1. A developer is suing the city over a city zoning law that triggers the design review process based on the number of units on a separate project in the abutting lot. The new law was intended to prevent crafty developers from circumventing the design review process by dividing one lot into two so they could sneak more units in.
The problem, as lowrise developer Bendare Dundat, Inc. argues in a brief filed with King County Superior Court today, is that after having completed all the required review for their own four-unit development in Delridge, the project has now been delayed and hit with an additional review requirement because of a separate, unrelated five-unit development in the adjacent lot; the project next door doesn’t have to go through the additional design review.
Beyond challenging the city over this sitcom bit of red tape, developers—arguing that more density translates into more affordable housing—have seized on the case as an example where the city’s code is working against the city’s own push to create more housing.
“Instead of four town homes priced at around $500,000, there could end up being two larger ones that will cost double that or about $1,000,000. That certainly doesn’t help the affordability problem the city claims it is trying to solve,” says developer lobbyist Roger Valdez.
Valdez’s group, in fact, warned the city council about this very issue earlier in the year. In a letter to planning committee chair, council member Rob Johnson, Valdez’s group, Smart Growth Seattle, wrote: "We request that you introduce legislation that would remove requirements on abutting lots passed by council last year… In one case,” the letter continued, citing a different development than the one that’s now suing the city, “a builder is now considering building a project with only three units instead of six because an abutting lot was permitted first.”
2. As the July 1 deadline approaches for all non-licensed pot stores to shut down, the map of 48 legal pot stores is coming together. And as the “medical” shops (there used to be 120 citywide) start to close down, the landscape is changing dramatically: Where there was once a concentration of 13 medical pot stores south of I-90 in Southeast Seattle, with nearly 30 stores either up or licensed to go for this summer’s deadline, there are currently no licensees scheduled to open south of I-90.
Some council members had feared that new, laxer buffer requirements between the shops and public amenities such as public libraries, parks, and transit centers from 1,000 feet lowered to 500 feet, would spark an unwanted increase of stores in communities such as Southeast Seattle.
However, the change—intended to provide more opportunities citywide—seems to have had the opposite effect, by adding stores everywhere but. Of course, that was the intent; the change was made, in part, with the context that North Seattle has more public amenities than Southeast Seattle and the original 1,000 foot buffer was actually keeping stores out of North Seattle.
3. Civil rights group OneAmerica held its annual dinner on Friday night—its 15th anniversary. The event was not your typical Westin affair of rubber chicken and droney speeches. In fact, the festivities pretty much bent the staid room out of shape. Under moody red lights, Haitian-American performer Daniel Bernard Roumain serenaded the crowd with his avant garde violin music (he opened with a version of Jimi Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner”—Hendrix’s famous Vietnam/Civil Rights era deconstruction of the national anthem—and concluded by tapping hip hop beats on the violin while he told a riveting story about growing up in Florida with his immigrant nurse mom in a biracial family.)
The event was typical politics in another way, though: It doubled as a campaign event for OneAmerica founder and state senator Pramila Jayapal (D-37, Southeast Seattle). Jayapal, who is currently running for U.S. congress, was feted by the adoring crowd and gave the keynote speech (she talked about the significance of this year’s elections, focusing on Donald Trump's record of hate speech—and Ted Cruz's.) She also gave a long thank you to retiring U.S. representative Jim McDermott (D-WA, 7) for his work on civil rights. Jayapal, of course, is running for McDermott’s open seat.
McDermott wasn’t there, but his brother accepted an award from the group.
4. Speaking of Jayapal, in case you missed it: She filed a PubliCola guest opinion piece on Friday, sharing a byline with Tina Podlodowski (who’s running for secretary of state). The pair wrote about the state of voting rights act legislation, which, once again, passed the Democratic house, but didn’t get out of the Republican state senate .
5. Finally, still no word from mayor Ed Murray’s office on why they never provided the required ethics waiver letter to allow Seattle Department of Transportation director Scott Kubly to oversee the city takeover of Pronto bike share; Kubly used to work for Alta bike share, a company that had direct ties to Pronto. As I first reported, city ethics rules require the mayor’s office to provide a waiver letter in instances like that.