Tag Archives: neighborhood planning

Places to go, things to do: events and meetings coming up

Photo of last year's International Children's Day festivities at El Centro, courtesy Elliott Jones.

There are a lot of events and meetings coming up soon that we want you to know about. Updated with late-arriving reminders of ROCKiTspace events and El Centro’s Cinco de Mayo celebration. Here goes:

Sunday, April 18:

Monday, April 19:

  • North Beacon Hill Planning meeting with Marshall Foster, city planning director from the Department of Planning and Development, 5:30 to 6:30 pm at the Beacon Hill Library, 2821 Beacon Avenue South.
  • Beacon Family Bike and Pedestrian Plan meeting, 6:30 to 8:00 pm at the Beacon Hill Library.

Saturday, April 24:

  • Beacon Idol round two, 7:00 pm at ROCKiTspace, 3315 Beacon Avenue South.
  • Seattle Public Schools Family and Community Engagement Symposium, 9:00 am to 3:30 pm at Aki Kurose Middle School, 3928 South Graham Street — free workshops on helping your child with math, science, reading, writing, dealing with bullying, and college and career readiness with keynote speaker Dr. Susan Enfield; breakfast (8:30 am), lunch, and childcare provided.

Wednesday, April 28:

  • International Children’s Day celebration, 5:00 to 8:00 pm at El Centro de la Raza, 2524 16th Avenue South, featuring children’s activities and cultural games, refreshments, and presentations; for more info contact Enrique Gonzalez at 206-957-4605 or email execasst@elcentrodelaraza.org.

Sunday, May 2:

Thursday, May 6:

Saturday, May 8:

  • Meet Laila Lalami, author of the 2010 Seattle Reads selection Secret Son, 4:00 to 5:30 pm at the Beacon Hill Library.

Thursday, May 13:

  • Cheasty Boulevard Plan meeting, 7:00 to 8:30 pm at the home of Amit Ranade and Jennifer Faubion-Ranade, 2615 South Edmunds Street.

Friday, May 14:

  • Neighborhood Plan Update meeting, Mercer Middle School. (We don’t have the starting time for this one yet, but we will post it when we do.)

Sunday, May 16:

  • Beacon Hill Music Backyard Party fundraiser, 3:00 to 7:00 pm — RSVP requested, email beaconhillmusic@gmail.com for more info.

Monday, May 17:

  • Beacon Family Bike and Pedestrian Plan meeting, 6:00 to 8:00 pm at the Beacon Hill Library.

Saturday, May 22:

Wednesday, May 26:

  • Jefferson Park Skateboard Park, Beacon Mountain Playground, and Jefferson Playfield update with the Parks Department, 6:00 to 8:30 pm at the Jefferson Community Center, 3801 Beacon Avenue South.

Saturday, May 29:

Thursday, June 3:

Saturday, June 5:

Sunday, June 13:

Thursday, June 17:

  • Cheasty Boulevard Plan Open House with guided walks, 7:00 to 8:30 pm at the end of South Alaska Place.

Monday, June 21:

  • Beacon Family Bike and Pedestrian Plan meeting, 6:00 to 8:00 pm at the Beacon Hill Library.

Saturday, July 17:

Big thanks to Frederica Merrell for assembling many of these meeting times and locations in a handout from the April NBHC meeting.

Neighborhood planning process moving forward

Mike O’Brien’s Seattle Public Utilities and Neighborhoods Committee (SPUNC) approved Resolution 31204 Tuesday afternoon, moving forward to begin a year of public comment and other work toward finalizing the Neighborhood Plan Updates for North Beacon Hill, North Rainier, and Othello.  The full text of the resolution is available here. You can watch the SPUNC meeting online at the Seattle Channel website.

Council members charged the Department of Planning & Development (DPD) and Dept. of Neighborhoods (DoN) with “making everyone happy” by creating an implementation process and urban design guidelines.  The resolution calls for extensive community involvement, including continuing outreach to underserved communities.

DPD and DoN will also be offering the opportunity for interested parties to share ideas online.  The timeline calls for the development of Action Plans from April to August 2010. Work groups will begin forming to develop Urban Design Framework Plans from June to November 2010.

There is a public meeting scheduled on Friday, May 14 at Asa Mercer Middle School, 1600 South Columbian Way.  Childcare and translation services will be available. Further information about the meeting will be coming soon.

