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Citywide Zoning Reform Approved in Everett

Few cities are accomplishing such a swift and sweeping overhaul of its land use regulations as Everett, Washington, which just wrapped up its second major planning initiative in as many years on its way to launching a third.
December 17, 2020, 9am PST | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Suburban Seattle

The city council of Everett, Washington approved the "Rethink Zoning" ordinance in November, ushering in a suit of zoning changes designed to simplify the land use code and encourage urban infill development under one Unified Development Code.

Stephen Fesler reports on the zoning changes and previews the next big reform effort already underway in the city—the "Rethink Housing Action Plan Process," which would pave the way for additional affordable housing development in the city.

"This all comes on the heels of Metro Everett, which led to significant downtown zoning changes adopted in late 2018," according to Fesler. "That zoning process incorporated many form-based zoning principles into the land use code and permitted more highrise development in the city center, topping out at 25 stories."

Chief among the changes included in Rethink Zoning, according to Fesler:

The number of zoning districts was trimmed from 25 to 15. Overlay zones were also reduced from 11 to just five. Single-family zones were the only zoning classifications to escape changes for now, which include Suburban Residential (R-S), Single Family Detached Low Density (R-1), Single Family Detached Medium Density (R-2), and Single Family Detached Medium Density (R2-A) zones, though an earlier concept had envisioned trimming single-family zones down to two with more flexibility.

For the Rethink Housing Action Plan, Fesler reports that the city is estimating the need for an additional 9,267 housing units in the next 15 years to support low-income residents making less than 50 percent of the area media income. "Another 3,529 housing units will need to be created that serve people in rent-restricted housing and market-rate rental housing bands below 80% AMI. Beyond that, Everett thinks that 9,981 housing units will be needed for people with higher incomes looking for homeownership and market-rate rental housing," according to Fesler.

In launching the Rethink Housing Action Plan, Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin listed three initiatives to be included in the process, one regarding public engagement, another to prepare for transit oriented development, and a third to provide supportive services to the city's unhoused residents.

As is always the case with Fesler's reportage, a lot more detail in included in the source article. 

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Published on Thursday, December 10, 2020 in The Urbanist
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