The first of five Seattle 2035 open houses is tonight, and fireworks are expected, as new maps are being rolled out showing the expansion of urban village boundaries.

The hearings are about changes to Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan, but the zoning changes are likely going to be the most volatile topic.

The open houses are as follows:

Seattle 2035Monday, October 19, 6-8 pm
Miller Community Center
330 19th Ave E
Multipurpose Room
Presentation starts at 6:30 pm.

Thursday, November 5, 6-8 pm
Leif Erikson Hall
2245 NW 57th St
Presentation is at 6:30 pm.

Saturday, November 7, 9 am – noon
Filipino Community Center
5740 MLK Jr Way S
Ballroom
Presentation starts at 10 am.

Thursday, November 12, 6-8 pm
West Seattle Senior Center
4217 SW Oregon St
Hatten Hall
Presentation starts at 6:30 pm.

Saturday, November 14, 9 am – noon
North Seattle College
9600 College Way N
Old Cafeteria
Presentation starts at 10 am.

You can also submit written comments on the future of Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan through Friday, November 20.

34 Replies to “Action Alert: Open Houses on Seattle’s Land Use Future Start Tonight”

  1. Three thoughts:

    * How tiny the expansions, and how nonthreatening to the vast single-family sea!

    * Does the new village at 130th and I-5 mean a station there is assured?

    * What does an “Urban Village with Single Family Zoning” mean anyway?

    1. The 130th was the map what we saw at the 130th station meeting a couple of weeks ago. We were put into groups of 10 and asked what we would keep and what we would change. Fairly open-ended. There was, even with this and the supposed lack of fussiness if you are near I-5, a fair amount of NIMBY-esque wishing for a ‘quiet’ station. ‘oh my child’ stuff.

      Even if this station caught up to Lynnwood Link and was built at the same time, it would still be 2023. The ‘oh my child’ is going to be a teenager, when you would want to give $5 to get him out of your hair. :)

      To point #2, I think that is basically the deal.

      1. The map was a last minute addition to the discussion. I was on the committee that organized the meeting and one of the people suggesting a map of the area (to help with the discussion). A Seattle 2035 rep was there, but the purpose of the meeting was not to discuss the Seattle 2035 boundaries or whether it made sense to put an urban village there. As you mentioned, the meeting was open ended — the point was to discuss things we want to see (or not see) close to the station. That could include an urban village or other changes to zoning, but it could include something completely unrelated. I was a bit concerned that this would be scene as too much of a Seattle 2035 meeting, but I don’t think that happened.

        There will be another meeting where folks will discuss those ideas in detail. Notes from the meeting are being written up as we speak (this is an all volunteer group and so it takes time to transcribe the notes).

      2. “seen” (not “scene”). The lack of an edit feature sure makes me look like an idiot.

        (I know, I know — it’s not the only thing)

      1. If they stay SF it’ll probably a very long time until they get sidewalks if ever. Meanwhile, property redevelopment is most likely going to include sidewalks paid for by the developer.

        Then there’s the case of a SE Seattle homeowner who wanted to build a new house being required to build an orphan section of sidewalk on his street because the property was in an urban village.

        http://blog.seattlepi.com/seattlepolitics/2009/03/25/seattle-will-review-sidewalk-requirements/

      2. First of all, generally speaking, transit is very flexible. Improvements can be made very quickly in many cases. Congestion can be a problem (and is a problem) but there are lots of areas that would have very good transit if service were simply added. Maple Leaf is a great example. If the Metro restructure goes through, it will have outstanding transit (very frequent service to Northgate, Roosevelt and the UW). When Link gets there, it will be even better (very fast service to Link). As I mention below, it is a good candidate for zoning changes (and fits very well with the “village” concept).

        Sidewalks are a different story. I agree and think it is especially disingenuous to push for the “village” concept (where people are expected to walk for most services) in an area that lacks sidewalks. Furthermore, I think it smacks of urban renewal. If an area lacks sidewalks, then it doesn’t have much history. It probably doesn’t have many shops. To focus development on those areas is rather arbitrary.

        On the other hand, there are plenty of areas (Greenwood, Lake City) that are beyond the old city (and sidewalk) limits, but have sidewalks and have had development for many years. These are areas where the urban village concept — if you think it is a good idea — makes sense. There already is some development, some commercial establishment with which to leverage. Again, Maple Leaf is a great example of that.

        That being said, there are a few areas where the main street has sidewalks, but a few of the side streets don’t. Bigger apartment buildings in those side streets make sense (since it is a short walk to the commercial area) and the city should add sidewalks as part of the development.

