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Friday, June 25, 2010

SEPA Process - An Explanation and Why It Matters for Shoreline

S.E.P.A. - A Tool for Communities to Control Impacts of Development and Projects? Or Something to Be Ignored by Citizens or Written Off by Local Government?

Photo credit - Cedarbrook Coalition

People who've been involved with monitoring the Planning Process in Shoreline for a long time are concerned about proposals to severely cut back citizen involvement in Shoreline governance. 

Are you a citizen who feels there are impacts to the environment that occur from development and other projects, but are not sure what to do about it? These "impacts" (measured by SEPA) can be included under many "elements"  such as; transportation, streams, wetlands, water quality, historical or cultural, wildlife habitat, neighborhood character and others.
Are you a citizen who values things about Shoreline that give it a neighborhood character?

SEPA definition from the Department of Ecology website -
 A state policy that requires state and local agencies to consider the likely environmental consequences of a proposal before approving or denying the proposal.
SEPA Citizens Guide -

Then perhaps you should pay attention to the following!

This commentary was provided by a concerned person we'll call "Citizen X":

A dramatic increase in allowable impacts and a decrease in public involvement is proposed. Protecting Public Oversight and SEPA Review: 
The State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) requires completion of a checklist to assure development protects neighbors and neighborhoods from unnecessary environmental impacts.
The checklist  becomes a public document that can be reviewed and commented upon to assure that all potential impacts are identified and mitigated.
Before final approval and issuance of a city building permit, local citizens are given appeal rights under the law to assure developments do not cause environmental impacts.
 The City of Shoreline is proposing to expand the size of development that is EXEMPT from the SEPA process. The reasoning given for this proposed expansion is to assure certainty in the development process. For instance:
                   • developments from 4 up to 20 units would be EXEMPT.
                   • commercial buildings from 4,000 sq. ft (+ 20 parkling stalls) up to 12,000 sq ft (+ 
                       40 parking stalls) would be EXEMPT
                   • parking lots for 20 spaces up to 40 spaces would be EXEMPT

The effect of this change would be to eliminate substantial oversight by the public in their neighborhoods and could impact an individual's property rights and property values if a development under 20 units is proposed nearby.  "Experts" with a vested interest in stimulating development processes would replace local citizen review and those who have to live with the consequences would have little recourse other than the election process (of City Councilmembers). No challenges, comments or appeals would be possible (except though Superior Court).
Don't let non-elected city officials determine the fate of your neighborhoods without allowing public input! Hold the City Councilmembers, who will vote on this issue accountable for their actions. Tell them you will watch and remember how they vote, and insist they support local citizen oversight of projects.
No other city of Shoreline's size in the region has proposed such an expansion of SEPA EXEMPTIONS. Most cities require SEPA review for ALL development without ANY exceptions.
Please help protect the environmental future of YOUR city. 
The above message brought to you as a service from Of Paramount Importance Blog.
If you are interested in preventing one more erosion of your rights as citizens of Shoreline, you are
encouraged to contact the Planning Commission @
City Council @

Thank you for caring!
Home built too close to Thornton Creek
photo credit - TCA/SPU


  1. Based on my experience, Shoreline PADS simply lets the develper provide whatever info - true or false or distorted - in the Questionairre - and then simply ignores citizen input on the matter. So I am not sure how much of a difference this will be...

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    Your point taken, but sometimes, key information CAN be incorporated into the permits and if an appeal is needed, the comments become key parts of the official record. Sometimes appeals are won by citizens, though it is certainly not an easy road. However, if there is no SEPA process, there is no chance for input.

  3. Sounds like development interests are trying to take over Shoreline to build whatever they want without concern for its impacts on neighbors or the environment. Seems to be more of the politics of greed over community. I agree, contact your city councilmembers to protest this proposed measure that will reduce the quality and liveability of neighborhoods so that a few developers can make a quick buck from lack of regulations to protect the environment.