Seattle officials Tuesday released draft maps showing how some of the city’s densest residential neighborhoods could become denser under Mayor Ed Murray’s sweeping housing plan.
Seven-story apartment buildings in Crown Hill. Small apartment homes along Hillman City side streets. Duplexes and row houses throughout South Park.
Those structures and others could be allowed under zoning changes proposed for Seattle’s urban villages. For the first time, officials Tuesday released detailed maps showing how some the city’s densest neighborhoods could become denser.
They’re part of Mayor Ed Murray’s Mandatory Housing Affordability program, also known as the “grand bargain,” which is making its way through the City Council.
The council has already passed legislation requiring developers to help the city create rent-restricted housing when they build new projects, either on-site or via fees.
That’s half the bargain. The other half, which the council will consider in several stages over the next year or two, are zoning changes allowing developers to build taller in Seattle’s commercial and multifamily residential areas.
When Murray unveiled the Mandatory Housing Affordability program last year, he said it would entail allowing developers to build up one additional story.
In addition to the upzones needed for the bargain’s housing requirements to take effect, officials want to expand the boundaries of some urban villages — the 28 neighborhood nodes tapped for growth in Seattle’s 1994 long-term plan.
They say larger urban villages are contemplated in a new long-term plan, Seattle 2035, which the council may approve next month.
Since April, community members who applied and were picked by Murray officials have been meeting in groups to talk about the changes. They got a first look at five draft maps Tuesday night during a presentation at City Hall.
The maps — still works in progress — will now be subject to intense scrutiny from residents and developers who know how important zoning can be. There will eventually be 28 different maps.
View the draft maps
Draft maps of potential zoning changes for some of Seattle’s urban villages can be viewed online athttp://st.news/2d4XGbu
For more information about the HALA Community Focus Groups: www.seattle.gov/hala/focus-groups
Jason Kelly, spokesman for Murray’s planning department, says officials are using advice from the focus groups to guide their work.
For example, rather than allow one additional story along 15th Avenue Northwest and Holman Road Northwest in Crown Hill, officials may allow an extra 35 feet.
They’ve heard people from the neighborhood ask for new density in Crown Hill to be concentrated on those main drags, Kelly says.
In another example, officials may keep one corner of Capitol Hill unchanged. They say they’ve heard from neighbors that historic districts should be left alone.
Maureen Cartano, a group member who lives just outside the existing Eastlake urban village boundary, says the meetings have been “a dog and pony show.”
Cartano, who doubts the bargain will result in many affordable homes in her neighborhood, said, “This is just so they can check the community-engagement box.”
Ryan DiRaimo, another group member, lives with his wife and young daughter in a bungalow inside the Aurora-Licton Springs urban village.
DiRaimo says officials have listened to his suggestion that the changes encourage a switch from auto-oriented businesses to pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use buildings.
Whether they’ll also act on his request for more family-size apartments, he isn’t sure. DiRaimo says the meetings have sometimes felt more like lectures.
Then there’s Bre Weider, who rents in the Othello urban village, near where she grew up. Weider has been telling officials to make sure the changes don’t exacerbate displacement. Rising rents are pushing people of color out.
“We need housing. But we need to make sure we get affordable housing for people already here,” she said.
The changes will likely meet some opposition. Because work on proposed changes for the University District began prior to Murray’s grand bargain, those are already under consideration by the council and are drawing fire from some residents and business owners worried about displacement.
Similarly, changes in downtown, South Lake Union and Uptown are slated for earlier approval.
Expanding urban-village boundaries would change the zoning on some residential blocks from single- to multifamily. Murray initially proposed doing away with single-family zoning everywhere, then backtracked under pressure from homeowners who said the move would hurt neighborhood character.
But proponents of more density got a boost this week as President Obama released a “housing development toolkit” that says zoning and other restrictions are contributing to income inequality by preventing cities and states from adding the units that working families need.