Initially, 12 people signed up to speak, but as the meeting went on, a few more signed in and spoke. Close to 20 people had their say. Topics included those covered on this blog: lack of stormwater mitigation, more cars parked on the street, more congestion, inadequate infrastructure to handle all the waste and stormwater, the potential for flooding, and contributing to sewage overflows into Puget Sound. Older residents who have lived here for many years, some whose family has had property here for generations, talked about how this project fails to consider the character of the neighborhood. Several people reviewed the developers SEPA checklist and pointed out inaccuracies and incomplete answers. Others lamented the loss of wildlife habitat, challenging the developer's statement that there is no wildlife present in this area. Lack of green space, and blocking light and air for neighboring properties was mentioned, as was the lack of transit options available here. Between the oral and written comments, I believe we explained the negative environmental impacts pretty thoroughly.
The meeting organizer and Department of Planning and Development (DPD) planner in charge of this project, Tami Garrett, said that she would be reviewing all of our comments, along with the reviews still to be completed by other planners, before writing her decision. She will accept written comments for about one more week. If you have anything you would like to submit, email it to her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Obviously, the sooner she gets comments the better.
She will write her decision, it will be reviewed by her supervisor, and then it will be published. She expects this to be done within the next two months. After the decision is published, the neighbors will have two weeks to appeal the decision if we aren't happy with it.
The mood as we left the meeting was subdued. We get it. There's not much the DPD can do for us. They don't make policy or write ordinances, their job is simply to enforce the rules. The rules are made by the city council, with input from the mayor.
Since the meeting, several neighbors have written to Richard Conlin, the city council member who chairs the Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee. He has agreed to look at how the zoning evolved that could allow this project to happen. But he says there's nothing he can do about this now. Here's a quote from one of his emails:
"I am trying to be really, really clear on the permitting process. The Council cannot legally take any action that will affect a permit that has been filed with DPD. There is no action that we can take that will affect or stop the project you are concerned about. Only DPD has the authority to do that.
If, in reviewing the zoning, there is a case for changing it, that could apply to prospective projects in the future, but it cannot be applied retroactively."So there you have it, the DPD punts to the City Council and the Council punts the issue back to the DPD. In the meantime, projects like the Alki rowhouses and other egregious developments are sprouting up all around us. At some point, city officials may see that mistakes were made and change the rules, but for now, these projects are going to get built. Once they're here, they're here to stay - for decades - along with the problems they spawn. There has to be a better way to manage growth and development in Seattle.
What Does SEPA Mean, Anyway?
The Environmental Impacts of the Alki 11 Rowhouses