets lack capacity for more cars.
  5. No Parking Required for Low Income Housing. CB 119173 seems to discriminate against low income residents by assuming they don’t need or have cars. How fair is that?
  6. Is CB 119173 “Age Friendly”? We think not – especially for residents currently in single-family homes who desire to keep their homes that are now affordable and/or age in place – and continue to drive. Unless one only goes downtown, transit simply doesn’t go where residents need to. Some areas (like Phinney Ridge) have steep grades that would preclude walking 1/4 mile to one’s car. Seattle has inclement weather. Making it difficult to find parking in areas that are already at capacity is not age friendly. Seattle has committed to being an Age Friendly City (http://www.seattle.gov/agefriendly)
  7. Will Providing Less Parking Result in More Affordable Housing? According to the City, this is a major justification to CB 119173 (see FAQs at this link). Once again, the City Council is jumping to a conclusion without facts to back up the theory. There is no accepted study, including King County Right Sized Parking Study, that shows that reducing the parking supply results in more affordable housing. What reduced parking does lead to is an undersupply of parking – especially in areas already at full capacity. The only “gain” from undersupplying parking is profits for developers. The often quoted $50,000 per parking space in residential construction is at the very highest end of the spectrum – $25,000 is the more commonly agreed upon estimate. If properly priced, such parking will pay for itself over time just as apartments do. The connection between undersupply of parking and affordable housing is simply not there.
  8. Public Use of Accessory Parking. CB 1119173 proposes to mandate public access to unused parking – presumably in private parking areas. It is incredibly unclear how the City proposes to do this without legal challenges by those who own, use and pay for secure private parking.

PLEASE WRITE TO THE CITY COUNCIL ABOUT PARKING CODE CHANGES

The Council needs to hear that creating an undersupply of parking in new buildings is NOT going to result in more affordable housing. Ask the council to withdraw any code changes associated with Frequent Transit until we can work out a right-size parking approach. Rather than changing the definition of “Frequent Transit,” they should focus on improving transit performance and rider appeal so more people will reasonably use transit for more trips (and leave their car parked safety at home!)

E-mail address for City Council Members:

The Mayor’s email address is: jenny.durkan@seattle.gov

Thank you!

–Livable Phinney

We’re Still Fighting!

We recently received notice from SDCI that they have finally arrived at a “Supplement to Interpretation No. 17-002.” This is in response to the Hearing Examiner’s ruling in our appeal last year.

In a nutshell, the City would allow Phinney Flats to proceed with construction of 55+ units and NO PARKING. In the supplemental interpretation, the city again argues that the #5 bus meets the current definition of frequent transit based on the printed schedule and that using the schedule is the only way to measure frequent transit. We disagree because we know that actual performance, regularity and crowding conditions should be used, not just a schedule, to define frequent transit. We continue to challenge the connection between bus frequency and car usage, but that is a matter for the City Council and outside the legal boundaries of this interpretation.

However, the supplemental interpretation can be appealed, and we have done that. Click here to read the appeal we have filed, in PDF format.

We simply don’t think this proposed re-definition is in the best interest of our neighborhood or what our supporters wanted as they have thus far generously donated to fight this decision. Though we have already gained a few concessions from the developer, Johnson and Carr (2nd floor setback, removal of the north clerestory, etc.), the primary neighborhood-wide concern was the addition of potentially 40+ more cars to park on our already overcrowded streets.

We will once again incur legal fees to present our case. Please help spread the word. We need to fight this together – as a neighborhood that cares about responsible growth – not a reduction in livability!

