Magnolia resident Elizabeth Campbell says she plans to file a motion for reconsideration with the Seattle Hearing Examiner’s Office after it dismissed her appeal of an environmental review tied to legislation that would allow for an expansion of tiny house villages across the city.

The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections issued a Determination of Non-Significance (DNS) on Aug. 7 for legislation proposed by City Councilmember Kshama Sawant that would: allow transitional encampments for people experiencing homelessness on property owned or controlled by a religious organization without a permit; allow transitional encampments to be permitted on all public or private property on an interim basis; increase the number of allowed encampments - not associated with a religious organization - from three to 40; and to make renewal of temporary-use permits for existing encampments a Type 1 (nonappealable) decision.

Campbell and her Magnolia Neighborhood Planning Council and Safe and Affordable Seattle groups filed an appeal with the Hearing Examiner on Aug. 29, challenging the DNS in order to trigger the need for an environmental impact statement (EIS) process. Campbell’s appeal argued 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. She also argued that existing tiny house villages should have been assessed as part of SDCI’s review process.

But the City of Seattle ended up successfully arguing that Campbell and her co-appellant groups had waived their right to appeal by failing to comment on the Determination of Non-Significance beforehand. The Hearing Examiner found that since the appellants did not comment on the DNS during the deadline to do so as established by State Environmental Policy Act, “it may be considered by the lead agency as a lack of objection to the environmental analysis.”

However, the Hearing Examiner acknowledges in their Oct. 24 order to dismiss that previous decisions by other hearing examiners — appellants cited two such cases in their arguments — have determined that a related municipal code “does not require that a member of the public comment on a DNS in order to appeal that DNS.”

“The Examiner does not recognize the principle of stare decisis (past decisions as precedent), but previous analyses by other Examiners of similar issues are studied and considered,” the order states.

Campbell issued a statement that appellants will first seek reconsideration by the Seattle Hearing Examiner. If that motion is rejected, the next step would be to seek judicial review in King County Superior Court.

“While disappointed the appellants are not in any way less determined to see this matter through to vindication. A wholesale expansion of the Low Income Housing Institute’s so-called tiny house village program is a wrong solution,” the statement reads. “It has and is bad for first the majority of its tenants and it is operating illegally.”

Campbell filed an appeal in 2018 to block the expansion of the Safe Harbor Tiny House Village on the Port of Seattle’s Tsubota site in Interbay, but also lost that SEPA challenge.

The Port of Seattle Commission approved a one-year lease extension for the Interbay village on Oct. 8. Commissioners lauded the model’s success.

“The Interbay Safe Harbor Village is outperforming other shelter models throughout the City with a rate of transition into permanent housing at 46 percent for the first and second quarters of 2019, compared to the average 4 percent of traditional shelters,” according to a commission memo.

LIHI helped transition around 500 people from tiny house villages into permanent housing between 2016 and 2018.

A public hearing regarding Sawant’s proposed land-use code amendments was held on Oct. 17.