        @Oran — I don’t think we should wait for developers to add sidewalks. Using that approach, it will take a very long time to get continuous sidewalks. In some cases, it may never happen. All it takes is one person who doesn’t want to sell their house and you have a gap. Besides, if we ask developers to pay for sidewalks, then it is just one more cost passed on to renters. Should we really be telling renters to pay for sidewalks?

      3. Ross, most sidewalks are built by the developer, not the city. That’s why most of the areas annexed north of 85th don’t have them in the first place because the county didn’t require developers to build sidewalks while the city did.

        http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/giving-everyone-a-sidewalk-is-no-walk-in-the-park/

        New subdivisions being built on the Eastside have sidewalks. Naturally that’s the right time to add them since adding them later is more expensive as we have seen to be the case in Seattle because sidewalks affect street drainage among other things. So yes, renters or homeowners should pay for them when property is redeveloped. Why should they not pay (in full or part) for something which they directly benefit from?

        The city is already trying to fill the gaps created from not requiring sidewalk construction. It’s a really expensive retrofit ($2 million per mile) and at current funding levels you won’t see much sidewalk construction from the city.

      4. @Oran — That is ridiculous. Everyone benefits from sidewalks, not just the tenants. By requiring them, you really do two things:

        1) Get fewer sidewalks. It will take forever for most of the city to be redeveloped. You basically get spotty sidewalks everywhere.

        2) It increases the cost of rent. If my neighbor sells his house and a new apartment goes up, i get to enjoy the sidewalk. But I don’t get to enjoy his apartment, or his shared pool, or any other amenity. Why should apartment dwellers be the only one paying the cost of a public benefit? Should we do the same thing and make apartment dwellers (and only apartment dwellers) pay for fixing the potholes in that stretch of road, too?

      5. Ross, the city of Seattle has always required sidewalks when property is (re)developed. It’s in the land use code. How much do sidewalks add to rent, I don’t know. That is the status quo and it obviously isn’t working very well.

        I would support repealing that requirement if it was replaced by a mechanism in which the cost is shared by more people than just the property owners/tenants, whether that is a Local Improvement District or a citywide tax, and sidewalk improvements are done strategically.

        Cost of rent will go up regardless. Either developers will build sidewalks and pass that as increased rent or landlords will pay property taxes and pass that as increased rent. There is no avoiding it if we want the infrastructure we think we need but we can reduce the burden by spreading the cost across all residents instead of putting it all on tenants of new developments.

    2. >> Does the new village at 130th and I-5 mean a station there is assured?

      Yeah, pretty much. The big question is when. By considering upzoning, the chances of getting it sooner rather than later increases. At least that is my understanding. At this rate, it is likely that we will get the station as soon as the light rail gets built in the area (as part of Lynnwood Link) which would be very nice. It would be kind of crazy to have Metro go through a restructure with Northgate, then go through a restructure for 145th/Lynnwood, then turn around and do it all over again when the NE 130th station is added.

  2. *looks for accompanying plans for true high capacity transit to expanded villages, sees none*

    Yeah, what a great plan, upzone with no transportation mitigation plans. Nice work yet again DPD! I will definitely be commenting against this.

    1. The transit plans are elsewhere, building true BRT to most of the urban villages not on Link. Or are you saying not to upzone a single block that isn’t on rail? Or where do you draw the line?

      1. Well, I’m in support of upzoning (I live in Ballard and such will be my references), and yes, there’s “frequent transit” via the RR D, 40 and 44 (all day, nights and weekends). However, The people that can now afford to move into the new units that are being created tend to be young, tech people, who can afford to drive and park at work. As such, the traffic is becoming more and more atrocious during all parts of the day. Throwing more buses at the situation is not helping, as they are getting stuck in the worse and worse traffic.

        We need true HCT to these urban villages, whether it’s making the RR D a true BRT or speeding up the timeline for LRT. Either way, the current Land Use plans by Seattle are a complete failure without a speedy transit plan in tandem. Unfortunately, it’s probably going to take an initiative by the people to fix this, since the DPD seems to be unable to cope with reality.

      2. I agree, we need transit in its own right-of-way. And SDOT seems to be moving firmly in that direction, as evinced by its plans for RR+. Given the pace of new development, I assume they’ll be in place within several years. Lake City and Bitter Lake can definitely have complaints, but it seems like Ballard is getting something close to what you’re asking – probably later than you want it, but in the pipeline assuming Move Seattle passes.

    2. Your point is good! If we are waiving parking requirements and new streets, the least that developers should do is pony up mitigation money for transit capital to carry these new riders beyond what we all pay in taxes. Electrification of lines, vehicles, sidewalk improvements to stations, even streetcar and Link corridor contributions are wholly appropriate.

