7009 Greenwood (“Shared Roof”) Appeal in Court, February 8th

On February 8th, our attorney will present our arguments to Judge Ken Schubert in our appeal of the City Council’s decision to grant the contract rezone for the 7009 Greenwood (Shared Roof) project. Our most recent memorandum to the Court can be found here. In this document we respond to the developer’s arguments defending the city’s erroneous decision.

We proceed to court after we were unable to reach a compromise on the design of the project. We initiated an offer to find a reasonable settlement; however, our ideas for any change in the design of the building were rejected by the developer.

It is important to recall why we are sustaining this appeal despite the mounting legal costs.

Allowing this decision to go unchallenged would establish a precedent for other developers to purchase and raze homes on single family (SF) zoned lots that share property lines with commercial lots to create the required “buffer” between zones. This condition exists all along Phinney and Greenwood on both side of the arterial where the NC2-40 zone is one lot deep and shares a property boundary with lots zoned SF since 1957.

The pattern of modest commercial buildings and lowrise apartments is fast giving way to much taller, larger new mixed-use buildings. The economic incentive to build taller and larger buildings, especially if Mandatory Housing Affordability upzones legislation passes, will lead developers to seek the same deal that Shared Roof is demanding. The longstanding code requirements that call for gradual transitions in height between zones, and minimum setbacks from property lines between zones to preserve light, air, and privacy between residential and commercial zones, must be protected.

It appears the only way to do this is through the courts.

The Council made a mistake in approving the contract rezone; that mistake can be corrected without preventing construction of the Shared Roof project at this site if the legal setbacks are provided.

Please help us turn this around before a bad land use precedent is created that will have implications for the future of the Phinney-Greenwood neighborhood and every other place in Seattle where historic zoning boundaries provide no transition between zones. If this decision stands, homeowners can expect to see 5-plus-story buildings rising at their backyard fence.

Share this information with your neighbors and anyone concerned with transparency and fairness in the city’s application of the land use code.

Donations to defray legal costs can be made by clicking the “Donate” button below, or drop by the Homestreet Bank at 73rd and Greenwood and make a deposit to the Livable Phinney account. To date, donations total less than 7% of incurred and anticipated expenses.

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–Irene Wall & Bob Morgan

Shared Roof Appeal Update – January 10, 2019

We filed our opening brief for the upcoming February 8th hearing in Superior Court. A big THANKS to everyone who has helped defray the costs of this appeal to date. Significant costs remain so all donations are truly appreciated.

The brief can be found here. It’s worth noting that the appeal is a challenge to the City Council’s decision to allow the rezone while illegally ignoring the current, applicable land use code. When the Council approves a contract rezone, they are acting in a quasi-judicial capacity, NOT a legislative capacity. They can’t just make up new regulations, they are bound to conform their decisions to existing land code. In this case the Council acted outside their authority.


The Shared Roof project is the catalyst for the appeal but the impetus for the appeal is to prevent this erroneous decision from being applied to other developments in the future. The issue has serious implications for all neighborhoods, where commercial zones share lot lines with residential zones. The code clearly and wisely recognizes the need for upper level setbacks between these very different scale buildings. Air, light, and privacy are important for quality of life and economic value. That setback must occur on the higher density commercial lot being redeveloped.

In the Shared Roof project, the developer is attempting to buy a personal Land Use Code by acquiring the adjacent single-family parcels. SDCI was complicit in allowing this, and the Council knowingly looked the other way. This is not only illegal but sets the terrible precedent that developers could buy their way out of code compliance. The result could be the loss of single family homes when it’s more lucrative for a developer to purchase (and raze) the home on a shared property line to avoid the setback and provide the code-required “buffer” between zones on the newly vacant lot.


The 7009 rezone also does not meet the rezone criteria in the Code. It is also based on an assumption that the future Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) legislation will be applied in this area. But that legislation is still being developed. Many communities are submitting amendments to the original legislation including amendment to strengthen and increase the code required setbacks, and limit the areas where it applies at all.

We cannot let Council members casually ignore the land use code in deference to the profit expectation of private investors and developers (on the hope that a few units of “affordable” housing will result). The rules must be applied evenly, fairly, and as written. That is the goal of this appeal.