DONATIONS NEEDED FOR THIS NEW APPEAL

Donations can be made through the Pay Pal button below. Checks can also be deposited directly to our account at the Home Street Bank, 73rd & Greenwood. We thank you very much for your continued support.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

ALSO, PLEASE WRITE TO THE CITY COUNCIL ABOUT PARKING CODE CHANGES

Only two more meetings of the PLUZ Committee (3/7 and 3/21) before final Council vote.
Livable Phinney is also addressing the changes to parking policy being considered by the City Council. We attended a public comment session 2/21 at City Hall and spoke up for more sensible parking policy. Though we were outnumbered by a large group of organized folks representing the pro-HALA agenda, we hope our voices were heard. Please refer to the previous Update for a summary of that proposed change to city-wide parking policy. A video of that meeting and comments given can be found on the Seattle Channel: http://www.seattlechannel.org/mayor-and-council/city-council/2018/2019-planning-land-use-and-zoning-committee/?videoid=x87740

The Council needs to hear that providing enough parking in new buildings is NOT PROMOTING POLLUTION. Mainstream environmental groups have dominated the conversation and are even promoting the concept that there should be NO CAR PARKING in any buildings within ½ mile of a “frequent transit stop.” The would double the distance from the current code which is bad enough. This would excuse developers from providing any parking virtually everywhere new dense development will occur.

FOCUS ON IMPROVING TRANSIT, NOT CAUSING NEIGHORHOOD PARKING SPACE WARS!

Ask the council to withdraw any code changes associated with Frequent Transit until we can work out a right-size parking approach. Instead they should focus on improving transit performance so more people can reasonably use transit for more trips (and leave their car parked safety at home!)

Please help spread the word and Thank you all,
Livable Phinney


Donate Button with Credit Cards

All donations go only to paying legal expenses and are completely confidential. Donations are not tax-deductible. If you have a question, please contact us at LivablePhinney@gmail.com.

Time to Call City Hall About Parking Code Changes

The City Council will soon be voting on major changes to the land use code concerning parking in new and existing buildings. The purpose of these changes is to make parking cars more difficult and more expensive everywhere.  The theory is that people will give up their cars in favor of bus rides, bike rides and walking.  The other theory is that housing without parking is less expensive to build and those savings will “trickle down” to renters.

But there is no guarantee that letting developers produce zero on-site parking will achieve either of these goals.  We know that our streets are already full, and on-site parking is needed even when people take the bus to work. Rents have escalated steadily in the face of massive housing development and reduced parking requirements since 2010. No trickle down.

These code changes persist in connecting parking requirements to frequent transit. There is no justification for this. The code changes are driven by wishful thinking and getting ahead of reality and well ahead of King County Metro’s ability to provide sufficient transit service.  They impose a “one size fits all” approach which ignores the differences in topography, parking availability, and transit service in different neighborhoods.

You can read about the proposed changes at the city web site below: http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/codesrules/changestocode/parkingrecommendations/whatwhy/

Public Hearing February 21st at City Hall in the Morning – 9:30 AM

Here’s the Notice:  http://web6.seattle.gov/dpd/luib/Notice.aspx?BID=1314&NID=26831

TAKE ACTION

We hope to have a large turnout at the February 21st public hearing of Livable Phinney supporters and everyone who want reasonable parking policy in Seattle. The PLUZ Committee is recommending expansion of the “No Parking Required” policy and a change to the definition of Frequent Transit that will allow Phinney Flats and many other projects to proceed without providing parking – even outside of Urban Villages!

Plan to attend that public hearing and/or send in written comments to members of the PLUZ Council Committee ASAP.  The PLUZ will have more discussion about the proposal at their February 7th meeting where they will discuss changes to the definition of Frequent Transit Service. PLUZ member email addresses are below.

MORE INFORMATION

Livable Phinney has been following this proposal and our concerns are summarized below.

Problems with the current proposal:

  • Changes persist in connecting parking requirements to proximity to bus stops with “frequent transit,” People living close to frequent transit still have cars and need a safe place to park them even if they take the bus to work.
  • Redefines transit headway time to 18 minutes without any justification. Who considers an 18-minute wait for a bus to be “frequent transit” when Metro defines frequent transit as 15 minutes or less?  The proposed changes do nothing to increase the reliability or relieve crowding on Metro buses.
  • Using the new 18-minute headway allows expansion of the parking exemption into areas beyond Urban Villages (anywhere within 1/4 mile of ‘so called’ frequent transit).
  • Ignores the difference between bus schedules and actual bus arrivals in defining “frequent transit.” This, in effect, ignores the Hearing Examiner’s Decision in the Livable Phinney case which required SDCI to consider the differences between transit scheduled headways and actual headways.
  • Imposes new maximum limits on parking spaces in multi-family buildings – in effect eliminating otherwise available parking for tenants.
  • Mandates unbundling of parking spaces from rent in multi-family dwellings. This will push more cars onto surrounding streets and increase the cost of rent for current tenants. Lower income renters are most likely to suffer under this rule.
  • Removes the parking requirement for affordable housing units (don’t those tenants need or have cars too?)  Most affordable housing is subsidized by local, state and federal sources so Seattle tax payers are already absorbing much of the cost of these developments.

