We have much more about the new Transit Oriented Communities bill:

First, here’s the whole bill text (pdf) for those of you so inclined. We also have a two-page summary (.doc, sorry) for the lazy. [UPDATE 7AM Jan. 15: I’ve received word that this is an older version of the proposal.  We should get the version that is actually filed by Friday.  Here’s a more up-to-date version of the two-pager (pdf).]

And lastly, Dan Bertolet at hugeasscity saved me the trouble of slamming the Jon Fox/Carolee Colter editorial about this bill.   The only thing I might add is that Fox and Colter don’t seem to recognize the dissonance of the idea that the bill would make these communities both “unlivable” and “unaffordable.”

To be honest, I was a bit more excited about the bill when Fox and Colter made me think that it called for skyscrapers.  Nevertheless, as someone who lives in the impacted area, I say “hurrah” for anything that makes it more likely I’ll get a decent grocery store within walking distance.

21 Replies to “More on Transit Oriented Communities”

  1. “unlivable” and “unaffordable.”

    It’s so crowded no one goes there anymore!

    I’m okay with parking garages near far-flung stations, but there should even been a density requirement for those.

  2. I think this bill does go a little bit too far. There are about 500 acres within a circle of a mile radius, and for many neighborhoods, the average density is about 15 units per acre. Based on this, I calculated that over 50 acres around a transit station would need to have 250 or more units, which would be a 7 or 8 story building. For neighborhoods like Roosevelt, that would be too much. I would favor the threshold being dropped to 1/4 of a mile and the units per acre being dropped to 35 or 40.

    1. Please take a look at the hugeasscity discussion with regard to net or gross density. The bill pertains to density per building site, and therefore 50 units per acre is actually quite low.

      1. i.e., it quite reasonably ignores roads, parks, sidewalks, and basically anything that isn’t housing.

    2. Dropping the requirement to 1/4 mile would be meaningless for Roosevelt. The existing zoning along NE 65th, 15th Ave NE, and Roosevelt Way already meet the requirements. In fact, when the Roosevelt Link Station opens I’d be surprised if it isn’t already 50 units per acre on the ground due to the current apartments clustered there and already upcoming development like the 4-story Brooklyn Court (46 units on less than an acre).

    3. 640 Acres to a Square Mile, Pi*Radius Squared gets you 2000 acres – unless I’ve figured it wrong.

      Roosevelt fought very hard to get the station moved from the Freeway to their neighborhood, at the expense of Greenlake.

      BTW, if that’s John Fox, be careful around him – he’s a good example of an activist that got way to caught up in the downtown power games – he isn’t one them, but he’s taken on the same standards of politics. He’s worth observing in that regard, come to your own conclusions.

      1. As I recall the fight over the NE 65th station, Greenlake didn’t push particularly hard for the freeway location either. Mostly it was Sound Transit pushing for the freeway location due to the reduced cost and exsisting P&R lot.

        Single family homeowners near the station and rail alignment didn’t want an elevated line in the area, the removal of homes it would have required, or the development pressure and traffic a station would have caused.

        Between WADOT not wanting a station in the freeway ROW, the neighborhood wanting the station at 12th, and various interests not wanting University Heights used as a staging area (which would have been required with the freeway alignments) Sound Transit was convinced to move the station and to put the line underground through the neighborhood.

      2. The “bill requires that zoning in half-mile radius” so:

        3.14 * (.5mi)^2 = .785 sq mi

        Google says “.785 (sq mi) = 502.4 acres”.

        I wish there was an easy way to pull arbitrary zoning info.

    4. I don’t see it as an issue. For one thing the very dense development at the East end of Greenlake is within 1/2 mile of the Roosevelt station as is the North end of the University District and the development along 65th near 25th Ave. A quick check of the zoning shows a lot of NC2-40, NC3-65, and low-rise multifamily in the area. Anything new built in the area has tended to be fairly dense so I don’t think there is much danger of new low-density development. If anything there will be pressure to upzone the lower-density single family and multifamily near the station.

      1. I agree except that 1/2 mile is shorter distance than you think! For example according to gmap-pedometer.com Brooklyn to 25th Ave NE is .65mi.

  3. And unrelated to this, I just saw in the Seattle Times that Dow Constantine will chair the County Council this year, and he’s always been very much in favor of transit.

    1. It’s related in that Constantine’s former chief of staff, Rep. Sharon Nelson, is the sponsor of the transit-oriented communities bill.

  4. I think that roads usually comprise about 20% of land within urbanized areas. Then we’re still talking about 400 acres. I think the emphasis first should be on improving the walkability of the area and then second densification. This doesn’t seem to give room for topography and physical barriers. For instance, nearly all of Montlake would be within 1/2 mile of UW Stadium station and therefore be required to accommodate these densities throughout. This may be hard to sell especially when transit access is funneled on one street. I could also see challenges at the Brooklyn station. One half mile would take in some of the blocks of Wallingford directly adjacent to the west side of I-5. I-5 is a major pedestrian barrier and the neighbors will object to density when it may mean more cars.
    I am pleased, however, that this is being discussed and that walkability is being pursued up to 1/2 mile of stations. This may need some work but it’s worth advancing in an improved form.

    1. Good point about Husky Stadium, the lack of opportunity for TOD there has always been a problem with that location. However, if UW decided to locate a new dorm or residential complex there wouldn’t that take care of it? I may not understand the ramifications of the 1/2 mile radius, especially when a major employment center, a lot of water, and a major highway are all right there.

    2. Hmm, I just looked at gmap-pedometer.com though and only 1 block of Wallingford is within 1/2 mi of Brooklyn and 45th, so I’m pretty sure that station is off the hook. Funny thing is, it’s almost exactly 1 mile from 45th to 65th, though as I mentioned above Roosevelt’s density is already fine.

    3. The UW Stadium station is a bit of a problem. This station is expected to be one of the busiest in the system due mostly to all of the UW related trips. There is some housing within 1/2 mile of the station that meets or exceeds the density requirements (dorms mostly).

      The one saving grace for most of Montlake is it qualifies for listing as a historic district which would protect much of the current land use. Some upzoning along 24th/Montlake Blvd wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing nor some 3/4 story multifamily on any land that becomes availible for development (though it is more likely the yacht club, MOHAI site, NMFS lab, or reclaimed WADOT ROW would become park land).

      As for the Brooklyn station I wouldn’t be supprised the net density within 1/2 mile isn’t already at 50 units per acre. Most of the surrounding zoning is at least L3 with much of it being MR, NC3-65, or even NC3-85.

      1. Also I just looked and actually Montlake is NOT within .5mi radius of the Husky Stadium Station except for a maybe two blocks. For example the Montlake Library is .9 mi.

  5. I agree with some of Multimodal Man’s acute observations, and think this would really take us in the right direction! It would be really great to have a solid stance v.s. NIMBYs in single-family areas ripe for better things. However, the only caution is pushback we might get when proposing transit stops in new areas that do not wish to have higher densities “happen to them.”

  6. This bill really seems to be the sledgehammer cracking the peanut approach. As a big proponent of local neighborhoods zoning local neighborhoods I question the motives of representatives from Vashon Island and Spokane sponsoring a bill that will affect almost exclusively Seattle and adjacent municipalities.

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