City Council, Please Help

City council, please do your job and make the DPD enforce design review and SEPA for the 8,000+ square-foot development at 819 NW 70th Street.

In response to the DPD rubber stamping the construction permits last week, neighbors continue to write letters like the ones below.

1) Dear Councilmember,

My community needs your help with a disturbing issue. The DPD is not following land use code by not requiring design review and SEPA for an 8,000+ square-foot, six-unit live/work development planned for our residential block in Whittier Heights/Ballard. This will replace an about-to-be demolished, small home on a 3,650 lot on our quiet block of single family homes.

To be specific, the DPD is in violation of land use code SMC 23.41.004, which states the design review threshold is 4,000 square feet and/or 4 units for a non-residential live/work development such as this one. How did this happen?

Last week, the DPD issued construction permits for a live/work triplex at 819 NW 70th Street (DPD project #6424750) and a second live/work triplex at the property’s new second address, 6752 Division Ave NW (project # 6424751). However, 819 NW 70th Street‘s triplex totals 4,068 square feet as shown on project #6424750’s 4/23/15 “approved cover sheet” posted on the DPD’s permit status website. 4,068 > 4,000 square feet, thus design review and SEPA legally apply despite the DPD claiming for the past 10 months that it doesn’t.

In addition, the adjacent triplex–separated by a mere 12 inches from the one above–at 6752 Division Ave NW totals 3,997 square feet according to its approved cover sheet. This triplex is deemed a “separate project” in order to piecemeal the 8,000+ square-foot development solely to evade design review and SEPA. The two triplexes together total 8,065 square feet, which in itself should trigger design review and SEPA. The DPD is allowing Blueprint to get around that law meant to ensure community input for a project of this size.

Unfortunately, Blueprint has a history of piecemealing projects to evade community involvement and SEPA, and does it with the DPD’s approval. Developers’ egregious exploitation of code–with the city’s approval–needs to stop. And it needs to stop with the project happening right now at 819 NW 70th Street.

How and why did the DPD issue construction permits without following the city’s code? In my opinion, it can’t be an oversight that permits were issued but rather a calculated decision to intentionally to exclude the community. The DPD is well aware neighbors are gravely concerned. You can read an account of our experience if you’d like more details of what has transpired:

Due process is not being honored, and the community is livid. Please help us by pausing construction permits and requiring the DPD to enforce design review and SEPA.

2) Dear City Council Members,

A group of neighbors has been communicating with various city representatives since last summer regarding the property at 819 NW 70th St. Our concern has been that the proposed building is over 4000 square feet and therefore warrants Design Review and SEPA. We have been told over and over again that the project is two (not) one buildings, and that they are both under 4000 feet.

A building permit was issued last week. One was for a unit at 819 NW 70th St.with square footage of 4,068 square feet.

Building this unit without design review and SEPA is illegal. Other neighborhood groups have sued this developer. We are a middle class group, and don’t have the financial resources for an attorney. We simply must depend on our elected officials to do their jobs. Please do yours and require that the DPD do theirs. Stop this development.

3)  Dear City Council Members,

 My neighbors and I have been closely watching the progress of a large development planned for 819 NW 70th St. in Ballard

In a nutshell, this is an 8,000+ square-foot live/work development that Blueprint/Dan Duffus has — with the DPD’s blessing — broken into two “separate” projects separated by 12 inches (hello future maintenance nightmare / pesticide alley). This split was made solely to evade public notice.

For the past 10 months, we — my neighbors and I — have been told repeatedly that we have no right to expect design review / SEPA because the project is not one  8000+ SF project, but rather two separate projects (even though they share one lot, one developer, one set of utilities…) both (conveniently) under 4000 feet.

However, construction permits for the “two projects” were just issued; the permit lists the square footage of one unit as 4,068 square feet — 68 square feet over the threshold for public notice, design review, and SEPA.

Surely there has been some mistake. 

Either the project should now rightfully, finally, trigger public notice, meaningful design review, and SEPA, or the developer should be made to revise their plans once again to continue to successfully evade design review, or the DPD should amend its stated threshold to be “4000 SF, or thereabouts.” The threshold is there for a reason; if it’s not within the DPD’s power to officially raise the threshold, it should not be within its power to ignore it. 

The DPD should enforce its own code and protect the rights of neighborhoods at least as much as it protects the profits of developers.

The development’s size should trigger public notice, design review, and SEPA; building this unit without them is illegal. 

We need your help.