Amendments Needed For Reasonable Parking Requirements

#1. Restore authority under SEPA (environmental policies and code) to mitigate for parking impacts in new development in “frequent transit” areas. Today even when parking impacts are considered “significant” and street parking is already over capacity, SDCI can do nothing to mitigate the problem because the city intentionally reduced its own authority under SEPA.

#2. Institute a new Car-Free-Lease requirement.  Developers who don’t produce enough parking to meet demand should be required to have terms in their leases disallowing tenants from parking cars in overcrowded areas (more than 85% on street parking utilized). In return, these tenants should get a discount on their rent or a transit pass. This will acknowledge that the money developers save by not building parking is shared with tenants not getting parking.  Trickle down at work.

#3. Better definition of frequent transit is needed.  Maintain the 15-minute headway definition and require that compliance is based on recent bus performance, not merely printed schedules or maps generated by SDCI every two years as proposed. The data on transit performance is readily available. Enhance the definition of frequent transit to include crowding conditions.  People will not give up their cars when buses are too often late and very often overcrowded.  Metro produces an annual report on bus performance. That report could be used to determine if frequent transit criteria is met on any bus route at no additional administrative cost to the city or developers.

#4 Make the Decisions on Parking Requirements Data-Driven.  We live in the city of big data – we should use real data on transit performance, parking utilization, capacity and demand by neighborhood and type of development. The city is making decisions blindly or based on a few older studies, or done by self-interested entities.  The King County Right Size Parking Calculator needs to be updated to reflect conditions in Seattle in zero parking buildings.

ACTION NEEDED

  1. Submit written comments to the City Council.
  2. Attend the public hearing February 21st at the City Council Chambers at 9:30 am in City Hall (600 4th Ave. 2nd floor – entry at 5th and Cherry)
  3. Spread the word!

Thank you for keeping Seattle Livable for Everyone

Councilmember addresses:

Please write to City Council about new parking rules

Livable Phinney has been successful so far in winning some improvements to the Phinney Flats project and contesting the estimated 40+ additional cars that would be parking on our neighborhood streets. The favorable parking ruling was largely based on proving that the #5 bus did not meet the City’s definition of “Frequent Transit Service” based on 15 minute headways. The City’s parking exemption for Development in Urban Villages is based on the unsubstantiated belief that residents living close to frequent transit won’t have or need cars.

Now it looks like the City’s response to our successful parking exemption appeal will be to simply weaken the definition of Frequent Transit Service to the “Scheduled” arrival times rather than the actual bus headway performance. Since city buses often perform poorly to schedule, this change will make it much easier for developers to get an exemption from the parking requirement, which for many of them is only about profit. If the City Council pushes through this change, Phinney Flats will presumably be in compliance with the “new” definition and be able to move ahead with 55 units and NO PARKING! The resulting loss of Urban Village residential and commercial parking will mushroom throughout the entire City. The fake assumption that tenants there won’t have cars would be exploited not only in our neighborhood, but throughout the entire city.

Some members of the City Council continue to ignore the obvious fact that living in proximity to frequent transit (downtown and back) has little to do with vehicle ownership. We all know that many of us need cars for a multitude of reasons, such as ferrying our children for east-west city travel, recreation trips, weekly shopping trips, etc. Yet the City and some Council members continue to use this fallacy to push their agenda that creates parking mayhem in our neighborhoods. Car2Go and Uber don’t reduce car miles and still require parking spaces.

The Council is poised to take up the series of parking code amendments, including the redefinition of Frequent Transit Service. The legislation was briefed on January 3rd and will come before the PLUZ committee on January 17th.

