Sweeping Zoning Reforms Adopted in Olympia

The Olympia, Washington City Council adopted a new Housing Options Code Amendments ordinance, effectively eliminating single-family zoning in the city.

December 13, 2020, 9:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Mount Rainier

John T Callery / Shutterstock

The Olympia City Council made planning history as the latest local jurisdiction to adopt a package of zoning reforms to "allow denser housing types in the city’s single-family zoned neighborhoods," reports Brandon Block.

The Housing Options Code Amendments ordinance approved unanimously by the City Council this week "effectively eliminating single-family zoning throughout much of the city."

The ordinance applies to zoning districts R 4-8 (Residential 4-8 units per acre) and R 6-12 (Residential 6-12 units per acre), which collectively account for 68 percent of the city and its urban growth area.

"As The Olympian reported in November, the ordinance legalizes duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes in R 4-8, as well as triplexes, fourplexes, sixplexes, and courtyard apartments in R 6-12, commonly known as the “duplex zone” (because it already allows duplexes). The height of all of those building types is capped at two stories. It also removes or loosens parking, size, and height, and owner-occupancy restrictions on Accessory Dwelling Units," adds Block for additional detail.

The state Growth Management Hearings Board rejected a previous attempt by the city to legalize Missing Middle Housing construction.

Olympia's new zoning reforms take advantage of a state law, HB 1923, passed in 2019 to exempt "specific zoning code reforms that encourage the construction of additional housing are not subject to [Washington State Environmental Policy Act] appeal."

Update: Stephen Fesler provides in-depth analysis of Olympia's new zoning changes for The Urbanist. 

Wednesday, December 9, 2020 in The Olympian

Fracking

The Surprising Oil Tax in the Inflation Reduction Act

President Biden has made reducing gas prices paramount in his administration, so it was likely a surprise to hear a Republican senator last Sunday warn TV viewers that a revived and increased oil fee in the climate bill will increase their gas costs.

August 15, 2022 - Bloomberg News

People gather on a street with no cars during the L.E.A.F. Festival of Flowers in the Meatpacking District of New York City.

The Tide Has Turned Against Open Streets

Once a promising development for advocates pushing for a less car-centric future in cities, the open streets movement has ceded significant ground to cars since the height of the pandemic.

August 14, 2022 - The New York Times

Aerial view of downtown San Antonio with Tower Life Building in foreground

San Antonio Office Tower To Become Residential

With the building more than half vacant, the new owners of the Tower Life Building plan to convert the historic tower into residences that could include affordable housing.

August 15, 2022 - San Antonio Report

Colorado River

Department of the Interior Forced to Intervene on the Colorado River

More questions than answers on the Colorado River this week as the federal government failed to deliver on threats to force Southwest states to cut back on water use.

August 19 - High Country News

For Rent

Explaining Rent Inflation

The delayed effects of changes in rent costs make rent inflation a difficult figure to pin down.

August 19 - The Atlantic

Two cyclists on a paved bike trail through short grass with Dallas buildings in background

Dallas Names 66-Mile Bike and Walking Trail

When complete, the newly named DFW Discovery Trail will incorporate 50 miles of existing trails into a regional ‘super highway.’

August 19 - The Dallas Morning News

Transportation Planner, Planning Division

San Francisco County Transportation Authority

Product Manager

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

Assistant or Associate Professor of Urban Design

Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.