The city council's land-use committee got an earful from opponents and proponents of Mayor Mike McGinn's proposed regulatory reform package, which would, among other things, remove minimum parking requirements for some new developments. (As I've noted, despite histrionic headlines warning that "parking is about to get worse," the proposal would not reduce parking, but would lift a government mandate that developers build a minimum number of parking stalls in areas near frequent transit routes). Today's meeting was the first public hearing on the proposal. The committee will discuss and possibly vote on the proposal on April 11.
Most of the public comments dealt with three aspects of the proposal: First, that it would allow more small storefront and home-based businesses in low-rise and mid-rise zones; second that it would increase the number of units that trigger a state environmental review (under SEPA, the State Environmental Policy Act) to 200; and third, the elimination of the parking minimum.
Opponents of the small business expansion proposal argued that new storefront and home-based businesses would destroy the character of neighborhoods, create noise and parking problems, and harm existing nearby business districts. "I would hope that if I wanted to bring ten employees in my house to work for my consulting firm that I would have to go to an appropriate building and not shove them into my apartment," Capitol Hill resident Mary Jo Porter said. "We do not have a demand for more commercial space."
Proponents, meanwhile, argued that the changes would make it easier for small businesses to thrive.
On the SEPA issue, opponents of the change (no proponents spoke directly to the SEPA proposal) argued that raising the threshold---that is, increasing the size of developments that trigger SEPA review---could lead to a rash of buildings just under the threshold (say, 199-unit buildings) and less environmental protection for people who live in large apartment complexes.
"You have to ask yourself why someone who lives in a low-income apartment is afforded significantly less environmental protections than someone who lives on Queen Anne in a single-family home," said David Miller (pictured), a Maple Leaf neighborhood activist. "You're saying you don't have as much right to protect your neighborhood."
In a letter to council members, Miller elaborated, arguing that raising the SEPA threshold would make it harder for neighborhood groups, like the Maple Leaf Community Council, to weigh in on proposed developments.
"Neighborhood organizations such as the Maple Leaf Community Council do our best, but we are volunteer organizations. Without the process protections afforded by SEPA, our ability to effectively advocate is greatly diminished," Miller wrote. "Our ability to appeal things like the spread of toxic dust due to demolition would be lost."
Most of the comments, however, were devoted to the issue of parking. Reflecting the widespread (and, again, mistaken) belief that the legislation would eliminate existing parking spaces, most commenters opposed to lifting the parking requirement argued that the change would make it impossible for them to park in their neighborhoods.
For example, one property owner in Queen Anne said she already had to walk several blocks to get to her condo and that people in the neighborhood park on curbs, lawns, and any other illegal space they can find, and a self-identified landlord in West Seattle said she currently provides two spaces for every unit in her apartment building, and that without high parking minimums people would "park on the side streets and in residential aras and we can't even get out of our driveway."
On the flip side, Seattle Central Community College vice president Michael Pham said it was "cost-prohibitive" to require the school, located in the middle of one of Seattle's densest neighborhoods to provide parking for students who mostly commute by transit. And Eric de Place of the Sightline Institute pointed out that both in per capita terms and in real numbers, people---particularly young people---are driving less. "When I filled up the tank last weekend in my car, gas was $4.30 a gallon, so it's not surprising that if you're a young person starting out or trying to make ends meet if you're of modest means, car ownership is not necessarily a viable alternative" anymore, de Place said.
Finally, several people complained about what they perceived as a lack of adequate notice about the proposal. Besides longtime council gadfly Chris Leman (who compared the public notice process, tiresomely, to "something that is more appropriate to Russia or some other society"), several folks said that they had only heard about the proposal in the past week or so. In fact, the proposals the council is considering are part of a package of legislation McGinn proposed in the summer of 2010, and fleshed out in greater detail earlier this year.
Related: Land-use attorney Chuck Wolfe, who testified in favor of the changes, wrote a piece in the Atlantic about the proposal earlier this week.
- Advertisement -
OTHER POPULAR CONTENT
A Beloved Seattle Restaurant Shuts Its Doors
Butcher BB Ranch Is Feeding Marijuana to Pigs
Seattle’s Best Restaurants for Cheap Eats
Morning Fizz: Luckily for Mayor Mike McGinn
Morning Fizz: Serious Faux Pas
Mayor's Race Scenarios
McGinn Below 25 Percent in Latest Poll
Retail Refreshment at Pacific Place
30 Years of Love for Copper River Salmon
Morning Fizz: Wonkiness Aside
Rick Bayless's (Quick) Visit to Seattle
Car2Go Can't Be All Things to All People
- A Beloved Seattle Restaurant Shuts Its Doors
- Butcher BB Ranch Is Feeding Marijuana to Pigs
- Seattle’s Best Restaurants for Cheap Eats
- Morning Fizz: Luckily for Mayor Mike McGinn
- Morning Fizz: Serious Faux Pas
- Mayor's Race Scenarios
- McGinn Below 25 Percent in Latest Poll
- Retail Refreshment at Pacific Place
- Advertisement -
Most popularSlide Shows & Videos
- Advertisement -