Andrew recently had a thoughtful post on how HB 1490, the Transit Oriented Communities bill, could backfire by making neighborhoods less inclined to accept transit service. There’s less reason to fear that now, as the latest version of the bill,which hit the street Friday night, significantly waters down some density requirements, while still being a step in the right direction. (The Senate version of the bill is SB 5687.)
The new draft requires 50 units/acre only in areas previously defined by the Puget Sound Regional Council as “growth centers.” These centers are: Auburn, DT Bellevue, Overlake, Everett, Federal Way, Kent, Lakewood, Lynnwood, Puyallup, Redmond, Seatac, Capitol Hill, DT Seattle, Northgate, the University District, DT Tacoma, and Tukwila. For the most part, these areas are already zoned for dense development, so the impact in terms of raw density should be minimal.
For other stations not so blessed by the PSRC, cities “must adopt comprehensive plan provisions and development regulations that can achieve a similar level of walking, biking, and transit ridership, and a similar number of affordable housing units” as is required of the growth centers [Sec 8, subsection (7)]. It remains to be seen how this very vague language, bereft of any required number of units, evolves further in the legislative process.
There are still lots of other sensible provisions in the bill about waiving minimum parking requirements [Sec 8(1)(h)]. The walkability requirements are important, and the newest draft makes sure that developers aren’t discouraged from building mixed use developments. This is still a good bill.
This blog doesn’t have any official position on affordable housing legislation, but there are very aggressive provisions for it that will make a real difference in some of the more affluent station neighborhoods. In fact, it’s surprising to me that many affordable housing advocates who I personally know to be in favor of this bill haven’t been more effective in countering the attacks of the Displacement Coalition’s John Fox.
Of course, the fact that the bill no longer requires a place like South Bellevue to upzone doesn’t mean that the hysteria and misinformation surrounding this bill will go away, so we’ll see if it has any impact on the East Link Segment B alignment. Affordable housing can certainly be unpopular, but opposition to it requires a lot more euphemisms.
There are a bunch of other common-sense changes, such as taking into account topography in the 1/2 mile radius. I won’t detail them all here but those interested in the urban planning minutiae should read the new draft and post their observations in the comments.