People concerned with inadequate parking and the disconnect between transit use and car parking are urged to write to all PLUZ Committee members. A few suggested points to make:

  • Not providing parking does not result in cheaper rents
  • The amount of parking any development provides must be related to the
    demand it will generate – not proximity to a bus stop.
  • Overflow parking from an Urban Village into the surrounding
    neighborhood, and the ability of that neighborhood to absorb additional
    Parked vehicles, needs to be considered. Estimated parking demand over
    and above a neighborhood’s capacity should trigger required mitigation.
  • Buildings that do not provide adequate parking for the number of residents
    that will predictably have cars should be excluded from receiving Restricted
    Parking Zone (RPZ) Permits.
  • A means to enforce a “No Car Lease” can be developed for buildings or
    apartments that have units reserved for tenants without vehicles. A “No
    Car Lease” is entirely consistent with the city’s rationale that people
    without cars “self- select” to live in buildings with no parking on site.

Livable Phinney submitted a letter when the proposed parking code changes were first announced last fall. You can see a copy on our website, posted on September 30th. CLICK HERE.

PLUZ Committee website: http://www.Seattle.gov/council/committees/planning

PLUZ Committee Members:

Thank you! Please make time to write to the committee members!

Livable Phinney
https://www.livablephinney.org

NOTE: A public hearing will be scheduled in February. Check for the
announcement of this date at: http://www/.seattle.gov/council/calendar

June 6: Closing argument filed with Hearing Examiner

Today We Filed Our Closing Argument in this Complex Appeal

Livable Phinney’s attorney submitted to the Hearing Examiner the 70 page “brief” summarizing the reasons that the permit for this 57-unit-with-no-parking project should be vacated and that the City should use its SEPA authority to properly mitigate impacts the project will create instead of being an advocate for the developer’s interests.

What We Want to Accomplish with a Positive Decision by the Hearing Examiner

  • Get full disclosure of the impacts on parking and mitigate them with an appropriate amount of on-site parking
  • Get increased (equitable) setbacks on the northeast side of the building
  • Ensure that SEPA protected view of Green Lake are preserved by reducing the height of Phinney Flats
  • Pull back the clerestory structures to let more sun light reach the building to the north as required by code
  • Use actual bus performance data (not just the schedule) to con rm the 15-minute headway criteria is met before granting parking waivers for all future development

CLICK HERE to download a PDF of Livable Phinney’s closing argument.

Please, Join the “Fund an Hour” Campaign

This has been a long and expensive appeal. The hearing itself consumed 3.5 days, not counting all the preparations time in advance. Many more hours were needed to prepare drafts, review and finalize our closing argument. We are continuing our fundraising efforts to cover all the legal costs.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Each hour of preparation and hearing cost around $300. If you can fund an hour (or half hour!) please make your contribution to Livable Phinney. Tell your friends in Ballard, Greenwood, Fremont, Roosevelt, Eastlake, West Seattle, Wallingford – all over Seattle—that we need their support. Our win will be everyone’s victory in restoring some rationality to the amount of parking needed by all the new development that’s coming our way.

Please donate online, 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 LivablePhinney@gmail.com.

May 17: Post-hearing Bulletin

THE HEARING IS OVER, BUT THE WORK IS NOT DONE YET!

Livable Phinney has raised $25,000 to fund this Appeal. (Thank you, everyone!) But because of the complexity of the issues and the extended length of the hearing we need to raise $12,000 – $15,000 more. The issues we have raised may help restore rationality to development in Phinney Ridge and all over the city. Please support us as we head into the final stages of the Appeal. Read below for details about the hearing and what remains to be done.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

THE HEARING WAS LONG, AND WE MUST SUBMIT A CLOSING BRIEF

Livable Phinney’s appeal of the Phinney Flats development permit went much longer than anticipated. For 3 ½ days (May 2, 3, 4, 5) we presented our case before the Seattle Hearing Examiner (Examiner) and engaged in rebuttal of the City’s and the developer’s witnesses.  Our attorney, Jeff Eustis, did a great job and we had very compelling witnesses.

