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Lesson from Seattle: Zoning Is a Political Debate, Not a Policy Debate

The swift rejection of a proposal to upzone residential neighborhoods in Seattle inspired The Urbanist to evaluate the lessons of the episode. One takeaway: don't demonize single-family homeowners.
August 12, 2015, 9am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Robert Cruickshank provides a post-mortem on the attention-grabbing upzone proposal that was more dead than alive on arrival in Seattle:

"For many urbanists, it's been a journey of elation to despair. Just two weeks after the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) proposals were announced, several of its core recommendations have already been abandoned. Facing a growing backlash, Mayor Ed Murray announced he will no longer seek zoning changes in single-family neighborhoods."

Cruickshank blames the failure of the recommendations on a lack of public support for a process that lacked public participation. "The HALA committee finally made the plans public before there had been any meaningful effort to organize grassroots activism to support them—or to explain to Seattle residents why the zoning changes mattered," writes Cruickshank. Offering some advice for how to handle an opportunity like this the next time, and in other cities, Cruickshank says "it's time to treat zoning changes as what they truly are: a political debate." The article follows with more detail about how that lesson could have been applied in the example of the HALA recommendations.

Chuck Wolfe also recently wrote of some of the takeaways he'd identified from the episode, including a hopeful idea that the HALA report could result in a more inclusive city.

Full Story:
Published on Monday, August 3, 2015 in The Urbanist
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