Thoughts: The Sham Process Of CB119600

Out of the political theatre and drama of the City Council Meeting on Monday, and despite the sickening display of off-topic ideological blather by several Councilmembers, we actually ended up with a better than expected bill in CB119600, thanks to our coalition of downtown residents and supporters from other neighborhoods who worked diligently to get several amendments introduced, and mostly to Councilmember Lisa Herbold who went to bat for us on the amendments.

While she didn’t actually vote to delay the bill as we had hoped, CM Herbold did offer up three key amendments, two that passed and the other one that exposed the political hypocrisy of the bill’s big supporter’s. Thank goodness the end is in sight for MOB [Mike O’Brien], the leader of this fast-tracked, poorly vetted, and misguided group that rammed the bill through Council.

The Good:

1. We have in writing from Council Central Staff [several Councilmembers are on video at the meeting] stating that “nothing in CB119600 changes how SEPA will work in downtown Seattle, so the current code provisions will apply.”

2. SEPA Review will now come before Design Review, which is the way it should have always been done.

3. An Amendment passed requiring SDCI to convene a public stakeholder committee to advise SDCI in developing directors rules to implement the changes resulting from this Bill, which must, as a condition written into the bill, be presented to the future council before implementation.

4. An Amendment passed requiring another stakeholder committee to advise the hearing examiner about future changes to the appeals process,

The Bad:

1. Not a single Councilmember voted to delay the bill.

2. The bill did not follow the proper procedures for SEPA Review and Comment Period…and we have four attorneys on the Council. We couldn’t even get an answer to our question on who reviewed the bill for compliance with SEPA.

3. The bill does set a terrible precedent for reduction or elimination of individual rights to appeal certain projects in the future.

4. The bill calls for projects to be exempt from SEPA appeal on the basis of adverse transportation impacts [if and when Transportation Impacts Fees (TIFs) legislation is approved next year].

The Hypocrisy:

CM Herbold proposed an amendment to require SEPA Review for all residential projects downtown who want to put in more than 40 parking spaces in their projects [no parking is required for residential projects]. Seems like a reasonable request, right? Oh, no, none of our environmentally conscious Councilmembers would vote for that (save Herbold and Harrell), even though it is a City priority to get us out of our cars. It’s easy to see who really calls the shots in this town!

Lessons Learned:

1. We must do a better job of tracking legislation at the State level, so that a bill like HB1923 is not passed again without our input and lobbying.

2. We must demand that in the future we are included in so-called stakeholder meetings on pending local legislation earlier in the process, and make it clear that organizations like Futurewise and DSA do NOT speak for downtown residents. We were only granted one short personal meeting with Councilmember Pacheco in the week immediately preceding the vote.

3. Letting members of City Council get away with erroneously equating serious residential project appeals like Escala’s on daylight/health and Dock management with dissimilar and non-related appeals like Fort Lawton, Burke-Gilman Trail, Bullitt Center, and MHA must never happen again. It only happened this time because we had no advance knowledge that this bill was even in the works until it was publicly announced on August 6. Even our own downtown district Councilmember, Sally Bagshaw, did not give us a heads-up that anything was in the works.

4. We really need a significant upgrade on City Council. This Bill is a microcosm of how far this Council has strayed from fulfilling its duty to manage City affairs in a manner combining compassion and competence.

Councilmembers performance on CB119600 [from best to worst]:

1. Lisa Herbold [District 1] - She was clearly our best ally in this process, but the bar was not set very high to get that distinction. She is running for reelection, and deserves our support, even if we can’t vote for her.

2. Bruce Harrell [District 2] - He was obviously concerned that the bill was being rushed during the budget process, and the loss of individual rights to appeal certain projects and under certain conditions, but not enough so to vote against the bill. He is not running for reelection.

3. Sally Bagshaw[District 7] - She asked a few questions about the effects on downtown residents, but she did not do any work to really help our efforts. From our point of view, it is time for her to leave the Council, and get someone who will be an advocate for us on areas of serious concerns. District 7 is a very important race for us, and we’ll be talking more about it in subsequent posts.

4. Lorena Gonzalez [Position 9] Not present, so didn’t have a chance to put her foot in her mouth. Not up for reelection this year.

5. Debora Juarez [District 5] - It’s telling that she never uttered a word in the meeting, yet gets ranked ahead of four of her colleagues. She is running for reelection…maybe that’s why she didn’t say anything. She probably knows about the old saying in politics “ I’d rather be thought a fool, rather than to open my mouth and remove all doubt.”

6. Abel Pacheco [District 4] - An appointee who seems to have functioned as O’Brien’s lapdog/puppet during this process. He claims the bill was fully vetted, but has no real understanding of what that means. Finding his mamma affordable housing, while a noble thought for a son, is not a sufficient reason to ignore the real issues at stake for the city and its citizens. Fortunately, he agreed not to run for reelection as a part of his appointment process.

7. Kshama Sawant [District 3] - She was her usual self, railing against the rich, and then supporting the wealthy developers favoring legislation. She needs to be voted off the Council.

8.Teresa Mosqueda [Positon 8] - She was on her soapbox, completely off the subject, talking out of both sides of her mouth as she rambled on and on about Global Warming and the Green New Deal, while voting against protection for health, public safety, and individual rights of tax paying citizens. She’s not up for reelection this year.

9. Mike O’Brien [District 6] - Clearly the ringleader for this bill, who would never respond to any request for any conversation on its merits…and then the ultimate insult on Monday, when he participated in the meeting and voted by phone, obviously fearing it would be delayed if he couldn’t speak and intimidate during the meeting. Thank goodness, MOB only has a few more months to do damage to the City, while thinking he’s the world’s savior.