It’s been almost a year since I joined the Wallingford Community Council with concerns over the future of our neighborhood and our city in the face of rampant development. After countless hours of following HALA and Seattle’s land use politics, I frequently find myself mumbling and grunting in frustration like Yosemite Sam. I picture wealthy developers like Vulcan sitting down and writing out policy after policy that will give them more power (and us less). In exchange, our elected officials at City Hall get all sorts of campaign contributions. Ahh, democracy.
This urban village “painting” is one more policy that just plain sucks. The City Council is rushing to get the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive plan passed before they begin budget talks. If you remember, the Comprehensive Plan is a road map for how our city grows over the next 20 years. A very important part of this is the Future Land Use Map. This puts on a map where certain types of development can occur. Areas are designated for single family homes, multifamily, commercial development, etc. These limits can be nice for neighborhood character and keeping like-sized buildings together, but bad for greedy developers’ bank accounts. Why just build a single family house in Wallingford, when they could build four townhomes on the same property and maximize their profits? Developers, in general, do not like zoning constraints.
Our current Future Land Use Map shows all of these land use designations for the whole city. The city now wants to change the map and “paint” the urban villages. According to a Central Staff Memo dated June 2, 2016:
The proposed Future Land Use Map includes another significant change. On the current map, the boundaries of urban centers and villages are shown as a heavy boundary, within which are shown mixes of land uses. The proposed Future Land Use Map shows each category of urban center and village as a shade of blue. For example, this is how Ballard, a Hub Urban Village, is shown on the current and proposed maps:
Showing the entire village as one color is intended to shift the focus of the map away from distinct categories of uses within these centers and villages to the intended scale of development.
Practically, this would mean that zoning changes within urban centers and villages would not require a Future Land Use Map change. Under current practice, if a change is proposed from one category of land use to another throughout a large area, then a Future Land Use Map change must precede or accompany that zoning change. Under this proposal, a change to a large area within an urban village from a multifamily or single family zone to a mixed-use commercial zone would not first require a Comprehensive Plan amendment.
Currently, major zoning changes can only be fully implemented one time per year when Council considers Comprehensive Plan amendments. If the “painting” amendment is adopted, major zoning changes could be made inside urban villages at any time. Does anyone like the idea of having to read every City Council agenda for the next 20 years to watch out for proposed zoning changes? This change would allow them to sneak in future zoning changes with even less public process than we have now. If developers want to build bigger, they can lobby City Council and the zoning can be changed completely under our noses.
What good is a Future Land Use Map if it doesn’t show future land uses? The Growth Management Act states:
Each comprehensive plan must contain a future land use map showing the proposed physical distribution and location of the various land uses during the planning period. This map should provide a graphic display of how and where development is expected to occur. (WAC 365-196-400)
Is a solid block color really showing “how and where development is supposed to occur”? Is this change in violation of the Growth Management Act? This little painting project does not have our best interests in mind and I don’t like it one bit.
The City Council’s Planning, Land Use and Zoning committee passed this “painting” amendment on September 20th. On October 10th, the Full Council is expected to vote on the Comprehensive Plan, which includes this amendment (along with many, many more things that you would probably not approve of). In general, this Comprehensive Plan gets rid of anything that gets in the way of a bulldozer.
Please take a moment to write the Full Council and oppose the “painting” of the urban villages on the Future Land Use Map. If you would like more information regarding this amendment or other concerns regarding the Comprehensive please see the links below. There’s been many of us in Wallingford fighting this fight, but we could use your help. A large public outcry is the only way to get City Hall’s attention. We need a movement to take back our city. The Mayor is trying to bulldoze Seattle. Let’s put up some roadblocks!
EDIT: The Full Council meeting on Monday has been CANCELLED so it looks like a vote on Seattle 2035 will be delayed. A little more time for you to write in your concerns, if you haven’t already.
- Please take a moment to email the City Council with your concerns before October 10th. An email to [email protected] will reach all of the members.
- (UPDATED-DATE HAS BEEN CHANGED) Attend the Full Council meeting on October 17th and make a public comment. The meeting will be at 2:00 pm at the City Council chambers, 2nd floor. Address is 600 4th Avenue.
- Join your neighbors and stay involved. The Wallingford Community Council has formed a committee called WallHALA to respond to the Mayor’s housing agenda. Our next meeting will be on October 18th at 7-9 pm. Meetings are held in the Wallingford Senior Center, located in the basement of the Good Shepherd Center. More information on WallHALA can be found here. To receive our Call to Action emails, click here and check the “Land Use” box.
For More Information:
- Central Staff Memo (6/2/16), see page 7 for “painting” on FLUM:
- Seattle 2035 Concerns from the Wallingford Community Council
- Eastlake Community Council suggested talking points on Seattle 2035 (shorter document)
- Eastlake Community Council blog post on Seattle 2035 (longer document)
- Wallingford Urban Village map
- Maps for all Seattle Urban Villages