The Queen Anne Community Council has launched another salvo against Mike O’Brien’s plan to undermine single-family zoning by changing the law that regulates backyard cottages. In a letter to Mayor Murray and other officials, the Community Council argues that O’Brien’s public outreach on backyard cottages was a sham:
[T]he public outreach effort neglected to include most neighborhood input and in so doing, ignored and misrepresented many serious issues and consequences… [T]he outreach effort by Councilmember O’Brien…has been a one-sided marketing effort and not representative of a typical, thoughtful, thorough and respectful bottom-up urban planning dialogue and inclusive discussion.
Instead of having real, honest public hearings and taking actual community input to formulate a transparent planning strategy, Councilmember O’Brien held two infomercials in only two neighborhoods – out of over three dozen – to gauge a very narrow public opinion. These two meetings were not typical and unfiltered, allowing questions and answers; they were instead a one-way broadcast selling one vision, wrapped in the unproven guarantee of producing more housing affordability.
At issue is the “Determination of Non-Significance” (DNS) delivered by the City’s Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD), which asserts that O’Brien’s legislation will have no environmental impact. Without the DNS, the new law would be subject to a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).
In a letter to neighborhood residents, the chair of Queen Anne’s Land Use Review Committee, Martin Henry Kaplan, explains the importance of a full SEPA review for the backyard-cottages legislation:
There are 109 questions on the SEPA checklist and the city has answered every one with a “No” or Not Applicable” impact. Therefore the city’s conclusion was to give the proposal a Determination of Non-Significance (DNS), removing the requirement for the city to prepare an EIS and open the process to you and all our neighborhoods throughout Seattle for review and comment at numerous public hearings. Instead, Councilmember O’Brien can freely advance his proposal to the City Council for discussion and a vote, unencumbered by accurate and expert analysis, representative and inclusive public hearings, public and expert input and review, resultant amendments after considering impacts and actual metrics, and final transparent analysis and approvals with community buy-in. Many believe that this open review and expert input has been missing in HALA as well.
The official deadline for public comment on the DNS has passed (it was June 2, only two weeks after the legislation was announced), but you may still write to Nick Welch, the project manager at OPCD: firstname.lastname@example.org and to Councilmember O’Brien: email@example.com.
The deadline for submitting an appeal of the DNS is June 9. To pursue an appeal is a difficult and expensive undertaking, requiring expert witnesses and research. Nevertheless, there are hints that such an appeal may be lodged. More on this to come…
Update – June 7: An appeal has been filed. See this post.
For more on Backyard Cottages, see these posts:
- Mike O’Brien is coming for your privacy, your parking, and your property rights – May 20, 2016
- Detailed Comments on O’Brien DADU legislation – May 31, 2016