A few weeks ago, I reported on amendments our own Councilmember Rob Johnson was bringing forth to soften upzones around the edges of the Wallingford urban village. On limited blocks, amendments 4-14, 4-15 and 4-17 would have limited the upzone to Residential Small Lot (RSL) zoning, creating a step down effect between the higher density areas inside the urban village and lower density areas outside of the urban village.
Personally, I was surprised that density-loving Johnson was even considering this, and I was just about to write an email to thank him for bringing forward these amendments. Unfortunately, that smidge of gratitude only lasted a short minute because I soon found out these amendments are no longer being considered. According to an email from Noah An, who clerks the Select Committee on MHA, this is why:
Councilmember Johnson did not move Amendments 4-14, 4-15, and 4-17 at last week’s Select Committee meeting, both because we heard more opposition than support from community, and because similar amendments did not have sufficient support from the rest of the Council.
At-large City Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda and Lorena Gonzalez were strongly opposed to any amendments that would have decreased the upzones, and not having their votes is definitely part of why these amendments were dropped. I have written the City Council to ask them to put amendments 4-14, 4-15 and 4-17 back in, but as of today I have failed to convince the entire City Council to do my bidding (maybe a thousand of us writing
That means that almost all of the current Single Family zones inside of the urban village will be upzoned to some version of Low Rise zoning, which allows for apartment buildings. For more information on what will be allowed on your block, see this post. The only changes currently being considered are Amendments 4-16a & b, which passed out of committee and are expected to pass at the final vote on March 18. Once again, according to city staffer Noah An:
The Select Committee did pass Amendments 4-16a and 4-16b, sponsored by Councilmember Johnson, which we were happy to work collaboratively with the community to advance. These amendments reduce the proposal on some blocks between Stone Way and Aurora Ave, while providing an increase in the proposal on other blocks in that area.
Amendment 4-16a would increase the upzone from Low Rise 1 (LR1) to Low Rise 2 (LR2). Amendment 4-16b would decrease the upzone from Low Rise 1 to Residential Small Lot (RSL). Taken together, this should result in no loss of zoning capacity.
I’m more than disappointed that the City Council seems determined to move forward with the upzones. There is currently a glut of luxury apartments sitting empty (which has only resulted in a slight decrease in rent prices at the top of the market but has not made a dent in the lack of truly affordable housing). And even though 1 in 10 apartments in Seattle is empty and the current zoning is more than sufficient to handle our growth, the Council is deciding to upzone to allow for even more luxury apartments.
As the most affordable housing is torn down to make way for more luxury accommodations, displacement is a real concern. A recent study of the U District upzone that was passed in 2017, showed a much greater loss of affordable housing than the city originally estimated. And studies have shown that increasing density does not magically create a decrease in rent prices.
The final vote on the upzones happens on March 18, 2:00 pm at the City Council chambers in City Hall, 600 4th Avenue.
As always, I encourage you to share your opinions with the City Council and Mayor….
Mayor Jenny Durkan: [email protected]
An email to [email protected] will reach all of the City Councilmembers.
Or to email the Councilmembers individually:
[email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected];
[email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]; [email protected]
If you want to do your own research, the most up-to-date city documents regarding the upzones can be found here.