VIDEO: HALA ‘open house’ for comments on ‘complex and wonky topics’ @ High Point Community Center

6:15 PM: Two issues related to the city’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) are being presented for your comments at an open-house-style meeting under way until 7:30 pm at High Point Community Center (6920 34th SW). We’ve already counted more than 60 people in the main room, checking out the easels set up for proposed changes to the city’s Comprehensive Planhere’s our preview on that issue – and for potential rule changes regarding Accessory Dwelling Units (“backyard cottages” being the best-known type) – here’s our preview on that. We checked and they’re still planning on a presentation at 6:30 on a screen at the front of the room, although otherwise this is NOT a sit-and-listen type meeting.

6:25 PM: On the “comprehensive plan amendment” side, the Q&A/comment stations deal with specific urban villages where, as noted in our preview, the city is seeking to eliminate neighborhood-plan-related language that seeks to “protect” or “preserve” single-family zoning, which HALA’s Mandatory Housing Affordability upzoning would be removing from urban villages. Three West Seattle urban villages are potentially affected here – Morgan Junction, West Seattle Junction, and Westwood-Highland Park.

You’ll have opportunities to comment online – we’ll add those when the meeting’s over – but while here, you are also offered the chance to write yours on paper; one attendee from Morgan Junction showed us his. He’s worried about ongoing displacement of low-income renters in the older housing stock that already is being torn down and replaced by new for-sale residences.

6:50 PM: The presentation is over – about 10 minutes on the comprehensive plan component, five on the accessory-dwelling-unit component. (We recorded it all on video and will add to this report when we have it uploaded and processed later at HQ. Full unedited video below:)

Both were basically primers; there was no Q&A, and the only bit of impromptu feedback came when, in the comp-plan section, city senior planner Geoff Wentlandt (opening by thanking people for turning out for “complex and wonky” topics) said amendments were needed because neighborhood plans shouldn’t be inconsistent with overarching city policy.

“Why not?” someone called out. No reply. Meantime, in one possible sign that the turnout exceeded expectations, the sparkling water bottles are all empty already. The sandwiches, however (chicken and tofu, described as “from a banh mi place on Delridge”), are still abundantly available.

7:08 PM: Still about 30 people talking in small groups, but the crowd definitely thinned after the presentation.

8:10 PM: Back at HQ. Had some signal trouble toward the end, so catching up on images now. First and most importantly, here’s how you can comment on both these issues, regardless of whether you were able to get to tonight’s meeting:

COMPREHENSIVE PLAN AMENDMENTS: Choose your urban village and comment via this site, by December 8th.

ADU/DADU ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT STATEMENT SCOPING: This phase of comments closes on November 1st; there’s an online comment form linked on the right side of this page (scroll down the left side for the full timeline).

23 Replies to "VIDEO: HALA 'open house' for comments on 'complex and wonky topics' @ High Point Community Center"

  • matt October 18, 2017 (4:28 am)

    The ’99 neighborhood plan calculated there were  only 3 potential unbuilt Single Family lots in the Junction of (245 total,  41), that in the current boundary small lot residential would be insufficient to handle growth, and therefore all growth was to happen in high density apartments in the Triangle (pg 42).  

    So what we asked for in the plan has happened. And we’re all happy, right? 

     Twenty years later, we’ve pushed thousands and thousands of new residents into mid rise apartments, and complained that there aren’t starter homes, family sized housing, options for aging in place with downsized dwellings, that the new buildings are too big, rents and prices too high and we don’t have adequate mass transit.  Meanwhile, there’s still 245 Single Family detached houses in the Junction. 

    Today, plans to preserve the same ‘Single Family’ isn’t a solution, maybe even part of the problem causing the change in character that many are afraid of. Preserving the form of one detached house per one big lot in the heart of West Seattle’s downtown for the benefit of the few forever at the expense of all the other neighborhood’s goals seems myopic as a long term plan.  

    I think it was fitting to come to the open house in High Point, where the neighborhood is densely packed with a mix of housing,  and includes duplexes,rowhouses, big and small detached houses. It has a small town feel. It feels like all the old inner ring neighborhood often admired.  I get why CM Herbold and many others choose to live in High Point. 

    Anyway, there is absolutely no reason the area around west seattle’s downtown can’t evolve to include more housing options and more households, address other issues  and improve that small town character too.  But building our neighborhood plan around keeping detached house zoning as a sacred cow isn’t going to get us there. 

    • CMT October 18, 2017 (12:07 pm)

      There is a reason, namely, that the West Seattle Junction community has overwhelmingly indicated that it values these areas as part of the fabric of their Junction neighborhood.

      If drastic rezoning changes to these areas were necessary to achieve the City’s target density there would need to be a different discussion but they are not.  There is room within existing zoning to accommodate the density.

      With every step it takes, the City is seeking to eliminate any sort of collaboration with neighborhoods as to how and where they will place the increased density those neighborhoods are expected to accommodate.  In order to do so the City continually pushes a false narrative that is repeated by developer-backed groups and others.  

