The U District zoning changes passed by the Seattle City Council this week represent the type of changes we need to make to have more space for families of all incomes to live in this city.
THIS week, the Seattle City Council passed the University District upzone, representing a huge step in living our values as a welcoming, sustainable and inclusive city. For the first time in Seattle’s history we will require affordable housing as we grow, reaffirming our commitment to make more room for the people who want to call Seattle home by allowing taller buildings in transit-rich neighborhoods.
These types of zoning changes ensure that we have space for families of all incomes to live in this city. They help us provide access to good jobs and support vibrant local businesses, and they leverage our investments in transportation choices so you don’t have to rely on a car. And they underscore the importance of protecting our water, trees and natural environment.
I feel proud that the University District, home to the state’s largest university, hundreds of local businesses, soon to be two light-rail stations, and thousands of students, families, renters, homeowners, professors, and entrepreneurs, is the first neighborhood in the city to see this new approach to growth and affordability. I also feel proud that this legislation includes changes we made in direct response to feedback received from community members.
For example, we required developers to provide more public open space and to promote transit use by offering such things as transit pass or car-sharing subsidies, or free parking for carpools and van pools.
We provided additional incentives to designate and preserve landmark structures in residential areas and are encouraging more family-sized units. And we delayed zoning changes along a stretch of the Ave so a study on the potential impacts on small businesses could be completed.
As these changes reflect, I believe each of Seattle’s rezones must address the ideas and concerns of those who live and want to live in each individual community. This is the first of many zoning changes over the next few years; downtown/South Lake Union will be rezoned next, with citywide rezones to follow in 2018. As we continue this process, we commit to be:
• Proactive. By investing in citywide assets like parks, schools, libraries and transit, we encourage more people to live in high-amenity areas and continue to lower our greenhouse-gas emissions.
• Timely. We will take advantage of the current development cycle to start building new affordable units now.
• Inclusive. We will increase housing choice and affordability through stable housing, contributing to stable neighborhoods, businesses and schools.
• Nimble. We will be responsive to the different conditions and dynamics that reflect and contribute to the vibrant character of neighborhoods throughout Seattle.
The U District changes resulted from a five-year community engagement process. Recognizing the value of this depth of engagement and wanting to emulate a timelier version across the city, I sought funds last year to begin hosting a series of Urban Village Community Design Workshops.
To date, we have supported 12 workshops across the city and have heard from over 1,000 community members who want affordability throughout Seattle. Those who’ve attended also want us to address the elements that contribute to neighborhood livability like tree protection, reforming on-site parking requirements, great schools, effective design review, the creation of green streets and more affordable child care. To be both proactive and responsive, look for legislation coming out of my office this year, in advance of the citywide rezone in 2018, acting on and addressing each of these areas.
For the last year, for many different reasons, nearly 70 people a day chose to move to Seattle to call it home. And as an urban planner, I recognize challenges that can come alongside this growth. And as a fifth generation Seattleite, I know that others have lived in this city for many years and have a deeply personal history here. The work I do is founded in the goal of honoring that balance. As we move forward, share your voice and help us shape growth as we continue our quest to be a truly welcoming city.