11 of 13 issues dismissed from North Beacon Hill DNS appeal

The Hearing Examiner has dismissed all but two issues from the North Beacon Hill DNS appeal filed on January 29 by Frederica Merrell, stating that the dismissed issues are “broad, conclusory allegations unsupported by any stated facts,” and that they do not meet municipal code and Hearing Examiner requirements that issues raised in an appeal be clear, concise, and specific. Additionally, the ruling states that the issues “fail to give the Department and Intervenor fair notice of the claims being asserted.” Two of the issues were dismissed outright earlier this month, and nine more in a decision given on Monday.  The hearing will now address the two issues that remain.

The two remaining issues are:

#6: “The DPD failed to meaningfully consider the probable impacts of the future development that would be allowed by the proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan and zoning.” The ruling states, “Although the appeal failed to specify the probable impacts being referred to, the Appellant stated in her response to the motions to dismiss that this issue is addressed to the impacts of additional density on public services.” With that clarification, the issue was deemed sufficiently specific to be considered.

#8: “The DPD did not use notice procedures that were reasonably calculated to provide notice to property owners and other affected and interested individuals, tribes, government agencies, businesses, school districts, and organizations of the proposed amendments to comprehensive plans.” This issue was also clarified by Merrell; the March 11 ruling states that “the Appellant clarifies that the notice issue concerns the changes, alleged to be substantive, that the Department made while consolidating goals and policies after public notice of the DNS.”

For a full explanation of the decision, read the Examiner’s ruling here.  The appeal is still scheduled to be heard on Monday, April 26, 9:00 am at the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 5th Avenue.  The Othello appeal hearing has been rescheduled to May 24, and the North Rainier appeal was dismissed earlier this month.

See also Cienna Madrid’s recent post about this in the Slog.

(Editor’s note: Issues #6 and #8 appear to be the same as issues #4 and #6 in the original January 29 version of the appeal.)

First ruling on neighborhood plan appeal released

Sue Tanner, the Hearing Examiner, has released her first ruling regarding the appeal Frederica Merrell filed last month against the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) regarding the Determination of Nonsignificance (DNS) of the North Beacon Hill neighborhood plan update process. Here is the full text of the ruling.

Tanner dismissed two issues in the appeal outright because they are outside the jurisdiction of the Hearing Examiner’s office (the issues were related to planning process).  She upheld one issue that DPD and El Centro de La Raza had requested to be dismissed, regarding whether DPD provided adequate notice for attendance at a meeting.

The revised schedule for the appeal is included in the document.  The final hearing on the appeal is currently scheduled for April 26 at 9:00 am.

Cienna Madrid at the Slog has reported on this as well, and notes that one of the other two nearly identical appeals filed last month, the North Rainier (Mount Baker) appeal, has been dismissed because the appellants did not respond to the motion to dismiss. The Othello appeal continues and is scheduled for May 24 at 9:00 am.

Neighborhood planning with SPUNC

On Tuesday, March 9, the Seattle Public Utilities and Neighborhoods Committee (SPUNC) agenda included a review of the North Beacon Hill Neighborhood Plan update.  You can watch the committee meeting on the Seattle Channel website.

Some points of interest in Tuesday’s meeting:

(approx. 20 minute mark) Brief discussion of the goals of the presentation, including mention of the recent appeal of the plan update process, and how the appeal may affect Council actions on the plan (basically, the Department of Planning and Development advising the Council to honor whatever decision the Hearing Examiner makes on the appeal).

(approx. 43 minute mark) Richard Conlin and Sally Clark discuss the idea of easing the transition between the “Urban Village” and the surrounding single family area, perhaps by changing the zoning of the single family area around the station. There’s also an interesting discussion of the definition of “Urban Village” and “Urban Core” — “it’s a thing.”

(approx. 51 minute mark) Lyle Bicknell describes an idea for collecting community input and making the work plan section of the neighborhood plan. Council members discuss the pros and cons of this new format versus the existing matrix.

Overall, committee members showed interest in supporting the community desires for continuing public input in neighborhood planning and implementation of specific goals.

After the committee meeting, Dennis Saxman approached me to discuss the three appeals to the SE neighborhood plan updates. He mentioned he had helped draft the appeals and stated that there is nothing notable in the appeals being identical.  Saxman also expressed concern about media coverage of the appeals.  (We agreed that comments on some blogs went too far and became personal attacks.)  Saxman is familiar with challenging DPD via the Hearing Examiner’s office, most notably in this case on Capitol Hill.

