Important Public Hearing on the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan (September 15)

Thursday, September 15, 2016, 2:00 – 4:00 PM

The City Council’s Planning, Land Use and Zoning (PLUZ) Committee will hold a Public Hearing to take comments on the Potential Council Amendments. The hearing will be held in the City Council Chambers at City Hall: 600 Fourth Avenue, 2nd Floor, Seattle, WA 98104. For those who wish to testify, sign-up sheets will be available outside of Council Chambers starting at 1:30 PM.

Take action and make your voice heard about the impacts of these changes! Consider the List of Concerns below. If you can attend and make public comment, please do so! Get there early, and bring a neighbor!  We expect each person to get two minutes or less to testify. It helps to prepare and to keep your comments clear and focused. You can also write all the City Council members with the addresses at Contacting City Officials before the hearing starts at 2:00 PM.


List of Concerns

From the Neighborhood Planning and Land Use Committee of the City Neighborhood Council

  1. Complete the amendments before ending the public process

    The primary goal at this time is to slow the process down, to allow time for public input, time for due consideration of that public input, and time for due consideration of the implications of this substantial document.  The final version of the 2035 Comprehensive Plan was released by the Mayor in May.  It was substantially different from the preceding draft plan that had been reviewed the year before, so it has been necessary for interested parties to review the whole thing again from scratch.

    In the last month, hundreds of amendments have been discussed and brought forward in the PLUZ committee. Many are substantial, including a new Community Engagement element that is still being written.  PLUZ chairman Rob Johnson says he hopes to make amendments and refer the plan to full council on September 20 – a frantically rushed schedule.

    The Comprehensive Plan, required by the state Growth Management Act (GMA), is a fundamental policy document that becomes the basis for municipal code, affecting all council committees.  After it’s adopted, the city must make its rules and regulations conform to the Comprehensive Plan, and can be held legally accountable for failure to do so.  This is not something that should be rushed through in a hurry, and it doesn’t need to be, as Growth Management Act requirements were met by an ordinance passed in October 2015.

    Ideally, Council members would hold public meetings in their districts so that the proposed plan and proposed amendments are fully vetted.  At a minimum, public hearings should be held with fully developed amendments.

  2. Restore the Important Role of Neighborhood Plans, Goals and Policies

    The Mayor’s Plan significantly diminishes the value of local, citizen planning and thus the value of citizen engagement in fundamental areas of land use planning, growth management and capital investment. The policies in the Mayor’s Plan should be amended to clarify that Neighborhood Plans, Goals and Policies take priority over general Comprehensive Plan goals when decisions such as rezones, development standards and design guidelines changes are proposed. Neighborhood planning provides flexibility and diversity in applying citywide regulations to accommodate growth while respecting individual neighborhood characteristics.

    Do not repeal the following policies from the current plan: N2 – Resolving inconsistencies between Neighborhood Plans and the Comprehensive Plan; N7 – Guidelines for Neighborhood Plans; NG2 – Involve all community members; NG4 – define role of plans with update to assure compliance with adopted plans.

    Add policies that clarify the relationship of Urban Design Framework (UDF) and Action Plans to Neighborhood Plans and set enforceable criteria for updating all forms of neighborhood plans through the life of Seattle 2035. Policies should ensure adequate funding for systematic review and updating of neighborhood plans to keep up with physical and demographic changes. Over 40% of the neighborhood plans adopted since 1994 have not been updated. The new Planning Department should have an official neighborhood plan ombudsman to track how Department level functional planning is consistent with Neighborhood plan goals. Restore policies concerning regular monitoring, measuring and the actions to be taken when growth is occurring below or above the expectations of the Comp Plan.

  3. Wishful Thinking Is Not a Substitute for Concurrency

    We may wish that most people in Seattle could walk, bike or take transit to work and for their routine chores but that is not reality and it will never be in our city of hills, bridges, water bodies and rain. Diversity considerations such as age and family size should be recognized. The goals and policies of the Comprehensive Plan should not reflect only image of young tech workers. Over time more people may drive electric cars and more fuel efficient cars, but they will drive personal vehicles and they will need to park them at both ends of every trip. The Mayor’s Plan tries to paper over these truths with silly infographics. An increase in bike and transit ridership is a good thing however, overall population and job growth will swamp any gains thus made.