For those of you unfamiliar with this process, an Appeal to the Hearing Examiner is similar to a trial. Evidence is presented through witness testimony, exhibits are offered and usually agreed to by both parties to be entered into the record of the hearing. The Examiner (who acts as a judge) absorbs it all, ask his own questions of witnesses periodically, and renders a decision establishing the facts and the application of the law. Under the rules in Seattle, the Examiner’s decision may affirm, reverse, modify, or remand the Department’s decision or other action that is the subject of the appeal.

Because of the complexity of the issues and the length of the hearing, the Examiner asked the parties to prepare closing written briefs summarizing the presentation of facts and the applicable legal standards under which the Examiner should rule.  This document is due June 2nd.  Our attorney will prepare this document summarizing the case from our perspective. The Examiner will issue a decision usually within 14-21 days.

SUMMARY OF OUR CASE BEFORE THE EXAMINER

Livable Phinney is very thankful for our excellent witnesses (all volunteers) who presented our case. They were:

  • Elizabeth Johnson and Laura Reymore, affected adjacent property owners.
  • Dave Crippen, civil/transportation engineer and neighbor testifying on parking study errors.
  • Dr. Roberto Altschul, statistician and friend of Livable Phinney testifying on transit headways.
  • Marcel Bodsky, architect and friend of Livable Phinney testifying on inaccuracy of view studies.
  • Michael Richards and Jan Weldin, members Livable Phinney testifying on parking impacts.
  • Henry Brandis, FINI resident and member Livable Phinney testifying on shadow impacts.
  • Andrew Brick, Metro Transit planner as a fact witness on actual transit headways.

And: Irene Wall, member of Livable Phinney, provided technical assistance to our lawyer in showing many documents and photos on a large-screen monitor in the hearing room.

We appealed on several fronts:

  • SEPA (State Environmental Protection Act) decision based on erroneous and inadequate information,
  • errors in the parking study done by the developer,
  • misuse of the Right Size Parking calculator to estimate parking demand by the development,
  • errors in allowing additional height under the code that protects views (of Green Lake) and additional shadowing on neighboring properties ,
  • misapplication of the code concerning property setbacks,
  • inadequate testing for potential contaminants, and
  • non-compliance with the frequent transit service criteria that is at the root of the zero parking allowance problem.

The latter issue regarding transit and parking has citywide implications. We were able to prove using real time data comparing scheduled with actual headways that the #5 bus is not meeting the specific 15 minute headway criteria that allows zero on-site parking. We proved that reliance on the printed bus schedule (the city’s standard practice) is not accurate.  The developer’s attorney’s tried to diminish this evidence by pointing to the new bus schedule with two added trips. We will address this “challenge” in our closing brief. If the Examiner agrees with the facts we presented, this will have a huge impact on the Phinney Flats development and should lead to changes in how the city permits projects in all urban villages.

SOME OF YOU HAVE ASKED WHY THIS IS SUCH AN EXPENSIVE PROCESS

Owing to widespread neighborhood opposition to the project as designed, and after seeing little change despite four design review sessions and a public meeting at the PNA, we concluded that this appeal was the only way to highlight the problem with this super dense development with zero onsite parking despite acknowledgment that there is no more capacity on our residential streets to absorb more resident’s cars, certainly not from Phinney Flat’s 57 units.

In February, Livable Phinney made a decision that we needed to hire an experienced land use attorney if we were serious about the appeal. Otherwise we would have been outmatched and outmaneuvered by the developer’s attorneys. The amount of time to gather evidence, develop our arguments, identify and prepare witnesses and exhibits is considerable. Many hours of volunteer time contributed to this and we did all that we could to reduce the number of hours Mr. Eustis had to spend, but to be an effective advocate he needed time to immerse himself in the case.

