City Council Poised to Gut Environmental Reviews, Monday October 7

On Monday October 7 at 2 PM, the City Council is rushing to take a final vote on CB 119600. This legislation will substantially weaken requirements for the environmental review of projects and policies under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).

In the opinion of the Seattle Times Editorial Board:

“Don’t be fooled by [the] greenwashing. It does the environment no favors to weaken the State Environmental Policy Act… This will mostly benefit real estate investors trying to further cash in on the Amazon boom.”

“Seattle’s environmental community should also urge the council to reject this faux-environmental policy. They must resist the siren song of developer-friendly think tanks, telling tales of how the earth will be saved by bulldozing houses, cutting trees and replacing them with big apartments.”

“This [legislation] is about weakening policy written to protect the environment and quality of life for everyone. It reduces costs for the few who profit off land speculation.”

We urge you to contact all City Councilmembers with your concerns about CB 119600, and ask them to delay this legislation for consideration by the newly-elected Council next year. (Contact information is below.) You can further express your concerns by testifying at the City Council meeting on Monday October 7 at 2 PM in Council Chambers at Seattle City Hall.

There is no reason for the City Council to rush. Under state law, the City has until April 2021 to consider and adopt more reasonable and more environmentally friendly provisions. When our big issues are climate change, equity, and human health, the SEPA process should be strengthened, not weakened.

Provisions of CB 119600

These policy actions will be made exempt from any environmental review:

  • Changes to the Comprehensive [Land Use] Plan.
  • Changes to shoreline development regulations.
  • Changes to environmental regulations that increase protection for critical areas, increase vegetation retention, or decrease impervious surface areas.
  • Analysis of the potential economic impacts related to individual businesses.

These projects in Urban Villages would be made exempt from any environmental or Hydropower review (if the current density and intensity of use in the area is lower than called for in the Comprehensive Plan):

  • Residential buildings with 200 or fewer units.
  • Commercial space up to 12,000 square feet in a stand-alone commercial structure.
  • Commercial space up to 30,000 square feet in a mixed-use development.

These policy actions would be made exempt from any appeal of the SEPA environmental review:

  • Allowing duplexes, triplexes and courtyard apartments in single-family zoned lots.
  • Allowing duplexes on each corner lot within all single-family zoned areas.
  • Allowing ADUs in single-family zones on lots that meet size requirements.
  • Allowing for subdivision of lots into smaller parcels.
  • Adopting a subarea (neighborhood) plan.
  • Increasing categorical exemptions that encourage urban infill development.
  • Up-zoning 250+ acres with frequent transit service.
  • Up-zoning 500+ acres that include a commuter or light rail station.
  • Transportation impacts of residential and mixed-use projects.
  • Analysis of economic issues(!)

The Director of the Department of Construction & Inspections would be able to unilaterally set the rules for SEPA analysis.

For more information:

The Seattle Times: Stop Seattle City Council’s Faux Environmentalism.
The Seattle Times: City Council Uses False Narrative to Gut Use of the State Environmental Policy Act.
Seattle City Clerk: CB 119600, Central Staff Memo (August 7), Central Staff Memo (September 4), CB 119600 Version 2 full text.

How to contact City Councilmembers:

All Councilmembers:
Lisa Herbold: 206-684-8803,
Bruce Harrell: 206-684-8804,
Kshama Sawant: 206-684-8016,
Abel Pacheco: 206-684-8808,
Debora Juarez: 206-684-8805,
Mike O’Brien: 206-684-8800,
Sally Bagshaw: 206-684-8801,
Teresa Mosqueda: 206-684-8806,
Lorena González: 206-684-8802,

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