Councilmembers, housing activists and urbanists know the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) is an important piece of environmental legislation but also has been used as a loophole against new housing. The only thing these appeals accomplish is delay that thwarts Seattle’s progress on creating an equitable city.
The changes do not gut SEPA; appeals can still happen. Instead, the proposed bill strengthens SEPA by streamlining the review process and setting a time limit for efficiency. Thus, city staffers spend less time reproducing multiple SEPA analyses and cut costs for unnecessary appeals designed to steer housing away from wealthy neighborhoods. The legislation adopts what our democratically elected state legislators approved in HB 1923.
In a city like Seattle, which loses tree canopy to development, it is better to create housing near job centers than to push people out, force them to pump CO2 in the air and build houses where forests once were.
Capping the length of SEPA appeals is needed. Affordability and sustainability belong together. Wealthy individuals strategically delaying efforts for housing diversity is a highly inequitable status quo and must change.
Kelsey Hamlin, Seattle renter