Recently a developer has been using a loophole to build small-lot houses in SF5000 zones in Seattle. Single family zones are classified by the minimum lot size allowed for each home, and the options are SF5000, SF7200, SF9600, and residential small lot (as low as 2,500 square feet, but there aren’t many RSL zones in Seattle). Publicola reports that Richard Conlin has proposed interim legislation to end this construction of small lot homes in single family zones. Conlin’s legislation is exactly the wrong direction for a growing city. Over 27,000 new households predicted to move to Seattle between 2010 and 2020 in Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan’s Housing Appendix (PDF). Yet the same appendix predicts only 865 of those households will have children. We’re out of space for single family homes, and it’s time to question whether every one needs to take up as much land as they’re currently required to.
We live in a city, not the suburbs. SF5000, 7200, and 9600 zoning probably made sense 100 years ago when Seattle was a small city, trying to plan out the next 50 years or so. But we’ve grown well beyond our original vision.
I propose we remove minimum lot sizes on single family homes, or at least dramatically reduce them.
We aren’t building many new single family homes, so removing minimum square footage requirements won’t dramatically change our city. But as homes are redeveloped, it will allow more homes to be built on the same amount of land. This will increase density and allow more people to live in Seattle even if they want to live in single family homes. A city-wide change like this will spread out new development, changing each neighborhood slowly and by a small amount.
Write your Council members* immediately and tell them what you think about this – they’ll meet on Monday to vote on the emergency legislation.
Update 9/10/12: The City Council passed this emergency legislation. Of course, it’s still possible that they could take up my proposal and reduce/remove SF lot size minimums.