In late January, the University District Plan became the first of the city's neighborhood plans to be challenged before the state's regional growth management appeals board. Two days later, it became the first neighborhood plan to be challenged twice. Well, we're back to just one challenge.
The plan appeal filed by Friends of Brooklyn has been dismissed, due to "lack of standing." In essence, the city argued successfully that since FOB hadn't offered testimony during the planning process, it had no right to challenge the results.
But city planners are actually quite familiar with Friends of Brooklyn. The "group" was created by neighborhood resident Brian Ramey for the purposes of his appeal. Ramey had testified during the process that his south U District neighborhood (a.k.a. Brooklyn) was getting the shaft. He's got a point: Most of the significant upzones in the plan were crammed into his immediate neighborhood, an area bordered by Roosevelt Way, NE 41st Street, Brooklyn Avenue, and NE 43rd Street.
Ramey's (or, actually FOB's) appeal argued that the University District Plan's governing body was unrepresentative, didn't notify residents of substantive changes made late in the process, and unfairly dumped on Brooklyn with upzones, transit facilities, and the vast majority of the U District's required new housing.
There's no question that officials know that Ramey and Friends of Brooklyn are one and the same—as city lawyers freely admit in case documents. And, even though the city trimmed the plan's opposition with this clever use of a legal technicality, the Montlake Community Club's challenge of the plan's transportation element still must be argued before growth regulators.
The city may have saved a few bucks on legal fees, but the credibility of the neighborhood planning process has suffered from this ill-advised use of a stupid lawyer trick.
Clean up that yard!
Plans to toughen up enforcement against homeowners who flout city regulations have been put on hold, due to the intervention of pro-renter City Council members. Turns out, the much-touted proposal, which would allow inspectors to issue citations to property owners, wouldn't cover violations of the housing code. Or, more simply put, landlords who fail to clean up junk in their yard are in trouble; landlords who fail to provide livable housing aren't (maybe they could just move the junk inside the house). Negotiations to expand the new legislation to provide protections for renters are ongoing.
Those perennial campaign early birds at the Civic Foundation have been meeting and voting yet again. Though the race for Seattle City Council is months away, the candidate-endorsing political action committee is already hard at work. At last week's straw poll of members, the group tried out an unusual new format: Participants were asked to vote for the candidates they thought were most electable.
The results looked more like a measure of who's most popular among members of the Civic Foundation. For example, Dawn Mason got the most votes (62) in the open-seat council race, easily outpolling Charlie Chong, who has actually managed to get elected to the council. Likewise, two challengers (Judy Nicastro and Curt Firestone) were deemed more electable than incumbent Margaret Pageler, who has been elected twice and is a good bet to make it three times this year.
Incumbent Peter Steinbrueck was the only other candidate to match Mason's level of popularity . . . uh, electability, snagging 62 votes from foundation members. He still doesn't have a potential election opponent—the Progressive Coalition, which had vowed to leave no incumbent unchallenged, has endorsed Steinbrueck. Perhaps we'll skip the election and declare Peter the winner by acclamation.
In the double-trouble department, two candidates were listed in more than one race. Housing activist Nicastro is thinking about bolting from the crowded open-seat race and challenging Pageler, while Charlie Chong is still (at least publicly) undecided on whether he wants to run for City Council or challenge incumbent County Council member Greg Nickels.
Plenty of parking
The longstanding parking crunch in the western portion of the University District has mysteriously disappeared. At least that's the argument being used by the owners of Metro Cinemas on NE 45th Street in requesting that the city allow them to drop their parking validation program. The theater was required to subsidize parking at several nearby lots as part of its 1985 master use permit.
The movie guys have one valid point; they were required to contribute financially to the extension of a residential parking zone into the surrounding neighborhood. From that point, however, their reasoning gets a bit bizarre. Theater attorney Keith Dearborn argues he can't find a valid reason for the parking subsidy being imposed in the first place. "It was not recommended as mitigation by the applicant's traffic consultant," he wrote in a letter to city building regulators. Of course, if Metro Cinemas' traffic consultant had recommended any such thing, he'd have never worked in this town again, but that's a minor quibble.
The theater's application includes a parking study of the neighborhood proving that there are plenty of open street spaces. Of course, with the residential parking zone in place, theater-goers can't park in them, but once again we're nitpicking.
If U District residents want to view this convincing documentary evidence that their neighborhood's parking problems have been greatly exaggerated, the file number is 9900079. But remember to take the bus—parking downtown is a real drag.