What Can I Do?
Below is a list of actions you can take to make your voice heard about land use issues, listed in order of effectiveness:
1) Ask for a meeting with a Seattle City Council member.
This is by far the single most effective thing you can do, and it’s surprisingly easy. Some tips:
- You can call or email the Council member’s office to arrange a meeting. Contact information for all Council members can be found below or at: http://www.seattle.gov/council/councilcontact.htm
- Go with a small group of neighbors, preferably no more than 4 or 5 to keep the discussion conversational and allow for real give-and-take.
- Sometimes if a Council member is not available you’ll be asked to meet with a legislative aide instead. Don’t be put off by this; it’s also very effective.
- Figure out which Council member will be running to represent your district in 2015. Focus on them; they’re going to need your vote. Here’s a map of the new districts: http://www.seattledistrictsnow.org/maps.html
2) Email or call Council members and let them now what your concerns are.
For suggestions on how to address your concerns in written form see our guidelines for writing Council members section below.
3) Get actively involved with an advocacy group
If you live in Ballard, both Livable Ballard (contact us for more info) or Central Ballard Residents Association are good options; Community Councils in your neighborhood may be working on similar issues. If none is, then form your own advocacy group with concerned neighbors. Seattle Speaks Up does similar advocacy work for residents of multifamily residential neighborhoods with a focus on Capitol Hill.
4) Plan on attending meetings of the City Council’s Planning, Land Use and Sustainability (PLUS) Committee.
There is always a period set aside for public comment at every PLUS Committee meeting. It’s also a great place to network and make contact with other concerned Seattelites who can offer you advice and help get you linked into larger networks. The Committee has public meetings every first and third Thursday of the month at 2pm in the Council Chambers, located in City Hall (600 5th Ave. 2nd floor).
5) Sign the petitions now being circulated by Livable Ballard and Seattle Speaks Up here:
Guidelines for Writing to Seattle City Council Members
Consider sending an email to all Council members or click here to identify your City Council Election District. Incumbent Councilpersons listed within your district are qualified to run for either that specific district or for one of the two at-large Council positions.
It is critical in the continuing debate over land use issue in Seattle that ordinary residents speak up and make their voices heard. Real estate developers and their allies have a very potent and well-financed lobby that has exercised an inordinate amount of influence over City Hall in recent years. If citizens don’t empower themselves and make a concerted effort to speak out in their neighborhoods’ interest, the developer lobby will continue to get its way.
With that in mind, here are a few pointers about contacting Council members:
•It’s generally more effective if you address emails to individual Council members. If you don’t have time to write to all nine members, you should address you message to an individual member and copy the entire Council by cc-ing email@example.com
•Keep your messages as short and to the point as possible, and be polite even if you’re very upset about what’s happening.
•Try as much as possible to express your own individual concerns. Messages that are simply copies of what others have written are not given as much weight.
•Make it clear that you expect a response from the Council member. You want to engage them in dialogue with you (it’s their job, after all). Try ending your message with something like “I look forward to hearing a response from you”, or “please let me know your opinion on this matter.”
Quick Email Contact List of Councilmembers and Staff
Cut and paste the following into your outbound emails:
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Anthony.Auriemma@seattle.gov, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
- Phone: 206-684-8800
*Current Chair of: Planning, Land Use and Sustainability (PLUS) Committee
- Phone: 206-684-8803
*Member of: Planning, Land Use and Sustainability (PLUS) Committee
Chair: Housing Affordability, Human Services and Economic Resiliency
* Current Vice-Chair of: Planning, Land Use and Sustainability (PLUS) Committee
- Phone: 206-684-8804
Some talking points for Council members:
What you should specifically say to Council members is entirely up to you, and should reflect the issues that you and your neighbors find most pressing. As much as possible, you should try to make it clear to Council members what it is you want them to do, rather than simply complaining that your neighborhood is being ruined in some non-specified way. Below are some concerns often voiced by neighborhoods. Pick a few that are most important to you personally; don’t throw the whole laundry list at them:
• Recent changes to the Land Use Code for Lowrise Residential neighborhoods have led to a proliferation of buildings that are out of scale with the existing built environment.
• Many longtime residents of our neighborhoods are being displaced as older, affordable housing is being demolished to make way for newer expensive units housing higher-income residents.
• The increased height, bulk and scale of new buildings is having an adverse impact on the human ecology of our neighborhoods, as access to sunlight, fresh air and view corridors is being rapidly constricted.
• Many recent changes to the Land Use Code have been adopted with inadequate public outreach on the part of the City Council and DPD.
• The elimination of parking requirements for new construction in designated Growth Areas was ill advised and is leading to problems. This decision needs to be revisited.
• DPD’s Design Review Program has been seriously undermined, most egregiously with regard to the “microhousing loophole”. Design Review needs to be strengthened, not weakened.
•DPD needs to start appointing real neighborhood voices to the neighborhood Design Review Boards rather than people with ties to real estate development interests.
• Agencies like the Seattle Planning Commission are stacked with members (architects and developers) who have a vested financial interest in the outcome of the process. This has to stop now.
• The City Council should act swiftly to correct some of the unfortunate changes made in the 2010 Lowrise Code revisions, specifically by substantially reducing the allowed height, bulk and scale of structures in the lowrise residential zones.