      San Francisco has been doing it for decades. Seattle needs to do it too.

      1. More housing is not a luxury for the few, it’s a necessity to alleviate the housing shortage. If developers didn’t build private housing, the city would have to build public housing. Eliminating parking minimums is part of a strategy to put more destinations within walking distance and eliminate fixed barriers to housing, so the beneficiary is the city not the developer. There’s an argument that developers will just jack up the building-without-parking to match the building-parking price but it’s unproven. Tenants will notice they’re getting less and demand a discount, and the owner will have more leeway to offer the discount without cutting into profits. So the unit will have a parking-sized price only if the housing shortage is stagnant or getting worse, which is precisely the problem we’re addressing with more housing.

        Developers are already required to include sidewalks in their projects. There are no new streets; all the neighborhoods are already built up. “Complete streets” conversion is really a maintenance backlog.

    3. This is a comprehensive plan; they’ve been looking at everything. There have been open houses over the past year.

      And before the NIMBYs fire up their chainsaws, let’s pause a moment and remember that 2035 is twenty years away. Somebody who turns 18 today will be 38 then. The growth will not happen all at once but gradually, at more or less the same rate it’s been doing. The plan does not cause the population increase; it just tries to predict it. If the population increase slows, development will slow, even with the upzones. The population increase is based most in the increase in jobs and the improving economy, so if the population increase stops it means that layoffs and recessions are occurring.

      1. I’m not against population growth and am for upzoning, however, I’m against packing in people without reliable methods for them to get around.

        Yes, 2035 is the current date on the Land Use plan. 2035 is also pie in the sky date for expanded LRT. The 2035 for a Seattle LRT network needs to lose a decade if that Land Use plan is going to be a success.

      2. The areas with the capability of good transit greatly exceed the areas that are being considered for an urban village. For example, Maple Leaf will have outstanding transit, but there are no plans (at this point) to put any part of it in an urban village (which seems ridiculous to me, given the layout of the area).

        I’m not sure if it is the other way around, but I would like to hear about areas that fit that criteria (in your opinion).

    4. Lake City is conspicuously the location of a future transit station not on the map (the Link Northgate-Bothell line), and other urban villages have also been proposed for various kids of rail or bus. Ballard is in that situation right now too because ST3 has been neither solidified nor passed yet.

      1. Do you really think there will be a light rail line to Bothell someday, Mike? Seriously? That would set some sort of record, spending the most amount of money per person on transit infrastructure. Meanwhile, we would get very little from it (challenging BART for being the least efficient).

        I could see BRT from 145th and Lake City Way to 130th and Greenwood (via Lake City). That would make sense, given the number of people and connections in the area. A light rail line of that nature might even make sense, but I doubt it (I think it would be too expensive). But Bothell? That is nuts. There simply aren’t that many people in Bothell or along the way.

    5. The villages are being extended ONLY where it’s within the short walkshed of frequent transit. This expansion reflects the fact that more blocks have more transit access.

  3. There’s a two-block gap between “Aurora-Licton Springs” and North Seattle College. Is there a reason for the gap?

  4. Would upzoning “Westwood-Highland Park” make annexing White Center more likely or less likely? It could make little difference. Or it could make WC residents think, “Ugh, I don’t want to be part of that upzone, hello Burien.” Or maybe that doesn’t bother them if it means more destinations and services and less crime. I could also see a problem if Westwood upzones but WC stagnates for several years. Then if it eventually does annex, it’ll be signficantly behind in car-dependent sprawl.

  5. Personally, I think the whole concept is nuts, and smacks of NIMBYism, pure and simple. I realize that word is often misused. Many conservatives who don’t want to see any change in zoning are opposed to development everywhere. They don’t want to see apartments replace houses. To them, I think the label is inappropriate (and preservationists is a better description). But there are plenty of people who don’t mind growth as long as it happens somewhere else (i. e. not in their backyard). To them, the urban village concept must be nirvana (unless, of course, it gets too close to home).

    I oppose the urban village concept, and believe it has managed to simultaneously destroy the character of various parts of our city (by destroying plenty of nice old houses) while keeping rents ridiculously high. A more sensible approach is to change zoning everywhere. I see no reason why every neighborhood can’t be low rise. That in itself would likely lead to a lot more big houses being converted to apartments as well as a lot more additional small houses or new units being added to existing structures. In short, it would lead to the construction and development of a lot more units that are relatively cheap to build (which would in turn lead to a lot more affordable housing). This would lead to neighborhoods throughout the city changing a lot more slowly, which would in turn lead to neighborhoods with a lot more character. If you look around the city at areas that have a nice mix of houses and apartments (Central Area, Wallingford, Upper Fremont) you can see that they evolved that way over many years and are quite charming as a result.