      • KM October 18, 2017 (2:04 pm)

        I think that the collaboration issue you pointed out is what might be the hardest for people. This process gets drawn out, as expected, and their efforts for outreach are falling short of many expectations. The city puts together outreach and education events and people are mad. If they didn’t, people would be mad. We have elected our leaders to do this work, vote in committees and at council, and many still expect to be consulted in the exact way they prefer, and expect the outcome they personally want. If that doesn’t happen, several believe they were “ignored” and the city is again “ramming this down their throats” because there’s no way anyone else’s idea for their view of the neighborhood is viable, only their own. It is reason enough for many to not participate publicly in neighborhood groups, outreach events, and council meetings. 

        Neighborhood groups are generally only representative of the voices who are the loudest at meetings, not the neighborhood as a whole. 

        • CMT October 18, 2017 (4:24 pm)

          Thanks KM for your response.

          To the extent you are suggesting that neighborhood outreach is not needed or appropriate and that the City should simply make the decisions, here is the problem: Neighborhoods agreed to become part of the urban village model in the late 90’s based upon the City sponsored neighborhood planning model in which the neighborhoods created the plans for how their urban villages would look, feel and grow. There is no way they would have agreed to sign on to the significant burdens (without corresponding benefits, as it turns out) of the urban village model without assurance that the neighborhood would have a legitimate seat at the table to determine how it would grow down the line.  It is a total bait and switch to pretend that this was ever intended to be a top-down model and that it is appropriate for the City to gut neighborhood planning.

          To the extent you are suggesting that people are wrongly nitpicking the outreach events simply because they don’t like the proposals, I would disagree.  The City fails to accurately review, collect, maintain, or describe the input it does receive.  The City internally and externally mischaracterizes the feedback it receives and has on at least one occasion lost almost all of the written comments submitted at a major “outreach event.”  People are rightly frustrated because it is abundantly clear that the City has an agenda and is prepared to ignore overwhelming feedback that does not fit its agenda.  If the City is not going to sincerely take into account neighborhood feedback, it should stop staging bogus outreach events and own the fact that it is going to proceed with its own agenda – nobody is buying its self-described community outreach.

          • KM October 18, 2017 (5:08 pm)

            I think your last sentence is more of what I was trying to get at, but perhaps by a different thought process :-) The city, for better or worse, should proceed with the plans they have. I find these outreach and prolonged comment periods only delay the inevitable, and water down a plan created by those hired/elected to create these plans (we’ve seen this with SF zoning protection in 90%+ of the city). If the city is being malicious regarding citizen feedback, there’s reason to be upset. I’m sure a city employee (human) is not the only person to lose important documents before. There have also been multiple occasions for resubmission and additional comment capturing made available to the public. 

            An idea developed in the late 90s shouldn’t be the basis for determining our path forward. “Neighborhoods” can only agree to so much when they are in a constant state of change–residents (homeowners and renters alike) come and go, businesses change (and more open) and our needs for the city and region evolve. A neighborhood can have a legitimate seat at the table if it takes into account the lessons from the past while representing the needs of all their current residents (not just homeowners from 1997), and considers the broader region’s plan for future growth. It might be an impossible task, I don’t know. What should be of minimal consideration in the current planning is the past desires of some involved residents from 20 years ago. Doesn’t look like anyone, including the city, could predict our current growth, but I’ll side with those looking to do something about it.

            Like you said, if the city doesn’t want to give a crap about these plans from the 90s (which I see is a good thing) they can stop with the dog and pony shows.

          • Jort October 19, 2017 (10:35 am)

            Thank you for you excellent responses, KM. 

  • OpentoChange October 18, 2017 (8:53 am)

    I’m curious Matt, do you own a sf home in West Seattle downtown? 

  • Kay K October 18, 2017 (11:40 am)

    I would just like to point out that if the proposed change to the ADU/DADU requirement goes forward to allow both on one lot with no owner occupancy requirement, we are effectively tripling the density of residents city wide.

    Whether one thinks this is a good idea or not, I would like to see the plans that SDOT, SPU, SPS, SFD, Metro and SPD have or are putting in place  to expand our infrastructure to manage this growth.

    • WS Guy October 18, 2017 (11:18 pm)

      If you think home ownership is expensive now, wait until the city removes the owner-occupancy requirement on ADU’s.  We will see a deluge of out-of-town investment pour in to snap up property and turn homes into rental empires.  The price of a home will be determined by how much it’s worth to Blackstone as a 3xUnit rental property, not by how much a resident would pay to own it and live in it.

  • elevated concern October 18, 2017 (1:18 pm)

    Unless there is a designation of a minimum percentage of new infill housing will be required for seniors and or disabled the city is creating a displacement scenario for our neighborhoods.  Stop thinking about how much tax we can collect with added housing and start developing true neighborhoods that are not gentrified due to lack of planning.