City Councilmember Mike O’Brien is the SPUNC chairperson. This committee is responsible for legislative matters including:

  • Water, drainage, wastewater and solid waste services provided by Seattle Public Utilities (SPU), including SPU environmental services and utility rates, regional water resources and endangered species recovery plans
  • Neighborhoods, including neighborhood plan updates and implementation

If you are able to attend SPUNC committee meetings and/or City Council meetings in person, it’s a fantastic way to engage with our local elected officials and play an active role in shaping our community. Feel free to contact Esther Handy in Councilmember O’Brien’s office with questions about the neighborhood planning process: esther.handy@seattle.gov, (206) 684-8800.

Process, participation, and progress: a neighborhood planning primer

Many Beacon Hill neighbors took part in a planning meeting last March. Photo by Jason.
While many people pay a great deal of attention to national politics, relatively few participate (or are even aware) of events happening in their own neighborhood—until issues percolate into the media. Recent events in Southeast Seattle might have caused some neighbors to wonder how the neighborhood planning process works, and what is actually in the North Beacon Hill Neighborhood Plan. Here’s a quick introduction to planning in our neighborhood.

What is a Neighborhood Council?  Why should I get involved?

North Beacon Hill is fortunate to have an engaged neighborhood council and to be part of a dynamic, functional district council. The North Beacon Hill Council describes their role as follows:

“NBHC is one of the the major community groups that represents North Beacon Hill to city, county and state agencies. It is the major political body of the neighborhood that works to improve the living conditions of our neighborhood… We work to empower our neighbors to implement the improvements to the neighborhood that they envision, we work to inform our neighbors of issues that will affect our standard of living, and we work to create a sense of community for our neighborhood.”

If you can make it to one meeting, you’re a voting member of the North Beacon Hill Council.  Attend a meeting to familiarize yourself with the issues and people involved.  If you can’t make it regularly, stay connected and attend when you’re able or when an issue motivates you.  It’s even possible to vote by proxy.  We have the Beacon Hill Blog, the BAN mailing list, and the North Beacon Hill Council website as resources.    Get involved!

Who represents neighborhoods?

There are important connections between neighborhood councils, district councils, and City Council.  Seattle elects City Council members “at large”—all council members represent all residents.  To ensure that residents of all neighborhoods have representation on the community level, Seattle has neighborhood councils—groups that meet in the community and are composed of residents, business owners, and other interested parties.  Residents and members of the councils elect board members.  Council Boards interact with the City and other levels of government, representing the community. The neighborhood councils also elect representatives to a district council. Seattle has 13 district councils.  North and South Beacon Hill are part of the Greater Duwamish District Council. District Council representatives participate in the City Neighborhood Council.

The North Beacon Hill Neighborhood Council and the Greater Duwamish District Council are a key way for our community to engage with City Council members, the Mayor’s office, and other elected officials.  They also advocate for our community to receive funds for sidewalks, crosswalks, greater police engagement, and more.

NBHC meets the first Thursday of every month at the Beacon Hill Library, 2821 Beacon Avenue South. The next meeting is March 4 at 7:00 pm.

What are neighborhood plans? Who develops them?

There has been active debate recently around the three identical appeals filed to oppose Neighborhood Plan Updates in North Beacon Hill, North Rainier (a.k.a. Mount Baker Station), and Othello.  The appeals themselves are intended to address concerns about the environmental impact of development in the area. The appellants and their supporters are also concerned about the process the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) used to create the updates.  This is a separate, but very important issue.
Continue reading Process, participation, and progress: a neighborhood planning primer

The Stranger weighs in on SE Seattle appeals

Organizers set up tables at the Festival Street opening last December in front of El Centro's empty south lot. Photo by Jason.
Cienna Madrid at The Stranger has written a story about the recent appeals filed against the North Beacon Hill, Othello, and North Rainier (Mount Baker) neighborhood plan updates. The article discusses El Centro de la Raza’s plans to develop the land just south of their building, plans which are—for now—on hold. State law allows neighborhood plans to be amended only once a year. Whether the appeals are upheld or not won’t be determined until it is too late to meet the deadline for this year, so the appeals are automatically forcing a one-year delay to any plan changes.

Madrid interviewed Estela Ortega from El Centro, Bill LaBorde of Transportation Choices Coalition, City Councilmember Sally Clark and David Goldberg of the Department of Planning and Development, and also attempted to speak with North Beacon appellant Frederica Merrell and the appellants from the other Southeast Seattle neighborhoods—for the most part, however, the petitioners aren’t talking. (The exception is Jenna Walden of the Othello group, who suggests that the reason for her group’s appeal is that it is a protest against marginalization of neighborhood groups.)

