A change made by the City Council will make it easier and cheaper for members of the public to challenge building projects in Seattle.
A change made by the Seattle City Council on Monday will make it easier and cheaper for members of the public to mount legal challenges against building projects.
Before challenging projects in court, opponents have had to first ask the city for so-called “land-use interpretations” — detailed explanations of how regulations apply.
The interpretations cost a minimum $3,150. That sum covers 10 hours of review by the city’s construction department, while each additional hour costs $315 more.
Approved by the council Monday with a vote of 8-0, an ordinance sponsored by Councilmembers Lisa Herbold and Rob Johnson will eliminate that step.
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Opponents will no longer need to start by requesting interpretations. They’ll be able to go straight to the Seattle Hearing Examiner or to King County Superior Court.
The change could help people without much money challenge projects, a City Council analysis said. However, it also could help neighbors block projects they consider undesirable, such as low-income housing and homeless shelters.
For that reason, “this could have a negative effect on vulnerable or historically disadvantaged communities,” the analysis said.
Bryan Stevens, a spokesman for the construction department, said the change may cause more projects to wind up in court. But skipping the interpretation step will save time, he said.
The city receives six to 12 interpretation requests each year; more are from developers than are from members of the public who oppose projects, Stevens said.