    But if we are going to have urban villages, then we should have a lot more of them. Transportation should be one of the considerations, but not necessarily the main one. Existing infrastructure as well as topography should be a consideration. In short, it has to have the potential to actually function as a village. For example, Lake City has that potential (which to a certain extent is being realized right now). The area is relatively flat and there is a wide spread area of reasonable density (with huge potential for more). There is a history there as well, with development along the main drag (which has become a lot more pleasant since the street was changed). Lake City makes sense as an urban village.

    An area that jumps out at me as a potential urban village is Maple Leaf. It has everything that an urban village needs, except for the zoning. It already has nice commercial establishments, a great park (that allows for easy pedestrian access) and relatively flat land (on top of the hill). I would make a long, skinny village, from about 80th to 98th, and 12th and 8th. Basically an urban area surrounding the part of Roosevelt on top of the hill. Commercial establishments would be on the main street (Roosevelt) with apartment buildings extending a couple blocks east and west (in this case, it is actually one big block east and west). Such an area is relatively easy to serve with transit (and is about to be well served if the Metro restructure goes through). Eventually, of course, a bus would simply cruise along Roosevelt and connect riders to the Roosevelt station.

    Similar areas exist throughout the city. 8th Ave NW in Ballard is another one. 34th W in Magnolia is another. 35th NE (Wedgwood) would work as well. All of these areas have historically had development, and would probably have a lot more, if zoning hadn’t restricted them. This is because they were usually the first areas to develop. They already serve as the effective meeting place, the effective village, for the area for a very long time. They all have the potential to work quite well for transit and have great potential for pedestrian access, given their topography.

    In general, I think the more wide spread the change the better. By picking out relatively small areas and limiting the growth to those areas, we guarantee that the growth will be more disruptive and expensive. By spreading the growth, we do the opposite. My first choice would be to spread it everywhere, but the second (compromise position) would be to spread it to far more areas than this map suggests.

    1. To me the key word is “village”, as in self-contained. All the essentials and a variety of extras within walking distance. When I lived in the UW dorms I saw that myself and many students left the U-District only once a month or so because almost everything we needed was in the U-District. Now I live on Capitol Hill where a lot of people don’t leave the hill very often. If they do leave it’s primarily to work or see their family. Or the very occasional jaunt to Northgate or Southcenter or Fred Meyer for something not available in the village. This is what our other urban villages need to do: become larger and more comprehensive so that people don’t have to leave them as often. Some people see the villages as quarantining growth, but I’m less concerned about quarantines and spaces between the villages than about making sure the villages are large enough and varied enough to fulfill their potential.

      1. I agree; that is my understanding of the concept as well. I think that makes sense if you believe that it is the best way to grow. Personally I don’t, but I see what they are trying to accomplish. But if you are going to have these self contained “villages”, then there should be more of them, as I suggested. It is striking to me that Magnolia, for example, doesn’t have any of these villages despite having a Magnolia Village that fits this model perfectly. The only thing missing is higher residential zoning. But again, I would create more linear villages, including those I mentioned. These would work very well as self contained areas. It would be easy to walk to a restaurant, bar, grocery store or hardware store with a minor zoning change (in many of the cases I listed, the amenities are already there).

        I can’t help but think that Seattle is treating this like you would a sewage plant or some other negative, but essential service. There are very few because they don’t want to upset folks who will see houses converted to apartments. The approach seems to be to use the least possible amount of land to accomplish the village concept, thus upsetting the least number of people. You can bet that lots of people in Magnolia or Wedgwood or various other areas glance at the map and then ignore the issue (not in my neck of the woods — who cares).

        It makes for very poor planning. I can understand why you want to limit commercial development to certain areas. Limiting it to arterials (as I suggested) would make sense. If you are going to limit the development of apartments to certain areas, then having those higher zoned areas follow the commercial developments makes sense. I get all that. But by having so few, you pretty much guarantee that folks will spend a huge amount of time driving from one to the other. I can see huge swaths of land with no official development. Thankfully, development is not so restricted, so the situation isn’t as bleak as the map suggests. But it isn’t that good, either, and this won’t make it much better.