Note that the hearing has been changed to February 8th. Please consider donating to defray the substantial legal costs of this appeal!

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–Irene Wall and Bob Morgan

We won an important round in the “Shared Roof” appeal. Your support is needed to continue!

Judge McKee Rules on Preliminary Motion, In Favor of Wall & Morgan

Background: Irene Wall and Bob Morgan are the citizens who appealed the City Council’s decision to grant a rezone of the property at 70th and Greenwood (the “Shared Roof” project). The appeal also challenges how SDCI applied the land use code to the proposed apartment building when recommending approval of the project. The appeal challenges both the added height and the lack of setbacks between the commercial lots and abutting single family lots to the west.

Latest Action in Superior Court

In response to the appeal, the developer’s attorney filed a partial summary judgment motion seeking to dismiss the key issues related to how SDCI applied the development standards, in particular, the rules about commercial buildings requiring upper level setbacks when constructed next to single family-zoned lots. Judge McKee allowed lengthy argument and briefing on this issue then ruled against the motion. A transcript of her decision can be found here. Shared Roof – Court Ruling – 11-1-2018

To understand the legal issues, read the Wall/Morgan response to the motion. Summary Judgement Response – 10-8-2018

Next is Hearing on the Merits

Her ruling leaves all the issues raised in the appeal open for the trial currently set for early February. This is a significant “win” for Wall/Morgan but this unexpected motion practice was also very costly adding to the financial burden facing citizen appellants who are seeking to correct city errors in applying the land use code where the only recourse is through the Courts. SDCI is not infallible as we found out in the Phinney Flats appeal. There the Hearing Examiner required SDCI and the developer to modify the building design and observe the setbacks following the Livable Phinney appeal.

If you can help defray the considerable legal expenses please make a donation here. All funds will pay for our attorney’s time and expenses.

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The Key Issues and Consequences for the Neighborhood

The land use code established the basic requirements for how property owners develop their lots. In the case of 7009 Greenwood, SDCI took a giant leap outside the code to allow the “Shared Roof” building to be constructed on the lot line, which is also the zone line, between the two NC2-40 parcels and the two SF parcels which the developer purchased. The code does not allow for mere ownership to erase code provisions. But SDCI found an expedient workaround by labeling all four parcels a “development site” and declaring that the otherwise required upper level (and other) setbacks were suddenly no longer relevant. If this ruling is allowed to stand, developers can purchase abutting single family homes and build on the property line. This means a major loss of privacy, light, and air for the unfortunate residents of those homes, unless the developer merely razes them instead! Neither is consistent with our Neighborhood Plan, Design Guidelines or the demand for single family homes citywide.

A fundamental principal of the code has always been to protect the lower density zones (SF in this case) from the impacts of higher density development by requiring setbacks on the site of the higher density development. The City Council and SDCI’s erroneous decision in this case turns this principle on its head by carving the mitigating setback out of the SF lots, even counting the modest backyard of the home at 7010 Palatine as a “buffer zone.” This would be the first domino to fall but would lead to a rupture in the established development pattern all along Phinney Ridge and Greenwood where NC zones immediately abut SF zones.

Shared Roof Can Still Be Constructed

The appellants do not seek to prevent the project from being constructed. It will require some redesign to bring it into compliance with the code. That is the same code that was applied to other nearby developments including the Fini condos, the Hendon condos, and Phinney Flats. Another upside to observing the required setbacks is to allow development of a home and potential backyard cottage on the now vacant SF lot. This decision will set a precedent citywide where commercial and low density residential lots abut with no buffer zone.

Please support this fight for a fair application of the land use code to protect the livability of our neighborhoods.

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–Irene Wall and Bob Morgan

Why We are Appealing the “Shared Roof” Project

The large apartment development at 7009 Greenwood (“Shared Roof”) violates the required setbacks in the land-use code, and it sets a bad precedent that allows developers to essentially buy their way around the zoning code. These facts were disregarded by the City Council when they recently approved the contract rezone to allow a building that will rise 15 feet above the height of the current zone. There is no reason, except to satisfy the developers financial goals, that this large site could not be developed while providing the required setbacks that even Phinney Flats was required to meet.

