Laurelhurst Community Club                                                     

Serving 2800 Households in Seattle’s Laurelhurst Neighborhood

 

                                                                                    October 22, 2002

 

 

 

Councilmember Nick Licata, Chair

Neighborhoods, Arts and Civil Rights Committee

11th Floor, Municipal Building

600 Fourth Avenue

Seattle, Washington  98104-1876                                 Fax 684-8587

 

Re:       Development Disclosure Proposal

 

Dear Councilmember Licata and Members of the Neighborhoods Committee,

 

            The Laurelhurst Community Club Board of Trustees commends you on your efforts to address the impacts of large developments such as University Village in the Development Disclosure proposal. 

 

For years, our community has supported preparation of a master plan for University Village, identified as a key priority in the University Community Urban Center Plan adopted by the City Council in 1998.  This is because we have been confronted with piecemeal development year after year at University Village with little effort by the developer to address the transportation infrastructure needs, traffic safety, increased traffic congestion or the environmental impacts upon surrounding communities.  While the current proposal does not go as far as the requirements that would be imposed by development of a master plan, it is an important step in the right direction and a good compromise.

 

            The proposal would serve developers, impacted communities and the City.  DCLU argues that the proposal would create an additional regulatory layer for developers thus sending an inconsistent and contradictory message to developers as the City attempts to streamline the Code and permitting process.  This is in stark contrast to what DCLU said in 1999 about its own draft ordinance establishing a framework for preparation of master plans by large commercial entities.  In the DCLU Director’s draft report on that proposal, which would have imposed even greater responsibilities upon developers of large commercial areas, DCLU stated

“The proposed process provides the necessary tools to enable neighbors, property owners, developers and the City to plan for the development of large sites creatively and innovatively and address issues of mutual concern.  This proposal meets public and private goals by creating a land use review process that encourages a comprehensive and long-range view of potential future, large-scale commercial development and its impacts.”

 

            Someone has to pay for the impacts of development.  The question is whether developers such as those responsible for the continued expansion at University Village pay their fair share of mitigating the impacts, something required under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), or whether the City will assume these costs. 

 

            The piecemeal expansion that has taken place at University Village has resulted in an increase in the number of annual shoppers from about 1.5 million in 1995 to well over seven million today.  Because there was no master plan requirement and DCLU did not require any kind of environmental assessment of the impacts of the cumulative development, the Village has essentially not been required to mitigate the impacts of the development upon our transportation system and the environment.  As a result, the City at some point will be required to address these needs.

 

            The Large Development Disclosure proposal will require University Village and other similar large entities to describe proposed and anticipated uses of the property, develop a traffic and parking management plan, estimate dates of development or redevelopment and identify proposed mitigation measures.  It is a responsible means to ensure that developers comply with their legal obligations under state environmental laws and to avoid saddling taxpayers with these costs.  Taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for traffic and transportation mitigation that most developers assume as a cost of doing business.

 

            DCLU’s concerns about the impact on economic development are overstated.  DCLU indicates that adoption of the Large Development Disclosure proposal would send the wrong message about Seattle’s business environment, particularly in a down economy.  It is ironic that when times were good, DCLU still balked at completing its framework ordinance for development of master plans by commercial entities despite a directive from the City Council to complete the work.

 

            University Village has already undertaken traffic and parking studies in conjunction with its garage project that is currently under construction.  It has worked with King County on transit and transportation management issues and involved the community in its parking task force in the past.  In our view, it would require minimal expense and time to expand this effort to undertake the type of traffic and parking management plan that would be required under the Large Development Disclosure proposal.  It is likely that other entities that would be subject to the new requirements have done the same.  Such planning is good business and would promote orderly and predictable development with adequate transportation infrastructure and public safety measures in place.

 

            The proposal includes adequate criteria for major amendments to the required submittals.  The wording is modeled after that developed in 1999 by DCLU in its draft framework ordinance governing commercial entities such as University Village.  DCLU did not raise concerns about lack of clarity as it now does with its own proposal. 

 

            We urge you to move forward with the Large Development Disclosure proposal.  We appreciate your efforts.

 

Sincerely,

           

Jeannie Hale, President

3425 West Laurelhurst Drive NE

Seattle, Washington  98105

525-5135 / fax 525-9631

jeannieh@serv.net