    Transportation problems and livability will only become worse. We need realistic policies about the priority use of the public streets for the majority modes. We need policies that recognize that on street parking is the lifeblood of neighborhood commercial districts and most multi-family zones areas. We need policies that direct development of transit level of service standards that don’t leave hundreds of people behind at bus stops and the rest feeling like they’re in a Tokyo train!

    Specifically reject the unworkable proposal to redefine our arterial level of service standard as a percentage of SOV vehicles.

    Require staff to provide an estimate of future transit demand that is consistent with growth estimates in Growth Strategy Figure 2 (as revised with numeric estimates). Policies eliminating the requirement of off-street parking in areas with transit service should be reconsidered in light of these findings. The Growth Strategy Element is dependent on having adequate transit but the plan gives you no idea if there is or will be adequate service.

    The Mayors Plan goal LU G6 calls for parking to be regulated to limit construction cost. The current policy it replaces (LUG4) focused on managing parking to reduce housing cost. Do not repeal LUG4 which better links the benefit of housing affordability to the loss of parking. Merely reducing construction cost chiefly benefits the developer, not the renter.

    We recommend policies favoring direct impact fees when employers suddenly import hundreds or thousands of workers into already congested areas creating major transportation impacts and costs.

  4. Maintain the Urban Village Growth Strategy and Clear Land Use Zone Distinctions

    The Mayor’s Plan (and some of the Planning Commission’s recommendations) seek to undermine this agreed on approach by redefining urban village boundaries based on theoretical 10-minute transit walksheds and defining growth areas in terms of transit corridors rather than the existing urban village boundaries and nodes. Do not modify the Future Land Use Map as proposed and reject LU 1.5 – Require Future Land Use Map amendments only when needed to achieve a significant change to the intended function of a large area. Revise GS 2.19  – Allow limited Limit multifamily, commercial, and industrial uses outside of urban villages to support the surrounding area or to maintain the existing character – to provide better policy direction for managing growth outside of urban centers and villages.

    Do not repeal the rezone policy language in the current plan LU1 –  Use the goals and policies included in this Plan to identify on the Future Land Use Map the general locations where broad categories of land uses are preferred. Use rezone criteria which implement the goals and policies of this Plan to identify on the  City’s Official Land Use Map where specific zones are located; LU3 – Establish rezone evaluation criteria and procedures to guide decisions about which  zone will provide the best match for the characteristics of an area and will most clearly further City goals; and LU5  – 1. Consider, through neighborhood planning processes, recommendations for the revision of zoning to better reflect community preferences for the development of an area, provided that consistency between the zoning and this Plan is maintained. Consider relevant goals and policies in adopted neighborhood plans when evaluating a rezone proposal. 2. Seek opportunities in rezones or changes in development regulations to incorporate incentive programs for development of housing that is affordable for the longest term practical. 3. Consider development regulations that condition higher-density development on the provision of public benefits when such public benefits will help mitigate impacts of development attributable to increased development potential.

  5. Protect the Housing Choice in Single Family Zones & Save Remaining Large Trees

    The Mayor’s Plan includes many references to the need for affordable, family-sized housing options. This need is best met in the great diversity of single family zoned neighborhoods in Seattle. Yet the Mayor’s Plan seeks to erode those very housing choices by eliminating the historic policies protecting single family zones from inappropriate and exploitative development schemes.

