Saturday, July 12, 2014

An Important Land Use Code Issue, from "Concerned Blanchet Neighbors"

(This arrived unsolicited by E-mail. I know nothing of this group, and pass the information on for your consideration Here's the file they supplied with their E-mail and here is their website )

Notes: 1) Their Lawyers (Gendler and Mann) are probably a descendent of the Law Firm (Bricklin and Gendler) that Miller Park and friends used in the early 90's to prevent a 1000' TV tower being built on Madison (see our newsletters from 1991 and 1992). I note this as an example of a successful neighborhood appeal.

2) I was a member of the Joint Athletic Facilities Development program process (see lawyers' letter).

Andrew Taylor


To:  Various Community Organizations, incl. you relatively near us to the south:

  • Wallingford Community Council c/o Lee Raaen
  • Sustainable Wallingford c/o Cathy Tuttle
  • Fremont Neighborhood Council c/o Stephanie Pure
  • FAWN - Fremont, Aurora Wallingford Neighbors c/o Linda Clifton
  • Greater Madison Valley Comm Council c/o Lindy Wishard 
  • Miller Park Neighborhood Association c/o Andrew Taylor
  • Madison Park Community Council c/o Gene & Liz Brandzel
We are writing you to alert you to a recent Federal District Court decision against the City of Seattle’s Land Use Code that could have important impacts on zoning issues throughout many of our neighborhoods.  I encourage you to write to City Council encouraging them to appeal the decision to the Federal 9th Circuit Court of Appeals as described below.

This ruling originated from an appeal by our local neighborhood group, Concerned Blanchet Neighbors. We successfully contested that variance conditions were not met in a Blanchet application for a lighted football stadium in our area. Blanchet countered that public institutions are exempted from such variance and they should receive the same exemption, and the court agreed.

The issues:

The federal “Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000” (RLUIPA) prohibits city zoning from treating “a religious assembly or institution on less than equal terms with a nonreligious assembly or institution.”

Well-established principles of land use law recognize that public facilities enjoy a special status that justifies their exemption from generally applicable zoning regulations.  Traditionally, and under Seattle’s code, public facilities are exempted from many zoning regulations.

The district court’s decision ruled that since some public facilities are exempted from certain provisions of the code, similar exemptions should apply to religious institutions.  This seems to greatly expand the reach of RLUIPA and potentially would allow religious institutions such as schools, universities, and other church-owned institutions to evade many zoning restrictions that apply to other private entities.

Within days of the decision, a national legal blog published an article that can be found at . Its last paragraph is the most important, which reads in part:

“… It is common that government is exempt from local land use regulation. Might this decision be used in broader equal-terms claims? Could a religious organization argue that a city violates the equal-terms provision by allowing without any discretionary land use review, for example, a public school with an auditorium (a place of public assembly), but requiring private places of public assembly (religious use, VFW, concert venues) to go through the usual and uncertain zoning and land use approval process?”

See the attached summary from our attorney that outlines this particular case. Pay special attention to the section “Possible Ramifications” on its last page.

The city will soon decide whether or not to appeal the decision, perhaps within a week or two.

Please join with us within the next 7 days in urging the city to appeal this decision.


Refer to: U.S. District Court Decision in Seattle Archdiocese v. City of Seattle

  1. Tell the City Council About Your Concerns In Person:

City Council Planning, Land Use, & Sustainability Committee

  • Tues July 15, 2:00 PM, @ City Hall Council Chambers, 600 4th Ave, 2nd Floor

City Council Meeting

  • Mon July 14, 2:00 PM, @ City Hall Council Chambers, 600 4th Ave, 2nd Floor
  • Mon July 21, 2:00 PM, @ City Hall Council Chambers, 600 4th Ave, 2nd Floor

Informal one-on-one discussion with Councilmember Tom Rasmussen

  • Tues July 15, 6:00 PM, @ Beacon Hill Library, 2821 Beacon Ave S

  1. Tell the City Council and Mayor about Your Concerns In Writing:

Mayor:  Ed Murray

Full City Council:

Seattle City Council PO Box 34025Seattle, WA 98124-4025

Planning, Land Use, & Sustainability Committee Members:

Mike O’Brien, Chair

Nick Licata

Tim Burgess, Vice-Chair

Sally Clark

Other Members of the Seattle City Council:

Sally Bagshaw

Bruce Harrell

Jean Godden

Kshama Sawant

Concerned Blanchet Neighborsc/o Lee Bruch, co-chair

8018 Meridian Ave. N.Seattle, WA,

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