CB119600 Needs Some Significant Revisions

Dear Seattle City Council Members:

After learning about proposed CB119600 which would make changes to the City’s regulations regarding the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), we studied the bill carefully. Here’s what we learned that concerns us about this bill that we hope you will give further study and consider revising:

This bill is very important for us because as the Council considers changes to SEPA regulations to incorporate the provisions of State HB 1923, it is apparent that the development community is lobbying for you (Council) to consider additional changes in order to limit appeals, such as the one previously filed by Escala residents in the 5th & Virginia project case. As Council Member Bagshaw and others know, Escala's was not a frivolous case, although some proponents of this bill are obviously trying to paint all appeals with that broad brush. We already have a process that invites public comment, then proceeds to ignore it. This legislation will make it worse…

In our opinion, the City and developers have grown frustrated by the number of appeals to the Hearing Examiner, and instead of seeing the public's frustration as a sign that the SDCI’s review and approvals process is broken and in need of repair, they are doubling down to make it harder for ordinary citizens to fight ill-conceived and inequitable decisions.

The bill proposes some sweeping changes that are extremely disturbing, and look like “monkey business" to us. Two examples:

1. It would allow SDCI to promulgate rules to provide uniform standards for SEPA analysis. Considering how SDCI has advocated in favor of developer interests time and time again, we don’t have a lot of confidence that those new rules will be written with the public interest in mind. When instead of telling developers to go back to the drawing board and solve serious design problems, SDCI often contemptuously ignores public comment. Sadly, this demonstrates more than just incompetence. It demonstrates a willful disregard of the public interest…and results in a rising public concern about many of our elected and city departmental officials.

2. It would also allow the Seattle Hearing Examiner to hire pro tem Examiners; and we fear that we and other appellants could end up with pro-developer land use attorneys who are acting part-time as Hearing Examiners. Instead of this legislation, we should focus on strengthening SDCI processes to protect the public interests they are meant to serve—thereby, reducing demands on the hearing examiner’s office.

The playing field is already tilted greatly in favor of developer interests and against legitimate taxpaying residents' concerns. Please don’t do things to worsen the problems.

If you agree, please express your concerns in writing to:

abel.pacheco@seattle.gov, lisa.herbold@seattle.gov, sally.bagshaw@seattle.gov, noah.an@seattle.gov

Here’s the Council Schedule for this bill:

September 4 - PLUZ Committee Discussion

September 9 (5:30 PM) - Public Hearing on Bill

September 11 - Possible PLUZ Committee vote

October 7 - Earliest date than Council can vote on Bill