The resulting article pulls no punches; it concludes, “…Merrell and her cohorts appear to be more concerned with winning than pursuing the best interests of their neighborhoods and the city.”

Responses from The Stranger‘s readers on the website have been mixed.

The article is here. Seattle Transit Blog also posted about the Stranger article.

(ed. note—Frederica Merrell occasionally contributes opinion articles to the Beacon Hill Blog.)

Opinion: The appeal process and not showing your hand

by Frederica Merrell

There has been significant interest in the appeal that I filed with the Hearing Examiner’s office on January 29. I love that people in our community are engaged, reading, and looking at what is going on around them. Our Beacon blog is an amazing venue for keeping up on stuff that’s important to us and not likely to be followed anywhere else.

An appeal is a quasi-judicial process with rules and procedures. The Hearing Examiner runs the show and our examiner Sue Tanner is very capable and experienced. She is charged with impartiality, efficiency, expediency, transparency and equal access to all, even those without a lawyer or legal training (like me). There are lots of areas where appeals are used, including the appeal of an environmental determination (SEPA appeal) like mine.

So there is the person filing the appeal (me), the agency or party whose action triggered the appeal (the city’s Department of Planning and Development, or DPD) and the Hearing Examiner. Other people can enter into the discussion too, and anyone can come watch any step of the process down at the Hearing Examiner’s office on the 40th floor of the big tower at 700 Fifth Avenue (Seattle Municipal Tower). I assume the records on the process are all open to the public.

Last week, I had my Prehearing Conference. This is a time to meet, go over the paperwork that is being filed, make sure everyone has each other’s addresses, and create a mutually agreeable calendar for the steps being taken. I noticed that most of the time was taken up with the calendar. In order to do the calendar all the likely steps in the process have to be laid out. Right now, DPD is going to find some information for me and also try to narrow the scope of the appeal. They felt it was too broad. I will get some time to look at the information they provide and respond back. We will both draw up a list of “exhibits” that we want to share with each other in the hearing. We will both draw up a list of “witnesses.” The time frame for all these steps are laid out and we came to agreement on a hearing date of April 7 at 9:00 am. Anyone who wants to watch the hearing can come.

The excellent media folks at our blog asked me some specific questions about the appeal. An appeal is kind of like a poker game. One important strategy for winning the game is not showing your hand. So I’m not going to answer a lot of specific questions right now while I am in the middle of the process because I want to win my hearing determination! I do encourage you to read information that is readily available. If you haven’t read the full appendix of the North Beacon Hill Update, you might want to do that.

Some other great stuff to look at: check out City Council committee meetings on a good computer where you can see the videos. I recommend the last couple of meetings of Councilmember O’Brien’s Seattle Public Utilities and Neighborhoods Committee (SPUNC) and Sally Clark’s Committee on the Built Environment. Her last meeting was particularly interesting and I am going to go back and look at the whole thing again. This is a very interesting process to me because I have never filed an appeal before. I am learning as I go. If you want to know why I filed the appeal, come to the hearing! That is where I lay out my arguments before the Hearing Examiner and DPD makes their arguments too. Until then, we don’t reveal our arguments. Hope to see you on April 7!

Frederica Merrell was the North Beacon Hill neighborhood planning co-chair from 1998-2000, and is the co-author of Seattle’s Beacon Hill.

Opinion: It’s about zoning

Neighbors posted comments on zoning and street configurations at the Neighborhood Plan update open house last September. Photo by Wendi.
On Tuesday, February 10, the Hearing Examiner’s Office conducted a prehearing conference regarding the appeal filed by Frederica Merrell to vacate the Determination of Non-Significance (DNS) for the North Beacon Hill Neighborhood Plan update. There was also a prehearing conference for the appeal against the Othello update. The North Rainier (a.k.a. Mount Baker) appeal will be heard by the Hearing Examiner on February 16.

These meetings are the first of many steps to examine the merits of the identical appeals filed by separate individuals against the Neighborhood Plan updates. These meetings are costing City of Seattle taxpayers money and taking staff time away from other DPD business. They are also delaying any progress on the work plans associated with the Neighborhood Plan Updates and halting any development and/or design plans for the sites involved.

