The HALA rezone proposal has been all in the news since it was released on Monday and is city-wide. Here is the zoning change map, and here is that map overlaid in Google Maps. The key element of the plan is to expand urban villages and eliminate single family zoning near urban villages.
We’ve also been looking at the major U-District light rail upzone that will become reality this fall. Here is the 588 page Environmental Impact Statement for the upzone. Don’t want to read all 588 pages? A synopsis:
- Existing zoning in the U-District maxes out at 8 stories
- The rezone will either go to 16 story towers over a larger area or 34 story towers over a smaller area (the current UW Tower is 325 feet tall, close to the upper height limit)
- The goal of the upzone is to add 5,000 more housing units and 4,800 job spaces on top of what existing zoning already allowed (Wallingford currently has about 8,500 housing units)
- While the rezone impact area is generally constrained to being within 5 blocks of the light rail station at 45th and Brooklyn, there is some spill over north of 50th (none over I-5 into Wallingford)
The two U-District rezone options in the EIS are shown here in map form, which the council will choose between this fall:
The Seattle Displacement Coalition is a ragtag group opposing the U-District upzone. Their general argument is that by destroying neighborhoods with upzones, more middle and low income housing is eliminated than is generated. They’ve been good grist for the news cycle, but unable to apply any political or legal brakes to the upzone.
So, what does this mean for Walllingford, besides downtown getting closer? Well, Sound Transit says we are getting rail sooner or later, it’s just a question of when. Reports and conversations lead us to believe that Wallingford may get two Light Rail stations, one near Stone and 45th, and the other halfway to the U-District, about where the Wallingford Shell station is at now. That would be consistent with transit blog reports and existing spacing of light rail stations.
Most of 45th is currently zoned for 4 stories, but often in a narrow band along the street. If the city adds 5,000 housing units per station here then the net effect would be to more than double the population of our neighborhood overall. That would require that most of the region between 40th and 50th get upzoned to apartments and condo towers that are between 16 and 32 stories tall, just like the U-District.
One thing that is certain is that coastal neighborhoods with the largest lots and the lowest walk scores are going completely untouched by HALA or transit based density. We seem to be heading towards a Seattle where the richest 1% live on the coasts with spacious lots and fancy cars and private schools, private golf courses, and private pools. Everyone else, meanwhile, will be packed into towers along rail lines. It seems out of balance- why not add urban villages and divide lots in places like Madrona and Laurelhurst? Why not convert private golf courses to SF5000?
The situation is reminiscent of the 1960’s, when the solution to congestion and housing affordability was to build more roads. Opposed to a freeway coming through your neighborhood? You must not want to fix congestion. You must not care about the need for affordable housing. The future beckons and we must embrace it, quit being a NIMBY troglodyte, support new freeways!
In terms of local candidates in this upcoming election, the candidates that seem to be most in favor of neighborhoods having some say over their own development are Catherine Weatbrook in District 6 and Tony Provine in District 4, both longtime neighborhood activists and relative old farts. So I guess if you want to temper this density tsunami headed our way, those two would get your votes. To give you a feeling for the current balance, the 26 person HALA task force had a single person representing neighborhoods, everyone else was a developer or housing advocate.