Legal Action to Protect Volunteer Park

Volunteer Park is protected by law from negative impacts. To help it realize this protection, we have retained a leading environmental attorney, David Bricklin of Bricklin Newman LLP. Some relevant laws are Seattle’s Landmarks Preservation Ordinance, the Save Our Parks Initiative (Initiative 42 aka ordinance 118477), and Washington’s State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).

Overview of Legal Action

Protect Volunteer Park has undertaken two legal actions. First, we have disputed Seattle Parks and Recreation’s interpretation that Initiative 42 does not apply to this project. Initiative 42, the Protect Our Parks Initiative, has been adopted in the City code as Seattle ordinance #118477. See our Press Release for more information and to read the substantive legal letter from attorney David Bricklin.

Second, we appealed the Declaration of Nonsignificance (DNS) issued by the Seattle Dept. of Construction and Inspections (DCI), seeking to require an Environmental Impact Statement. Unfortunately, our appeal was denied by the hearing examiner so we did not have an opportunity to present testimony about tree and historic landscape impacts. We are exploring other ways to bring those issues before City decision makers.

Chronology of Legal Action

Past events:

  • 2017-06-05: PVP’s appeal has been denied by the hearing examiner, as a summary judgment. So the hearing this week will not be happening.
  • 2017-05-19: All summary judgment briefs (including replies) have been filed by the three parties, PVP, DCI, and SAM. Now waiting for the hearing examiner’s decision regarding the summary judgment motions.
  • 2017-05-07: PVP attorney David Bricklin sends a letter to Seattle Parks and Recreation leadership and staff, disputing Parks’ legal interpretation that Initiative 42 does not apply to the museum expansion project. For details, please see our Press Release.
  • 2017-05-01: PVP and SAM both file motions for summary judgment. SAM claims PVP lacks standing to appeal. PVP claims the legal reasoning in DCI’s DNS decision is faulty. Specifically, the decision acknowledges “potential significant adverse impacts” to the landmarked features of Volunteer Park, but declines to take these into account, since the Landmarks Preservation Board (LPB) will have the opportunity to order that impacts be avoided or mitigated. PVP believes this is not a reason for DCI to treat these impacts as if they were nonsignificant. Rather, the preparation of an EIS will provide essential information for LPB, allowing LPB to make the highest quality decision in its review of the proposed project. Other government decision makers (City Council, Department of Parks and Recreation) will also be evaluating the project and will be able to make the highest quality decision with the benefit of an EIS.
  • 2017-04-24: Over PVP’s objections, the City hearing examiner orders PVP to provide SAM’s attorneys with the information discussed on 2017-04-11 (except PVP’s member residential addresses). We are required to provide PVP’s member list and internal communications relevant to PVP’s appeal decision. (The member list refers only to the PVP core team, so if you just signed our petition(s), your name was not provided.)
  • 2017-04-11: Preconference hearing regarding the appeal. Seattle Art Museum (SAM) has 2 attorneys present in addition to the city’s attorney representing DCI. SAM’s attorneys state the intention to challenge our standing to appeal. Also discussed is SAM’s attorneys’ demand for a variety of information about Protect Volunteer Park (PVP), including its member names and addresses, and the details of PVP’s internal communications relevant to PVP’s decision to appeal.
  • 2017-03-29: Protect Volunteer Park files an appeal (PDF) of the DNS decision issued on 2017-03-16.
  • 2017-03-16: Seattle Dept. of Construction and Inspections (DCI) issues a Mitigated DNS decision (PDF) for the project, determining that an Environmental Impact Statement would not be required.