This Washington City Quietly Eliminated Single-Family Zoning

Walla Walla's 2018 zoning reforms included adaptive reuse, reduced parking requirements, and more relaxed rules for accessory dwelling units.

1 minute read

August 5, 2021, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Single-Family Housing Development

trekandshoot / Shutterstock

When Walla Walla, Washington reformed its zoning code in 2018, the changes didn't get much attention, writes Stephen Fesler. Yet the city of 33,000 has quietly eliminated single-family zoning, among other changes such as "procedural processes, subdivision standards, street connectivity requirements, and adaptive reuse of non-residential buildings in residential zones," as well as "a wider variety of allowed uses in the lower density zone, a reduction of residential parking requirements, and more flexible accessory dwelling unit regulations."

"Generally speaking, the Neighborhood Residential zone allows for higher lot coverage, smaller setbacks, reduced parking requirements, and no minimum lot sizes, widths, or depths," amounting to standards that "allow for much more to be constructed on lots and legalize missing middle housing in areas where they were banned." The city's "approach with the Neighborhood Residential zone is particularly uncommon in Washington as it doesn’t have a defined density limit — something that most cities tend to use in lower-density residential zones. Instead, the zoning code simply relies upon other development standards like landscaping, height, setbacks, parking, and lot coverage to control how much can be built on a lot."

The simplicity and flexibility of this regulatory framework, Fesler says, is "something that many cities might do well to follow."

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