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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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