VPC’s Application

In September, Volunteer Park Cafe filed an Administrative Conditional Use Application with Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development. The applicant, VPC Co-owner Ericka Burke, requested a change in land-use of the space she rents at 1501 17th Ave. East, from ‘grocery’ to ‘an eating and drinking establishment.’

Volunteer Park Cafe and Marketplace – Conditional Use Application

We find VPC’s application to be faulty in several ways, briefly listed below. You can read additional comments (less technically oriented) here.

Much of VPC’s language—in their application, on their website, and in the press—implies that they have communicated effectively with the neighborhood and that they have been thoughtful and considerate in their proposal. This has not been our experience

1. We believe applications of this sort should provide a mix of fact-based narrative and authoritative data.

  • Throughout, VPC’s application fails to document the level of impacts of the permitted ‘grocery’ use and of the proposed ‘restaurant’ use. {The Department of Planning and Development has since issued two Correction Notices, requesting revisions or additional information.}
  • It is unclear why VPC neglected to provide the necessary facts. Burke took more than the allotted time to prepare the application. What’s more, VPC has been operating in their proposed use for close to four years. The information is literally at their fingertips.
  • Volunteer Park Café could have created a clear picture of impacts of the proposed “new” use, and then set out a fact-based program to mitigate their impacts on the neighborhood.

2. Given that VPC operates illegally as their proposed use, the issue of “Permitted” versus “Proposed” uses muddies the application.

  • VPC (as well as the previous tenant) operated illegally for many years, violating the designations of the first-floor as a grocery and the second-floor as a residence.
  • The allowed nonconforming use (first-floor grocery) has been supplanted by the proposed use (restaurant).
  • In illegally operating as their proposed use, VPC makes it all but impossible to assess the true impacts of the legally allowed nonconforming use.
  • As a result, it is an equal challenge to compare the allowed use to the proposed use.
  • Problematically, this is the precise comparison that DPD asks VPC to make: “The proposed new use must be no more detrimental to properties in the zone and vicinity than the existing use.”

3. Finally, the information VPC did provid contains errors. Subsequent posts will address these errors specifically.

Our comments will be framed by the following two elements of the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC):

  • “The proposed new use must be no more detrimental to properties in the zone and vicinity than the existing use.” {Note: ‘nonconforming: grocery’ is existing use.}
  • If the new use is permitted, the Director may require mitigation measures, including but not limited to landscaping, sound barriers or fences, mounding or berming, adjustments to yards or parking standards, design modification, or limiting hours of operation.”

You can read additional comments (less technically oriented) here.

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