City approves permit for Benchview development; Neighborhood Association will file another suit

The ongoing battle of what comes down to a difference of interpretation between the City of Seattle and the Benchview Neighborhood Association (BNA) took a turn on Friday Aug. 30 as the City of Seattle approved the Lot Boundary Adjustment requested by the developers. Their plan is to build three houses on lots that have up to now only been able to fit two homes.

Judge Spearman left the matter somewhat open to interpretation when she left it up to the City to decide of the permit was issued in error. Diane Sigamura, DPD Director said the permit was allowable under current zoning and lot boundary adjustment rules. The BNA saw the ruling, announced on the Friday before the holiday weekend as an insult and an attempt to get it out there where it might draw less attention from the media.
That's the sense that David Allen, speaking for the BNA, conveyed when the West Seattle Herald spoke to him on Friday. The BNA replied to Sigamura, expressing their disappointment.

Here's the correspondence from both sides of this debate:

Dear Benchview Neighbors:
In an effort to keep you informed, I want to let you know that today, the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) will be issuing its approval of the revised lot Boundary Adjustment (LBA) for the three lots at the corner of 55th Ave. SW and SW Manning 5t. As noted in my August 27th letter, the applicant submitted a revised application based on Judge Spearman's specific direction in her July 24th decision. We have reviewed the revised lBA very carefully to make sure the calculations are correct, and we have determined the revised lBA is consistent with her direction.

The Court's Decisions to Reverse and Remand LBA for Modification
Judge Spearman determined that parcel A, one of the three lots adjusted by the LBA, was 131 square-feet too small in her initial decision and reversed DPD's decision on that point. Judge Spearman could have granted the LUPA petition and that would have been the end of the case at the trial-court level. That, however, did not happen. On reconsideration, Judge Spearman remanded the LBA to DPD for "modification or further proceedings in conformance with the
Court's Memorandum Decision." Accordingly, DPD has reviewed a revised LBA that adds 131 square feet to parcel A so the lot's area is over 4,527 square feet. This is consistent with Judge Spearman's Memorandum Decision stating that parcel A must have at least 4,527 square feet to qualify for the 75/80 Rule lot-area exception.

Revoking a Permit
In my last letter, I tried to explain why we would be reviewing the revised LBA, and that it would be reviewed based on the Land Use Code and the court rulings. Apparently I was not as dear as I had hoped in terms of explaining why DPD must proceed with this review. Here is further explanation.

The Land Use Code, in Section 23.76.034, establishes five circumstances when DPD may revoke a Master Use Permit:

1. The permittee has developed the site in a manner not authorized by the permit;
2. The permittee has not complied with the conditions of the permit;
3. The permittee has secured the permit with false or misleading information;
4. The permit was issued in error; or
5. The permittee has failed to pay past-due fees.
None of these circumstances apply in this particular situation, including the fourth factor that some have questioned. Section 23.76.034 does not apply in the context of DPD responding to a Court order remanding the Benchview LBA to DPD for modification in a manner consistent with the Court's order. Instead, 23.76.034 applies when the Department is not responding to a Court order and one of the five circumstances in the code provision triggers permit revocation.

Small Lot Legislation
I want to once again remind you of the work we have been doing in terms of developing permanent regulations related to small lots, to replace the interims that were approved last year. Here is the link:http://www.seaHle.govfdpdfcodesrulesfchangestocodefsmalllotsfwhatwhy/default.htm
This proposal is informed by comments we have received from the public, as well as actual situations in our neighborhoods that staff have become aware of. We anticipate publishing another draft for public review within the next week or two. This too will be posted on the site.

Thank you very much.
Diane M. Sugimura

David Allen's reply on behalf of the BNA:

Diane Sugimura and Dep Mayor Smith,

This response is incomplete.

On what grounds do you say that the permit was not issued in error, or that 23.76.034 does not apply because the judge remanded the issue back to DPD?

This law makes no mention of anything other than a permit being issued in error.

Once again, the permit was issued in error. That is a fact.

The judge instructed that "This matter is remanded to DPD for modification OR FURTHER PROCEEDINGS."

DPD was not required by the judge to revise the permit.

If you approve this permit, we will file another loop case.

We find your issuing of this revision on the eve of a long Labor Day weekend to be incredible.

There was absolutely no reason to issue this today. Why the rush?

The first and obvious conclusion any rational person would make is that you were hoping the news media will miss this story by breaking this news before the long labor day weekend.

Finalizing this decision without a complete response to the nhood would be inappropriate. DPD issued the first permit in January prematurely when the junior planner issued it without the supervisor fully reviewing the issues. You cannot make that same type of mistake again.

Finally, slapping the neighborhood in the face with this news right before what should be a restful Labor Day weekend is insensitive at best.

Again, why do this this afternoon?

David Allen and Benchview Nhood assoc

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