    Do not repeal the current plan policies: LUG8 –  Preserve and protect low-density, single family neighborhoods that provide opportunities for home-ownership, that are attractive to households with children and other residents, that provide residents with privacy and open spaces immediately accessible to residents, and where the amount of impervious surface can be limited.; LUG9 –  Preserve the character of single-family residential areas and discourage the demolition of single-family residences and displacement of residents, in a way that encourages rehabilitation and provides housing opportunities throughout the city. The character of single-family areas includes use, development, and density characteristics.; LUG10 –  Provide for different intensities of single-family areas to reflect differences in the existing and desired character of single family areas across the city. Allow development that is generally consistent with the levels of infrastructure development and environmental conditions in each area. Include opportunities for low-cost subsidized housing in single-family areas;  LU59 –  Permit upzones of land designated single-family and meeting single-family rezone criteria, only when all of the following conditions are met:  • The land is within an urban center or urban village boundary. • The rezone is provided for in an adopted neighborhood plan. • The rezone is to a low-scale single-family, multifamily or mixed-use zone, compatible with single-family areas. • The rezone procedures are followed; and LU60 –  Apply small lot single-family zones to single-family property meeting single-family rezone criteria only when all of the following conditions are met: • The land is within an urban center or urban village boundary. • The rezone is provided for in an adopted neighborhood plan. • The rezone procedures are followed.

    Do not accept the Mayor’s substitute policies (LU G7 – Provide opportunities for detached single-family and other compatible housing options that have low height, bulk, and scale in order to serve a broad array of households and incomes and to maintain an intensity of development that is appropriate for areas with limited access to services, infrastructure constraints, fragile environmental conditions, or that are otherwise not conducive to more intensive development). The Planning Commission is getting well ahead of the majority public opinion in their ongoing effort to “pick the lock” (their term) on single family zones. We urge you not to make this mistake. The relaxation of standards will not result in the densification of neighborhoods with 7,500 and 10,000 single family lots. It will put terrific strain on neighborhoods with the last remaining stock of lower cost, detached housing with places for children to safely play in a backyard. It will undermine tree preservation goals which are already suffering under the relentless redevelopment of single family and lowrise zones throughout the city.

  6. Complete and clear up anomalies in the proposed Community Involvement Element in the Comprehensive Plan

    The Growth Management Act also places emphasis on community participation in all actions related to GMA compliance.

    The Community Involvement element is seriously flawed as it does not capture the intent of neighborhood planning.  New terminologies are introduced which are undefined and confusing, using ‘community involvement’ while describing neighborhood planning.  The element is not written as a policy document, but more like a work plan.  Neighborhood planning needs to be clearly identified with what is required for sub area planning in order to comply with GMA prior rulings.

From the Wallingford Community Council (WCC)

The Mayor’s Proposed Policies WCC Recommendations
Takes away Neighborhood Plans’ authority, eliminating the current plan’s balanced approach in favor of top-down planning from city hall.  Top-down central planning policies treat urban villages as if they were all the same – but urban villages aren’t real things, they’re just lines drawn on maps.  Seattle’s real neighborhoods are significantly different, as the current plan recognizes and supports. Do not repeal policies that give Neighborhood Plans authority over rezones and other land use issues.  Support regular updates to Neighborhood Plans, via neighborhood planning process.
Proposes enlargement of Urban Village boundaries on flimsy grounds, like ½ mile proximity to bus service. Remove simplistic enlargement criteria and require full neighborhood involvement when redrawing Urban Village boundaries.  Casual enlargement of Urban Villages does not serve their basic purpose, which is to concentrate development around high access cores.
Subordinates everything else to a single goal, more development and higher population densities in the Urban Villages.  Open space, trees, parking, anything that gets in the way of developers or higher population density.  Not a balanced plan for a great city. Do not repeal specific protections for significant trees.  Generally do not repeal policies that serve livability goals.
Assails single-family residential.  Drastically reduces single-family from a valued part of Seattle’s neighborhoods, to a barely tolerated wart on the landscape. Redefines single-family to no longer low density, just small buildings at whatever density.  Several policies work to encourage multiple housing units on a single lot. Do not repeal current definition of single-family, and policies that support it, as a low density housing type that means what it says – a single family on a lot, with space for trees and kids and the things we know belong there.
Fails to require and support concurrent growth in support infrastructure, particularly transit.  On-street and off-street parking is sacrificed to the expedience of development, under a fantasy that this promotes transit use, bicycling, etc. – without any realistic basis for expecting this to happen or even be feasible. Include transit demand projections in the plan that are consistent with growth estimates.  Don’t eliminate parking while it’s still needed by neighborhood commerce and residential areas and the transit alternatives are inadequate.  Define arterial Level of Service in a conventional way that supports the movement of goods and people.

 

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