QACC appeal of O'Brien legislation moves forward

The Queen Anne Community Council’s hopes to put the brakes on the City’s proposed new law that could significantly increase the percentage of three dwelling units per lot in single family zoned Seattle neighborhoods remain alive after a ruling late last week. The City’s Planning Department had moved to get the community council’s appeal dismissed, but an order by Hearing Examiner Sue Tanner on July 29, dismissed only certain aspects of the appeal, and cleared the way for a full hearing on Aug. 31 on the rest of the issues. 

The City’s proposed law would allow the owner of a single family home to add a mother-in-law apartment or accessory dwelling unit and a backyard cottage or detached accessory dwelling unit to the existing home.  It would also remove the requirement for off-street parking and for the need for the owner of the property to live on site.

The appeal by Marty Kaplan — on behalf of QACC — objected to the Planning Department determination of no significant environmental impacts from the City’s proposed new law.  If the appeal had been dismissed in its entirety, the determination of no significance would have cleared the way for the legislation to move forward for Council vote without a professional environmental impact study or more public process. 

Here’s what QACC can do at the August 31 hearing: 

  • Show that the Planning Department’s analysis concluding no potential significant impacts are not substantiated by supportive opinion and data
  • Show that the Planning Department failed to consider the impact of all the potential development that would be allowed if the legislation passes.

    But the Hearing Examiner’s July 29 order shields the City from being confronted at the hearing on other issues raised by QACC.  Here are the issues that won’t be addressed on Aug. 31:

  • Whether the two public information meetings held in January and February 2016 were sufficient

    QACC had objected that the two public information meetings, held in January and February 2016, before the Planning Department issued its determination of non-significance for O’Brien’s legislation were insufficient. The Planning Department argued in its motion to dismiss:  “Neither the number of public meetings held nor the public input collected at these meetings affects the adequacy of the SEPA determination under appeal.”  The Planning Department noted that it had published in the Land Use Information Bulletin (LUIB) and the Daily Journal of Commerce (DJC) and that that this was public notice that satisfies all procedural requirements of the Seattle Municipal Code.  The Hearing Examiner agreed. 

  • Whether it was improper segmentation for the Planning Department to consider ADU/DADU amendments in isolation

    The appeal that Kaplan filed raised the concern that O’Brien’s proposed amendments were taken out of a package of actions proposed to implement the recommendations from the Housing Affordability and Livability (HALA) Report. The community council argued that the Planning Department’s review of O’Brien’s amendments should have been conducted in conjunction with review of the other actions in the package and that failure to have done so was improper “piecemealing”/segmentation. The Hearing Examiner agreed with the Planning Department that because Kaplan’s original appeal did not specifically include a claim of improper segmentation/“piecemealing” QACC should not be allowed to present evidence to show improper segmentation. 

  • Whether the Planning Department should study and develop alternatives to O’Brien’s amendments for accomplishing objective of removing barriers to affordable housing

    In QACC’s July 19 clarification of issues, attorney Jeff Eustis argued that the Planning Department’s determination of non-significance had violated legal code in failing to “study, develop and describe alternatives to the proposed” legislation. The Hearing Examiner acknowledged that in the original appeal, Kaplan had questioned whether the proposal would accomplish the City’s objective of removing barriers to affordable housing. However, the Tanner agreed with the Planning Department that the appeal failed to actually suggest the need to develop and study alternatives to O’Brien’s proposed legislation, and dismissed this question as an appeal issue.