A Battle Brews Over Housing Density In Seattle

The newly elected Seattle City Council will take up the debate over single-family zoning in the city.

Read Time: 2 minutes

November 23, 2021, 10:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Single-Family Neighborhood

icaroferracin / Shutterstock

After a 2015 plan was put on hold due to public backlash, Seattle may once again consider allowing multi-family developments in neighborhoods traditionally zoned for single-family housing, reports David Kroman.

Amid a severe housing shortage and ever-climbing home prices, City Hall will soon crack open its Comprehensive Plan — a state-mandated 20-year roadmap for the city’s development. An update to the plan is due in 2024, but the groundwork for change is already being laid out by some elected officials and housing advocates.

But Mayor-elect Bruce Harrell disagrees with the plan to reduce single-family zoning, claiming that the recently approved Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU) legislation that allows up to three units per single-family lot is already a major change for low-density neighborhoods.

As Kroman writes, a 2018 analysis of the city's 'urban villages' approach to increasing housing density found that the strategy's restriction on multi-unit housing actually perpetuated "a historical pattern of exclusionary zoning that should be examined and revised to be more racially equitable in the next plan update."

According to the article, Washington lags behind its West Coast neighbors on loosening restrictions on single-family zoning. While an update to the city's comprehensive plan will take time, Seattle's city council made a move to acknowledge the diverse types of housing already present in some residential communities by changing the name of single-family zoning to 'neighborhood residential' zoning.

Thursday, November 11, 2021 in Crosscut

Chicago Commute

The Right to Mobility

As we consider how to decarbonize transportation, preserving mobility, especially for lower- and middle-income people, must be a priority.

January 26, 2023 - Angie Schmitt

Sharrow bike markings on black asphalt two-lane road with snowy trees

Early Sharrow Booster: ‘I Was Wrong’

The lane marking was meant to raise awareness and instill shared respect among drivers and cyclists. But their inefficiency has led supporters to denounce sharrows, pushing instead for more robust bike infrastructure that truly protects riders.

January 26, 2023 - Streetsblog USA

View of stone-paved street with pedestrians and "Farmers Market" neon sign on left and old buildings on right in Seattle, Washington

Push and Pull: The Link Between Walkability and Affordability

The increased demand for walkable urban spaces could make them more and more exclusionary if cities don’t pursue policies to limit displacement and boost affordability.

January 27, 2023 - Smart Cities Dive

View of Tacoma, Washington with Mount Rainier in background

Tacoma Developing New Housing Policy

The city’s Home in Tacoma plan is designed to address the region’s growth and rising housing prices, but faces local backlash over density and affordability concerns.

February 2 - The Urbanist

Green alley under construction

Green Alleys: A New Paradigm for Stormwater Management

Rather than shuttling stormwater away from the city and into the ocean as quickly as possible, Los Angeles is now—slowly—moving toward a ‘city-as-sponge’ approach that would capture and reclaim more water to recharge crucial reservoirs.

February 2 - Curbed

Aerial view of residential neighborhood in La Habra, California at sunset

Orange County Project Could Go Forward Under ‘Builder’s Remedy’

The nation’s largest home builder could receive approval for a 530-unit development under an obscure state law as the city of La Habra’s zoning laws hang in limbo after the state rejected its proposed housing plan.

February 2 - Orange County Register