        Consider Pinehurst, my neighborhood. I can walk to the grocery store. I can walk to a Thai restaurant and several Ethiopian restaurants. But generally speaking, the neighborhood hasn’t grown much. Commercial development has stalled. Apartment development has stalled because of zoning. I’ve seen brand new houses go up (at least a dozen) in an area within view of a busy street (15th NE) and no new apartments. These aren’t allowed in an area that just makes sense for apartments. The result is that when a new area on the main street becomes available, it will be developed as an apartment, not a commercial establishment. It would take very little zoning change to make the area a “village” because it already functions very close to it. But it can’t quite make it, because the demand for housing is so high and so limited, that when the few apartments are built, they compete and shove out the commercial establishment. The end result is more driving (to Northgate or Lake City).

        If we are going to go along with this village concept, then there should be more of them. A lot more.

      2. Speaking of Pinehurst and the village concept, I really don’t see that with the NE 130th Street and I-5 area. The NE 130th Street and I-5 area is so lacking in cohesive character that it doesn’t even have a neighborhood name attached to it (several neighborhoods, including rather obscure ones meet there). Obviously, there is no history of commercial development in the area. Unlike Lake City (and a lot of other places) there is nothing to expand on. As the name implies, it is close to I-5. I know that Roosevelt and Green Lake are as well, but that crossing is probably as nice as any in the city (pedestrians can easily walk under I-5). This is not. This is a narrow, busy bridge that crosses over the freeway. It is unpleasant enough to reduce the number of people who would walk a few blocks to the park on the other side. This park, by the way, is just part of the large space that won’t be developed. Between the freeway, the roads and right of way next to the freeway, there really isn’t much land that can be developed. Parks make up a lot of the area around it, including a park that can’t be enjoyed by anyone not willing to pay a fee and walk around hitting a ball with a club.

        If the point of creating a “village” is to create a community — an area where people can live, shop, eat and drink without driving, then I seriously doubt this will ever achieve that. It is simply too hard to get around if the center of your village is right over a freeway.

        As I said above, it makes sense to work with what you have. Between 15th and Roosevelt you have the makings of a decent commercial area. I could easily see the “village” area encompassing that. The commercial section would be on both of those streets as well as Pinehurst (as it connects them). Go as far as Northgate Way and 125th (if not a little bit farther north). Extend the apartment zone a bit on either end (as well as the middle). Like all my other examples, this is a relatively flat area, with good access to the commercial area from anywhere in the apartment boundary. It is a bit of a schlep from one end to the other, but a fairly pleasant one (because you can avoid busy streets and it is fairly level). As mentioned earlier, this should come with sidewalks.

        The area close to the freeway will never work that well as a “village” because it is hemmed in by the freeway. For example, if I put a restaurant on 125th and 5th, who is going to walk to my restaurant? Only people who live to the east. Those to the west would have to walk a very long distance (over I-5). More than likely, those folks would just drive.

        This means that the area next to the station should be zoned for apartments (low rise or mid rise) and that’s it. I see no point in adding commercial establishments on 125th/Roosevelt/130th. This will only add to congestion, which is not a good idea. Remember, the whole point of this station is to provide for a better bus network — a network that serves already dense areas. To add traffic to the corridor will hamper those efforts.

        The only other area that might work for a village is on Roosevelt Way, east of the freeway. This is another area where a linear village could be placed. In this case it would be diagonal and relatively small, because it isn’t a very good corridor for buses. A commercial zone on Roosevelt, between Corliss and 3rd might work, although I think it would be a tougher sell. There are some commercial establishments, but because Roosevelt just ends, it isn’t a big street, so converting to commercial is harder.

        Regardless, it makes sense to change the zoning to allow apartments on that side as well. More people should be able to walk to the station, whether that area is a village or not. By that I mean whether it has much in the way of commercial establishments within a comfortable walk or not.

  6. These maps are seriously confusing. Draft land use maps seem like they would show a draft of the planned land use – but the zoning legend is entitled “current zoning”. Sure, they have proposed, expanded boundaries on urban villages, but without any explanation of what that means for zoning. There’s just the majorly unhelpful claim that single family zoning in urban village boundaries may be treated differently from single family elsewhere.

    1. I agree. It really isn’t very helpful. There are zoning maps provided by the city, but they too are confusing. Or at least time consuming to understand. Basically there are sets of pdfs. It makes understanding the existing zoning very difficult. You start by looking at a big (rough) map. Then select an area, look at the pdf, realize you need to go a little to the north and west, and then repeat. Then you can tell that a particular street (e. g. 8th Northwest) is zoned single family (or not).

      It would be really helpful if someone put together a zoning layer on top of a Google (or ArcGIS or some other) map. That would allow you to quickly zoom in and out and figure out how the city is zoned. A lot of zoning is simply not intuitive. For example, you would think just about every arterial would be zoned commercial or at least low rise. You would be wrong.

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