Patrick Robinson
Deb Barker of the Morgan Junction Community Association responds to a question during a meeting about the planned 'No Parking' 30 unit apartment building planned for 6917 California Ave. S.W.

Information gathering meeting draws public ire on 'No Parking' apartments project

In the third of the public meetings on the proposed 30 unit studio apartment building planned for 6917 California Ave. S.W. it became obvious that people felt left out of the information process regarding the allowance of apartment building construction with no parking required.

Under the Urban Village plan that has evolved as part of the City of Seattle's Comprehensive Plan, housing can be constructed with no parking required if the building is with 1320 feet of frequent public transit, in an Urban Village zone. The meeting last week was with the developer Mark Knoll.

This meeting was led by Jerry Suder Seattle Department of Planning and Development Land Use Supervisor and Carly Guillory a DPD Land Use Planner. They called it an "information gathering meeting" and hoped to hear from people about the project.

They got an earful.

Near the top of the meeting Supervisor Suder said that he's aware of the concerns about lack of parking for the apartments saying he heard it, "loud and clear," but said, " From a SEPA standpoint We're not able to mitigate the parking aspects of this project. That's beyond our authority." SEPA stands for State Environmental Policy Act.

The outcome of this meeting he explained would be that Guillory will write a decision. A 14 day comment period will follow. If even a single person finds fault with it, it can be appealed to a hearing examiner. If there are still unresolved issues it can be pursued in court under the Land Use Petition Act.

Those attending the meeting were asked for a show of hands as to who had attended a previous meeting. Only a few showed they did. Despite news coverage and public postings by DPD the idea that buildings with no parking required can be built in established neighborhoods rankled more than a few.

But the issues they raised went well beyond just a lack of parking.

Shawna Bennett, who is a 15 year resident of the area, lives across from Gatewood Elementary. She said that in recent years attendance has grown from 250 to 450 students. "There's more to an urban village than just homes. With evening functions and school activities the school community is impacted. It's a safety issue for children and parents." Another person noted that all entrances other than the back entrance on Frontenac for the school have been closed further complicating access and egress.

Michael Wald who lives on 39th S.W. wondered about this project setting a precedent for other areas and said "there are virtually no parking spaces from 8 o'clock on," and said it was a safety issue forcing people to walk in under lit areas for long distances.

Another commenter noted that since there is a Rapid Ride stop in the neighborhood, people drive and park near it to take the bus.

But the most upset of those commenting was Vlad Oustimovitch who said that "DPD did not do proper due diligence," and that there's a "disconnect in the planning actions." He said he felt that Suder and DPD were acting on behalf of developer Knoll and not fighting for the public. "We pay your salaries and you are asking the community to fight its own government." That last remark drew applause from the crowd. "It’s disingenuous for you to represent the interests of the developer You have so many tools that you are not using to regulate development. You are comng here saying this is the state law and there’s nothing we can do."

Suder replied, "If I felt we had the appropriate responsibility we could support that but I don't believe we do." He noted that the rules of the process control what and how much DPD can do. City Code changes are handled at the City Council level.

Cindi Barker of the Morgan Junction Community Association pointed out that in the Neighborhood Plan adopted in 1999 there would not be any "overlay" meaning the area would not be rezoned. In the plan they state that among the criteria used in designating urban villages was "the ability to achieve residential densities which will support compact living and pedestrian and transit friendly environments. (for example 2000 dwelling units exist or can be accommodated within a 2000 foot radius of the center of an urban village. Morgan Junction is already zoned to accommodate this residential density."

Virtually no one said there was much else to be done about this project, several conceding that it is a "done deal," but many said they felt the process was "underhanded."

Suder explained that "for every code change that happens in our land use code, there is an outreach process. We have a land use bulletin that comes out twice a week. It provides land use notices but also has ordinance reviews. There might be 30 different code changes every year and they all go through process."

He also explained in response to a question about the inability to see actual architectural plans online that, "Homeland Security issues" prevent DPD from posting them online. You can view the Master Use Permit and other plans online however.

Cindi Barker noted that in order to know what is happening, "You've got to be plugged in because the windows for comment are so short."

In the meeting last week Developer Knoll said the building would be attractive to a younger demographic segment since at 300 square feet, studio apartments are not for families. He estimated the rent might be in the $700 per month range. He also said that apartments like this would appeal to people without cars and that he was willing to take some steps to mitigate the impact of no parking by adding extra bike racks, and storage, providing bus passes, and noted that while he could not officially show it, the site would in fact have space for four or five cars at the back of the property on a "grass crete" area in the plan.

Suder said he thought possibly as many as six to ten residents would have vehicles. "As units shrink, the buildings seem to have fewer cars stating, "one car is associated with every three to four units." That estimate was doubted by several in the crowd noting that some people have more than one car.

Cindi Barker said that coming up on Jan. 14, those interested in pursuing this issue with the city, should attend a meeting at Lowell Elementary School at 1058 East Mercer Street at 6:30pm. She also shared that the next Morgan Junction Community Association meeting was Jan. 15 at The Kenney, 7125 Fauntleroy Way S.W. at 7pm.

Parking, traffic, pedestrian safety, and a sense of not being made part of the planning or at least information process were the takeaways from the meeting. But it's likely now, unless appeals are lodged, that Knoll's 30 unit, no parking planned apartment building will be built.

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