Editor’s Note: Court filings cited in this report related to the Fort Lawton Redevelopment Plan land-use petition were sourced from SCC Insight.

Elizabeth Campbell is challenging a suite of land-use code amendments that would ease restrictions on tiny house villages and allow for their construction citywide.

The Magnolia resident is challenging the adequacy of a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Determination of Non-Significance, arguing that the city failed to properly assess the impacts of allowing tiny house villages — or transitional encampments — in all parts of the city.

“It is dismissive and inaccurate for the City Council’s agents to suggest that because the proposal is a ‘non-project action’ that there are no foreseeable and clearly identifiable environmental impacts from this proposed legislation,” a portion of Campbell’s Notice of Appeal reads. An amended version was filed with the Seattle Hearing Examiner on Sept. 3. “To deny such takes away the public’s right to review, comment upon, share its viewpoints on, and to help identify the significant number of real and definable environmental impacts associated with an approval of the transitional encampment code amendments.”

The land-use code changes proposed by District 3 City Councilmember Kshama Sawant would allow up to 40 transitional encampments to be permitted in Seattle. It also would allow tiny house villages on all publicly owned and private property in the city on an interim basis, remove land-use permitting requirements for religious organizations to host the encampments and ease site requirements citywide.

Campbell is appealing both as an individual and through her Magnolia Neighborhood Planning Council and Safe and Affordable Seattle groups.

“There’s some active members,” Campbell tells Queen Anne News. “Safe and Affordable Seattle, that encompasses more of all Seattle, so that has higher members. Last I saw, you could say we had about 130 active members.”

An ordinance regarding the permitting of tiny house villages was approved by the city council in March 2015, allowing their interim use on land in industrial, commercial, neighborhood-commercial and downtown zones.

Sawant proposes to amend the land-use code to allow them in all zones, including residential. One-year interim use permits for the tiny house villages would also be allowed unlimited renewals, and these shelters would no longer be required to relocate after two years.

Campbell’s appeal argues that the proposed legislation will “usurp the rights of the public to exercise its democratic rights” to weigh in on transitional encampments and provide oversight regarding their development around the city.

Campbell tells Queen Anne News the city already has six more “shack camps” than the three existing legislation allows. While she concedes the tiny houses are likely better than tents, she said people experiencing homelessness deserve a better and less costly solution.

Campbell is requesting the DNS be scrapped and that the legislation be tested through an environmental impact statement (EIS) process.

She also argues that the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections could have assessed existing villages, so she does not accept the legislation as a “non-project action.”

“I think there’s at least three encampments that are actually mentioned in the proposed legislation, so it was incorrect to say that there are no projects,” Campbell said.

The draft legislation does not explicitly identify any of the existing nine tiny house villages in Seattle, but does address the success of the transitional encampment model, which in 2018 moved 56 percent of clients into permanent or transitional housing.

“Our numbers are much better than the shelters — than the traditional shelters,” said Sharon Lee, executive director for the Low Income Housing Institute, which operates multiple tiny house villages with financial support from the city.

The City of Seattle spends an average of $390,000 annually per tiny house village, and $4.8 million for transitional encampments is in the adopted 2019 budget.

LIHI doubled its number of tiny houses at its Interbay Village earlier this year. The tiny house village moved to the Port of Seattle’s Tsubota property near the Magnolia Bridge in November 2017, and is seeking another lease renewal through 2020. Part of the expansion included adding showers, bathrooms and laundry facilities.

“She was the one who opposed the expansion. She challenged the SEPA on that site, so people had to go the whole winter without plumbed facilities,” Lee said. “She made people suffer. She made 60 people, men, women and children, suffer when their living conditions could be so much better.”

The Seattle Hearing Examiner cleared the expansion in November 2018, following a hearing in October.

“The Appellants presented testimony from Elizabeth Campbell, and no expert or other fact witnesses,” according to the Hearing Examiner’s decision. “… In large part Ms. Campbell seemed to be reading from the Appellants’ Notice of Appeal. No evidence aside from Ms. Campbell’s personal experience and opinion was offered.”

Campbell claims her challenge resulted in the addition of those facilities.

She plans on attending a community meeting regarding the lease renewal request that will take place 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 11, at the Church of the Ascension, 2300 Viewmont Way W., in Magnolia.

LIHI also builds affordable housing, but it can take 4-5 years to produce a new development. Each unit costs $300,000 to produce, Lee said, and there is a lack of capital. A tiny house can last up to 15 years, she said.

Campbell said she believes Sawant’s proposed land-use code amendments are laid out to specifically benefit LIHI.

“That’s pretty much streamlined legislation that’s going to go to their credit,” she said.

Campbell accuses Lee of hustling the city.

“She’s not trying to work herself out of business,” she said.

Vancouver, B.C.-based developer Burrard Group is providing $250,000 to LIHI to build 41 tiny homes, which would be one for each story of its Nexus condo tower nearing completion in South Lake Union, according to a Seattle Times article. Lee said a site for Seattle’s 10th tiny house village has not yet been identified.

Lee said True Vine Missionary Baptist Church just recently sponsored Othello Village, and as a religious sponsor falls under code that will not require constant requests for extensions from the city.

“Now that village will have a committed church and parish where the parishioners will be donating and helping,” Lee said.

Othello, Georgetown and Northlake Village had previously been managed by Nickelsville, which LIHI terminated earlier this year, which resulted in a management dispute this spring.

“We’re not going to let [Campbell] hold us up,” Lee said. “We have plans to open more villages, and we’re really happy about the church sponsorship of Othello Village.”

As founder of the Discovery Park Community Alliance, Campbell is also challenging affordable housing redevelopment plans at the decommissioned Fort Lawton Army Reserve Center.

Plans to create 237 affordable housing units for rent and homeownership on a portion of the decommissioned Fort Lawton Army Reserve Center were approved by a unanimous vote of the Seattle City Council on June 10, and Mayor Jenny Durkan signed the legislation during a ceremony at the site on Tuesday, June 18.

The City of Seattle was successful in having the land-use petition case moved to U.S. District Court, arguing that most of the questions Campbell raises in her petition are related to the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Act, and therefore falls under federal jurisdiction.

Campbell filed a notice in U.S. District Court in early August stating that she had fired law firm Dickson Frohlich as her legal counsel in the case and needed time to find another attorney. A letter Campbell sent to assistant city attorney Roger Wynne on Aug. 12 states the termination was due to “a belief that they had violated the rules of professional conduct in this matter,” and that Dickson Frohlich and the city attorney’s office were “part of the lawyer corps of mutual support and assistance.”

“Accordingly, you can run all the communications you want past and to your folks at Dickson and Frohlich you want,” the letter states, “however let’s be very clear with all of this — there are no ongoing communication channels between Dickson and Frohlich and myself…”

Campbell tells Queen Anne News she is still seeking counsel for the Fort Lawton case, and didn’t know yet if the next legal team would also represent her appeal of the transitional encampment legislation.

“I’ve tried different ways,” she said. “I’ve tried law students, retired attorneys and attorneys out of town.”

Campbell’s termination of Dickson Frohlich was not accepted by the court, but Daniel Frohlich and Thomas Dickson later filed a motion to withdraw as her counsel. The attorneys state in the motion that they’d informed Campbell that the Discovery Park Community Alliance, as a nonprofit corporation, must have its own legal counsel unless it is “a sole proprietorship.”