El Centro de La Raza has lost $75,000 in funds offered to help them begin preliminary community outreach to discuss design and development ideas for their property. They cannot begin to move forward on developing their site until there is some indication that zoning issues will be resolved. El Centro is a valuable community partner. They would like to develop their property in the best interests of the neighborhood. They cannot begin the conversation about how to do that until the zoning issues are resolved.

Let’s be very clear: the Neighborhood Plan Updates are totally, completely about zoning. The entire point of the Neighborhood Plan Updates—the only reason they were ever developed—was to discuss zoning in the specific areas around the light rail stations. They were not intended to be and will never be replacements for the extensive Neighborhood Plans our communities have in place.

All other issues are red herrings. Concurrency is a completely unrelated issue to the upzone conversation—apples and oranges. The Neighborhood Plan validation process is also completely unrelated—a completely separate process.

This is the core of El Centro’s counter-appeal. DPD can clearly demonstrate that these appeals are too general and many of the complaints are outside the jurisdiction of the Hearing Examiner’s office and outside the scope of the update.

From El Centro’s Motion to Dismiss:

“El Centro de la Raza makes a motion to dismiss this appeal because Ms. Merrell appears to be raising issues related to the passage of the North Beacon Hill Plan, rather than the adequacy of the City’s environmental review. The North Beacon Hill Plan has not been adopted by the City Council yet. No changes to the Comprehensive Plan, nor to the zoning code, have yet occurred. Therefore, any issues related to the North Beacon Hill Plan itself, or related to any potential future zoning change, are not ripe for the Hearing Examiner’s review. In addition, any issues related to the Growth Management Act are not properly before the Hearing Examiner and must be dismissed.

In the alternative, El Centro suggests to the Hearing Examiner that the appeal is essentially limited to a single legal issue: whether the City properly exercised its discretion under WAC 197-11-055, 197-11-060, and 197-11-228 to complete proper environmental review of comprehensive planning documents. We ask that the Hearing Examiner dismiss all other issues raised by Ms. Merrell, as such claims are related to the unadopted plan or possible future zone changes. ”

Unfortunately, it’s going to take weeks (if not months) of public employee time away from actual projects to address these appeals. These appeals are an expensive time-wasting strategy with an end goal of keeping things in limbo.

Development will happen, but it’s going to take years and millions of dollars longer because a very simple zoning question—one that has received a significant amount of community feedback—is not being answered. That’s a shame.

(Melissa is a columnist for the Beacon Hill Blog and recently wrote about speeding drivers on the Hill in her column “Walking with Tica.”)

North Beacon plan update appeal is one of three

Frederica Merrell’s appeal filed recently against the Determination of Nonsignificance (DNS) of the North Beacon Hill neighborhood plan update (also discussed here and here) is not unique. The Beacon Hill Blog has been made aware that Merrell’s appeal is one of three nearly-identical appeals filed on January 29 by residents in each of the Southeast Seattle neighborhoods that recently went through a neighborhood plan update: Othello, North Rainier (Mount Baker), and North Beacon Hill. (Read the Othello appeal here, the North Rainier appeal here, and the North Beacon appeal here.) The appeals are nearly word-for-word identical, with only a few minor differences (such as the sections describing each distinct neighborhood and the appellants’ connection with them).

The Othello appeal was filed by Ron Momoda, Patricia Paschal, and Jenna Walden. The North Rainier appeal was filed by Pat Murakami and Barbara Marino. Most are well-known neighborhood activists in Southeast Seattle, and several were active last year in speaking out against House Bill 1490 and Senate Bill 5687, which would have created incentives and requirements for transit-oriented development and density near light rail stations.

The three appeals all request the same thing: that DPD’s Determination of Non-Significance (DNS) for each neighborhood’s plan update be vacated, and that DPD be required to take other actions including additional community notification, review, and validation, and environmental impact analyses.

The North Beacon appeal has been the subject of some heated controversy in the comments sections of the BHB posts linked above, with some commenters suggesting that the appeals are specifically intended to cause the entire update process to be scrapped, or that they were filed in order to block any upzoning or increased density, while some others say the update plan was flawed from the start, and that appeals such as this are a necessary and important part of the process of making this update work for North Beacon Hill.

El Centro de la Raza, who have had plans to develop their property just north of Lander Street, have filed their own motion to intervene and dismiss Merrell’s appeal.

The recently published Neighborhood Plan updates (the North Beacon one is here) were developed through a process that began in Fall 2008 and continued through 2009 with community meetings and open houses in March, May, and September.

(ed. note—Frederica Merrell occasionally contributes opinion articles to the Beacon Hill Blog.)