There are several bills with proposed amendments to land use law working their way though the legislature. In Washington, state law requires each city and county to prepare land use plans, sets minimum standards and establishes an Urban Growth Boundary to prevent major new housing development projects outside that boundary. It was adopted to avoid cities having to pay to extend sewer and water lines all the way out into the wilderness. The strong population growth in many cities in Washington has prompted the legislature to amend the law to require cities to create more opportunities to build housing inside the boundary. There are two important and slightly different bills in the state House (HB 1981) and Senate (SB 5670) being considered. Currently they are moving out of their first committee and headed for floor votes.
The primary feature of these bills that will have an impact in Wallingford is the requirement that the city must plan to increase the density of housing development in areas that have good bus service. The housing density must be increased on each side of the bus route. For Wallingford, the bus routes with good service as defined by the bills are the #44 Ballard-University, the #62 Meridian, the #31/32 University-Fremont and the Rapid Ride E line.
The requirement is for 33 housing units per acre within a quarter mile of each bus route and 20 housing units per acre for the next quarter mile out. This converts to 95 to 110 units on a typical Wallingford block for the high density requirement and 57 to 66 units per block for the medium density requirement. The current density in Wallingford is about 16 to 19 houses per typical block. Some of these houses contain two and occasionally three housing units. In order to meet the high density requirement it would be necessary to allow about 6 units per lot and about 3 for medium density. Within the upzoned Urban Village we have been seeing four townhouse units on a typical lot and six on larger lots. The photo with this article is of six units on one lot. It completely occupies the lot. The trees are on an adjoining lot.
If you measure out a quarter mile and half a mile from each bus route you find that most of Wallingford is included in one of these areas. The high density area generated by the #44, the #31/32 and the E line routes is from about N 37th on the south to about N/NE 48th on the north. It stretches all the way across Wallingford from Aurora to I-5.
North of N/NE 48th the high density area generated by the #62 and the E line routes also begins at Aurora and north of N 50th at Green Lake Way N and stretches east to about 1st NE. A medium density area continues east to 5th NE. South of N 37th to N 33rd the high density area generated by the #62 and #30/32 routes goes from Aurora east to N/NE Pacific.
The change will not happen immediately when the law is enacted. First the cities must amend their land use plans (called a Comprehensive Plan). After that the cities must adopt new zoning laws to implement the density requirements in the plan and allow for the additional housing unit construction. The city will not have flexibility to reduce the density requirements.
And if the requirement for denser housing due to distance from transit does not affect a property, the Senate bill requires that all other lots in the city must allow up to a fourplex (four housing units in one building). It allows Seattle to require up to 40 housing units per acre on all lots in the city. Cities will be allowed to permit buildings to be built right up to the lot line next to another building or the sidewalk. Cities will be prohibited from requiring parking in new buildings within one half mile of transit. Finally, changes to a city’s land use laws cannot be appealed to the courts. The House bill does not have these same additional provisions and does have some additional requirements for the City to consider the quality of urban living as it plans.
Speaking your opinion
If you would like to express your opinion, either for or against this increased density, you may contact your elected State Senator and State Representatives from this neighborhood by going to the legislature’s Senate website or House website for commenting on their bills. Just fill out the form, indicate if you support or oppose and leave your comment. Both the Senate and House bills are currently moving toward a vote on the floor of each chamber.
1. The #44 travels along N/NE45th from Aurora to I-5, the #62 travels on Meridian to N 45th and then on Stone Way to N 34th, the #31/32 travel along N/NE 40th and then on Wallingford to N 34th and the Rapid Ride E line is on Aurora.
2. The proposed law actually speaks of bus “stops”, which are generally about every three to five blocks and not necessarily at the same place on both sides of the street. A circle around each stop is what is assumed by the bills but at the spacing of stops the circles mostly overlap. That creates a sort of swiss cheese requirement but the city is prohibited from adopting zoning laws that are not uniform over a local area. So that is why this discussion assumes routes instead of stops. It is just the most likely way the law would eventually be implemented.