We tried to negotiate with the developer to modify the design to meet the required setback between zones while allowing for the added height. They refused. Our only recourse was to file an appeal in Superior Court. This means significant legal cost, but the principle of applying the land use code as adopted and without favoritism is important to the livability of our neighborhood. We don’t want developers to take advantage of this poor decision in the future.

Please read more about this precedent setting action and help with the appeal costs if you can. Click on About Livable Phinney for the reasons we are supporting this appeal. Click on Shared Roof Rezone Appeal for details on the project and the issues on appeal.

Update on Phinney Flats Appeal and Next Steps

Last week, we agreed to dismiss our appeal of the Phinney Flats permit because the City Council recently changed the law to eliminate onsite parking requirements in virtually all urban villages, including the Greenwood / Phinney Urban village, and as a result, made our appeal to the Hearing Examiner moot.

Recall that last July, in our initial appeal, the Hearing Examiner agreed with our arguments that the building setback was too small and that the clerestory on the roof was unlawful, and he also agreed with our position that the City had erred in ignoring actual bus data that showed that the #5 bus route did meet the definition of “frequent transit” that allowed a no-parking building. The Examiner remanded the permit back to Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) to consider that information. The Examiner was persuaded by our factual presentation and ordered SDCI to reconsider in light of those “uncontroverted facts.”

Several months later, SDCI finally issued its Supplemental Interpretation and claimed that the #5 bus was frequent enough to allow the parking exemption for Phinney Flats. We appealed this second interpretation.

Unfortunately, while that appeal was pending, the City Council voted to change the land use code definition of “Frequent Transit Service” to rely entirely on a printed schedule to determine frequency and ignore actual schedule performance or crowding conditions. The new definition allows as few as 3 trips per hour to count as frequent. The new parking code also contained a provision allowing a developer to “elect” to have their pending permit be judged under this new code.

This gave Johnson & Carr, the Phinney Flats developer, a free ride and made our continuing appeal under the original code definition a moot issue. Winning would not have provided any parking relief and would simply have wasted time and money. Our attorney agreed. This is a sad example of the City Council’s preference for developer interests over citizen interests.

Thus, we fared well through our appeal, but then, the City Council ignored common sense and changed the rules. Livable Phinney opposed the parking code changes and dozens of Livable Phinney members and other residents of Phinney Ridge and throughout the City opposed those changes, but the Council ignored all of this. The Council even rejected a reasonable amendment that would have allowed parking mitigation if the neighborhood streets were already at full capacity as they are in the area of Phinney Flats.

While we celebrate our victories that forced the Phinney Flats building to comply with setback and height requirements, we are saddened by the Council’s actions that will saddle neighborhoods with these no-parking buildings. But on the bright side, our appeal called attention to the disconnect between transit use and the need for parking. Proximity to transit does NOT eliminate the need for parking. We also increased awareness regarding how our Council including our Councilmember Mike O’Brien, turns a blind eye to the needs of constituents in favor of ideology and developer interests.

The parking issue will continue to be a problem for our area as other properties along the #5 bus corridor from Shoreline to downtown redevelop with hundreds of new residential units and commercial businesses that could be built with no on-site parking even as King County Metro and the SDOT have admitted that bus service can’t keep up with demand. Car ownership will remain the norm, and on-street parking is oversubscribed.

The Livable Phinney board is investigating other ways of restoring a balanced approach to on-site parking as our neighborhood grows and properties develop at higher densities. The problem is bigger than just the Phinney Flats building. Watch for additional information on this subject in the coming weeks.

We thank all of you for your donations and support of this appeal. You made a difference, even though the Council denied us what likely would have been a victory on the parking issue. We hope you will stay involved as we move on to the next steps of restoring parking sanity in Phinney Ridge and throughout the City.

(You can read the dismissal – a short, technical document – at this link.)

Irene, Jan & Mike
Livable Phinney

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 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.


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.


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.


–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!


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.


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 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.

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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.


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

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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.