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


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.


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.


  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

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

Defend Our Victory!

Neighbors and Livable Phinney supporters:

There seems to be a lot going on now regarding Phinney Flats and our Livable Phinney Appeal. We don’t have all the information and answers yet, but can pass on the following:

You may have seen the recent front-page article in the Seattle TimesResidents fight Seattle rules allowing apartment developers to forgo parking. Though it leaves out some potentially critical information, we feel it is generally well presented and balanced. What you may find new in that article, and perhaps a bit surprising, is the indication from Johnson and Carr that they have “dropped” their challenge in Superior Court. We recently became aware that a “motion to dismiss” was submitted recently, but we still haven’t received any official word as to the rationale for that action. Such may or may not be forthcoming?

We’ve also heard that SDCI is in the process of putting together “a supplemental interpretation on the FTS issue”. This would be their answer to complying with the Hearing Examiner’s Decision. We suspect SDCI will either try to show the #5 actually arrives on schedule – or change the definition of FTS to the schedule times rather than actual bus arrivals. Obviously, this does nothing to address the fact that folks moving into the Urban Village will bring cars – that will be parked on the streets in the adjoining neighborhood – even if that neighborhood is over parking capacity now.

Please join us and let our City Council and new Mayor know that this situation is not sustainable or conducive to the livability of our neighborhood. We still have and use cars, EVEN IF WE USE THE BUS!

If you look at the Project web site “Documents” – at this link – you will find the “MUP Cycle 4 Correction Response” dated 10/27/17. That response notes the developer’s compliance with many of our appeal Decision results (upper floor setbacks, clerestory removal, removal of rooftop features, etc.). However there is no indication of parking being added or the matter of frequent transit compliance. We anticipate the City will find a way to work around that matter (see above) – either by new data showing the #5 now meets the Frequent Transit definition, or simply by changing the definition of Frequent Transit!

Regardless of how often the bus arrives, residents will still have cars. The city’s own report on new parking rules admits that at least 30-35% of residents in buildings with zero parking will have cars. Where will they park when the streets are already at capacity? Local businesses will suffer if there is no parking in the vicinity for their customers.

New Parking Regulations Coming

The city has issued the proposals to change several rules related to parking, including redefining Frequent Transit Service and extending the areas where developers can avoid putting in any parking or put in less than the code would otherwise require. See the proposed changes at the link below. The Council will want to rush these changes through so we need to rally support for changes to make parking rules more site-specific and realistic. Watch our site for more information on public hearings or simply write letters starting now to the Council, in particular to Rob Johnson and Mike O’Brien. Addresses for all City Council Members is provided below.

Web site for proposed City Code rules and changes regarding Parking is:

City Council Email Addresses: (note: Tim Burgess is now Acting Mayor until Jenny Durkin is sworn in):

Needless to say, the battle over Phinney Flats is not over yet. We still have legal bills to pay. We hope to engage the City further in this matter of “No Parking Required” for new Development on Phinney Ridge.

Thank you for your ongoing and generous support! Donations can be made directly at the Greenwood Home Street Bank (73rd & Greenwood Ave N) or via credit card:

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Livable Phinney’s comment on proposed Parking Code changes

The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) recently published proposed changes to Municipal code that will dramatically affect parking throughout the City. These proposed changes can be found here: http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/codesrules/changestocode/parkingrecommendations/whatwhy/

SDCI also released an environmental (SEPA) analysis of the draft legislation, and requested public comments. Livable Phinney felt compelled to prepare and submit such a comment/response.

CLICK HERE to download Livable’s Phinney comment on the proposed draft legislation and SEPA analysis.

Some of the proposed changes directly relate to, and in effect negate the effects of, our Appeal and Hearing Examiner’s Decision in favor of Livable Phinney against the Phinney Flats project no-parking waiver. A very brief summary follows:

  • SDCI proposed to change the definition of Frequent Transit Service (FTS) from the current required 15 minute headway to “scheduled” stops while eliminating the 15 minute reference and transferring quantification of this parameter and others to a SDCI Director’s rule only. This clearly ignores the reality bus riders rely on – actual headway. SDIC ignores the Hearing Examiner’s requirement that “actual performance” of bus performance be considered!
  • There is no known study or actual research that concludes an association between
    residential proximity to frequent transit and car ownership. Yet, the City continues to justify the parking exemption in Urban Villages based on that false assumption.
  • SDCI proposed to expand parking exemptions and reduce parking requirements beyond Urban Villages and into other areas throughout the City.
  • SDCI proposed to allow off street surface parking in setback areas, including when abutting a residential lot – now used for landscaping, privacy, maintenance, etc.
  • The ¼ mile “walking distance” to a parked vehicle is based on out-of-state studies, not Seattle where steep grades and inclement weather are serious considerations.
  • SDCI proposes mandatory unbundling of parking (i.e. a parking space lease would be separate from a residential lease). Such unbundled parking would be a disadvantage to lower income residents who would have difficulty paying market rate for necessary parking space.
  • SDCI proposed to actually “Reduce minimum parking for income-restricted housing,
    including for the disabled and other institutional uses”. Don’t low income and disabled residents need parking to get to jobs, transport children, transport supplies, etc.?
  • The proposed code changes don’t address at all the matter of expanding the Restricted Parking Zone (RPZ) program (to disallow permits to residents of “no parking” building or to assure reasonable on-street parking for residents in single family neighborhoods, etc..)

The proposed SDCI code changes are wide-reaching. If approved by City Council, these changes will affect all of us who are concerned about residential parking and neighborhood livability. Please consider submitting comment and/or attending a public meeting when scheduled.

The Phinney Flats Developer (Johnson & Carr) continues with their Superior Court Challenge to our Appeal. Thus, we are still actively fund raising to pay for legal costs. Click the button below to donate via credit card, or send a check to Livable Phinney, 6537 Greenwood Ave. Seattle, WA 98103, or drop off a check at the HomeStreet Bank at Greenwood Ave. & 73rd St. Thank you!

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ALERT: Developer files court challenge

Friday, August 11th, 6 pm.

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

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

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

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

From the KOMO News story, August 2:

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

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

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

Read the whole story here: http://komonews.com/news/local/phinney-ridge-housing-project-delayed-over-metro-bus-ruling

July 26: Livable Phinney issues press release.

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


Phinney Ridge Appeal Stops Building with No Onsite Parking

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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June 30 Update: Successful Motion to Supplement the Appeal Record

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


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

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

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


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

BECAUSE we are not done paying the bills!

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

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


To join our mailing list, or to ask us a question, please email us at LivablePhinney@gmail.com.



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

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

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


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

#4. Application by the City Neighborhood Council to amend land use policies to reduce the spillover of parking from urban centers and villages into the surrounding community. Follow this link to read this and other amendments in Clerk File 320265 by searching http://clerk.seattle.gov/~public/CFCF1.htm for File Number 320265.

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

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.