We are NOT appealing everyone’s right to have an ADU (mother-in-law apartment) or DADU (backyard cottage) on their property under the current land use code. We ARE appealing the city’s non-transparent decision that NO IMPACTS will result from rezoning almost all single family neighborhoods and 50% of Seattle land area into what amounts to triplex zoning.
In addition, City Hall is advancing this legislation believing that there is no need for professional impact studies or inclusive transparent public input. In the past, any rezone of any moderate size included an EIS (environmental impact study) that included serious professional study of all environmental impacts, multiple public hearings, and inclusive public and neighborhood review of all potential consequences of making specific changes.
Rezoning half our city is really unprecedented and exceeds by a huge margin other land use changes that required very serious EIS reviews and a rich and robust public engagement process. Now, City Hall and Councilmember O’Brien are moving to rezone all our single family neighborhoods, bypassing once required critically significant impact analysis including public hearings and inclusive neighborhood involvement. The lack of broad solicitation of citizen input together with no apparent professional analysis of reliable neighborhood metrics and data collection is inexcusable.
What O’Brien is Proposing
Mr. O’Brien has proposed legislation that would eliminate some and loosen all current regulations on building backyard houses and mother-in-law apartments, allowing commercial development of triplex buildings in all single-family zones. The new rules would eliminate parking requirements, increase building heights, reduce setbacks, and remove the requirement for owner occupancy, among many other significant impacts.
This proposed legislation seeks to overturn these following critical components of the current zoning code, among others:
- Allow an ADU and backyard cottage on the same lot
- Remove the off-street parking requirement
- Modify and eliminate the owner-occupancy requirement
- Reduce the minimum lot size for backyard cottages
- Increase the maximum height limit for backyard cottages
- Increase the rear yard lot coverage limit and reduce open space and trees
- Increase maximum gross square footage limits
- Add flexibility for location of entry to a backyard cottage
- Increase heights of roof features that add interior space
- Allow for projections from backyard cottages into required setbacks
- Increase opportunities to extend accessory structures into required setbacks
- Modify definition of “Residential use” to include more density
City Hall has intentionally advanced this legislation – claiming that it would have NO IMPACTS – without completing any professional environmental impact analysis. They are not asking for or allowing typical citizen input or careful review of the impacts, and they are ignoring thousands of voices from all neighborhoods in Seattle.
Excluding Neighborhood Input
We are witnessing a paradigm shift to top-down directives based upon an ideological shift that will forever convert all our neighborhoods without presenting one professional impact study, community conversation, public hearing, EIS (environmental impact statement) or any facts whatsoever that accurately identify and publicly discuss the impacts to all neighborhoods.
Neighborhoods have always partnered in decision-making, but now neighborhoods are ignored and we are forced to appeal as we ask for facts, analysis, and proof that converting single family property neighborhoods to multi-family will have no impacts
The State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) requires all cities to identify and mitigate possible environmental impacts of certain land use policy changes like many commercial construction projects, larger multi-family buildings, and yes, rezoning 50% of Seattle’s land area. To assess the requirement for a complete environmental impact study (EIS) the applicant must complete a SEPA checklist identifying all potential impacts and identify proposals for mitigations.
O’Brien and City Hall answered all 109 SEPA Checklist questions “No Impact” and therefore the City issued the “Determination of Non-Significance” (DNS) and O’Brien’s legislation was moved ahead without any typical requirement for a fact-based professional analysis – intentionally without any representative citizen input, review, or open public process. Staff and council have declined to provide any analysis to support moving forward without an EIS analysis.
Therefore, the Queen Anne Community Council appealed the DNS issued by the City’s planning department. We will argue our case before the Hearing Examiner on August 31, 2016, in the face of fierce opposition from O’Brien and City Hall.
An appeal to the Hearing Examiner is a legal proceeding that includes testimony, evidence, and expert witnesses. We have a big job to build our case, in accordance with Hearing Examiner requirements, and we need your help. We have hired an outstanding land-use attorney who will present our case and experts on land-use issues who will testify on our behalf. This kind of expertise is expensive: we need to raise $25,000 to credibly defend our appeal.
We are arguing that the City must create a complete Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The EIS document is a collection of professional and expert studies and analysis, city department review and input, citizen review and input, multiple open and transparent public hearings, multiple drafts, and final approvals after public engagement. The EIS process ensures every neighborhood and citizen is involved, informed, considered, and a respected partner with the city in making a decision of great importance and significant consequence.
We have only a few weeks to raise the $25,000 we need to fund our appeal. Please join with us now to ensure real public participation in this vital decision.