These are the activities that we pay Mr. Eustis, our attorney, for:

  • Time reviewing documents and motions from the developers
  • Preparing documents and filing motions and briefs to the Hearing Examiner and all parties
  • Preparing and submitting the code interpretation request
  • Public Disclosure requests and document production requests
  • Reviewing documents received as requested
  • Preparing questions for witnesses representing both the applicant and appellant
  • Meeting with, interviewing and preparing testimony of our (Appellant) witnesses
  • Preparing for and time spent in a Pre-Hearing Conference
  • Consultations and planning with Livable Phinney personnel
  • Time spent in the actual Hearing – questioning witnesses and responding to the Hearing Examiner and Applicant testimony.
  • Preparation of a closing brief documenting all of the key issues brought up in 4 days of testimony. (Upcoming!)

The appeal was also more complicated because it was actually two appeals – one of the Master Use Permit and SEPA decision, and one of the City’s Interpretation. (An Interpretation is a formal report prepared by city staff explaining how they applied the land use code to a particular project.) This was required and necessitated additional cost ($3,150 alone as a fee to the city for the Interpretation) and more time for preparing and defending preliminary motions.  We have asked the city to refund this unfair fee, but so far the answer is no.

SUPPORTERS HAVE BEEN VERY GENEROUS BUT WE’RE NOT AT THE FINISH LINE YET

Our guesstimate of the cost when we began was $25,000. We were a bit low. So far contributions have just reached $25,000 (Thanks everyone!!) Through April we have incurred just over $23,000 in legal costs. But this does not include the billing for the actual time at the hearing and to prepare the all-important closing brief. We anticipate needing another $12,000 – $15,000 and unfortunately this cost may go higher if we receive a bill from the city for the time they spent defending their interpretation. We will resist paying this fee but that’s complex story for later.

PLEASE, JOIN THE “FUND AN HOUR” CAMPAIGN

Each hour of preparation and hearing cost around $300 for attorney fees and associated expenses. So please, if you can, dig a little deeper and make your contribution to Livable Phinney. Please consider funding one hour of our Appeal with a contribution of $300.  Tell your friends in Ballard, Greenwood, Fremont, Roosevelt, Eastlake, West Seattle, Wallingford – all over Seattle—that we need their support. Our win will be everyone’s victory in restoring some rationality to the amount of parking needed by all the new development that’s coming our way.  It’s great that we have a good transit system, but people still own cars and need to park them where they live.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

THANKS FOR ALL YOUR SUPPORT

Please click above to donate with a 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 73rd and Greenwood.

May 7: Report on the Appeal hearing

Dear Neighbors,

The Appeal of Phinney Flats at 6726 Greenwood Ave N took place before the Hearing Examiner last week, May 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th. Because there are so many issues with this project, the Hearing went into a 4th half day. This is unusual.

Livable Phinney presented testimony from expert witnesses on parking studies, bus headways, and view-and-shadow studies. All of our expert witnesses donated their time in preparing for and testifying at the Hearing. These expert witnesses included a Metro employee who provided data about the #5 bus, a Ph.D. statistician who analyzed the data from Metro about the #5 bus not meeting the 15-minute headway requirements, an engineer who testified about the parking studies, and an architect who addressed view blockages.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

Residents of Phinney Ridge testified as to the impacts this project will have on their property and their lives. Neighbors provided photos and also testified about impacts of the absence of parking on the residential neighborhood and nearby commercial businesses.

The issues of inadequate soil testing for contaminants due to the dry cleaners located on the property years ago were raised by residents whose property is adjacent to the site. Shadows that will fall on neighboring properties and privacy that will be lost by building this 4 story building so close to the property line were also addressed. The cumulative impact of this and other permitted projects (1171 units within the Phinney Greenwood Urban Village and along the #5 bus route) were also discussed.

The Hearing Examiner will issue a decision on this in early June. We will keep you posted.

This was a very expensive Hearing that demanded a lot of time in preparation for the Hearing, as well as the three and a half days of the Hearing itself. (There were at least 28 hours at the Hearing alone.) Our lawyer will need to present closing arguments in writing which will result in additional time. We must continue to raise money to meet these substantial costs.

Please forward this to your block email lists, to neighbors who may be unaware, to Facebook friends, and to those in other neighborhoods who may be facing similar issues.

Thank you to all who have already generously donated to meet the costs of this Appeal!

Donate Button with Credit Cards