Seattle council seeks to hasten environmental reviews for bike paths, upzoning

Sep 4, 2019, 4:35 PM | Updated: Sep 5, 2019, 6:33 am

Bike lanes sdot master plan, Bicycle Master Plan, bicyclists,...

A protected bike lane, with accompanying traffic signals, in downtown Seattle. (SDOT)


Fans of bike paths and denser housing projects may see them a little sooner, if new legislation introduced by Seattle councilmembers Mike O’Brien and Abel Pacheco goes through.

Pushed by urbanist advocacy groups of late, the legislation would streamline and speed up environmental reviews for projects like bike paths in order to offset appeals from opponents who have used the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) process to slow down and/or stop such projects, according to The Seattle Times.

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Projects these have impacted include parts of the Burke-Gilman Trail, Fort Lawton low-income housing, and upzoning and backyard cottages, among others.

Opponents worry that such legislation would undermine the purpose of the environmental review, and allow the city and developers to too easily overcome an impacted community’s opposition. Proponents see the legislation as crucial to land-use changes that they say will offset climate concerns and increase sustainable Seattle living.

Seattle City Councilmember Abel Pacheco said in statement that the environmental review process “has been used to delay policies and projects that are desperately needed to address our joint climate and housing crises … SEPA should not be a tool used to prevent dense, environmentally friendly development and walkable, livable neighborhoods.”

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As the Times reports, the legislation would mirror similar legislation at the state level, in which cities can ban environmental review appeals of numerous major land-use changes, often involving upzoning related to residential housing, as well as transit areas.

Further meetings are scheduled, but the legislation could be adopted as soon as October.

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Seattle council seeks to hasten environmental reviews for bike paths, upzoning