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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, 9am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Mount Rainier
John T Callery

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. 

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Published on Wednesday, December 9, 2020 in The Olympian
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