  • John October 18, 2017 (1:37 pm)

    Kay K,

    I am surprised you are not aware of the massive increase in Metro transit busses and kiosks, new Light Rail, new bike paths, new Fire stations, new police stations, new schools, new SPU facilities and regulations for sewage and stormwater reduction.  These are all active plans to address growth.

  • TJ October 18, 2017 (2:20 pm)


    But nothing new for roads and moving cars. Even if the number of new people moving in commute on mass transit at what the city ambitiously projects, most will still be driving, adding to the traffic we have now. The city is flat out ignoring this. And I can’t even remember when light rail was promised to get to West Seattle with ST3, but you can be sure to add more time and money to that as I think they said they aren’t even sure how it will get here. 

    • John October 18, 2017 (4:05 pm)

      Obviously we have no more room for roads or moving cars, but that was not what the question was.

    • Jort October 19, 2017 (10:34 am)

      TJ – no city in the recorded history of human civilization has ever “solved” automobile traffic congestion issues. 

      I assure you that Seattle won’t be the first. 

  • Scarlett October 18, 2017 (5:32 pm)

     You know most people at the meeting last night were not anti density.  They are averse to the “know it alls” at the city telling them that the only way to achieve  density is by doing everything the City way and screw community involvement.   Their behavior is patriarchal and arrogant.   By behaving with such shortsightedness they have alienated a huge percentage of the population who are actually pro density, just not pro density the city way. 

     It was clear they really didn’t want to comment from the neighbors because they made it as difficult as possible to leave comments on their flip charts with only one piece of paper on the chart.   The junction chart was set up with only one large piece of paper for comments. We had to ask a city employee to go find another piece of paper so there could be more than one page of comments.

    • CMT October 18, 2017 (8:22 pm)

      Yes Jennifer – I completely agree.  The neighborhood has awesome ideas and plans for creating a truly vibrant and walkable neighborhood for people of all income levels which the City’s plan will make impossible.

  • CMT October 18, 2017 (8:07 pm)

    Reply to KM;

    You said “A neighborhood can have a legitimate seat at the table if it takes into account the lessons from the past while representing the needs of all their current residents (not just homeowners from 1997), and considers the broader region’s plan for future growth. It might be an impossible task, I don’t know. “

    It is absolutely not an impossible task, in fact, that’s exactly what many of the neighborhood’s residents are asking the City to allow them to do.   There are plenty of very exciting, community driven ideas for planning for density in the West Seattle Junction in coordination with (among other things) where the light rail station(s) would be and planning space for amenities and for zoning that would allow non-retail employers to locate in West Seattle so that people could actually live and work in West Seattle and not have to cross the bridge.

    What is wrong with the top down approach is that the people at the top are not familiar with the neighborhoods, their topography, their characteristics and what aspect are important to the community.  These are simply one-size fits all upzoning which, among other things will result in displacement of the existing lower income residents (roughly 1/4 of the single-family homes in the proposed upzone area are affordable rentals) and will destroy the ability to create a truly vibrant and walkable neighborhood for people of all income levels.

  • matt October 18, 2017 (10:41 pm)

    If you’re willing to consider changes to SF zoning, here are ten ideas to create more housing options (some of which will be affordable) within our residential context, and in turn put more households within walking distance of schools, parks, retail, jobs, and transit. 

    Change zone name from ‘Single Family’ to ‘Residential.’ I know it is just nomenclature, but our current ‘Single Family’ has a long history of duplexes, triplexes, corner stores and apartments, prior to downzoning, and renaming the zone removes a mental roadblock about what residential areas are for: people.

    • Waive building permit fees for 5 years for AADUs and DADUs. Portland uses this incentive to permit nearly one per day, 6 times the rate of Seattle’s accessory dwelling unit production.
    • Use Green Building incentives similar to other permit types for cottages: Allow 10% increase in size and height for cottages on lots over 4000 SF. Allow 20% increase for lots over 5000 SF. Extra size would be very useful to make 2 bedroom even 3 bedroom cottages for families. 

    • Housing Opportunity Overlay. Create a ring overlay within 10 minute walkshed of schools, parks, urban villages, arterials and frequent transit, where additional housing is desired. Allow Residential Small Lot zoning, without MHA, in Overlay. Make parking requirements for additional units voluntary.

    • Upgrading non-conforming housing types and uses, such as duplexes, established before 1995. There are at least 15 grandfathered duplexes and triplexes within the Junction and they are subject to different rules such as continuing use and limitations on expansion/upgrades. They should have the same flexibility under the code that applies to their neighbors in SF zones.

    • Buffering detached houses from higher zones: If adjacent zoning is not SF 5000 zoning, allow flexible increase in DADU height, or setbacks to help with transition to other zones (LR, NC)

    • Make accessory dwelling units easier to built. Allow exceptions for handrails and parapets over height limit. Decks over 18” and covered areas should not count toward accessory use square footage, but should have stand alone total. Allow separate metering of utilities. When expanding a garage/existing non-conforming use, allow vertical expansion in line with existing structure, rather than to setbacks. Allow extra height for flat roofs when used as a green roof.

    • Study using Floor Area Ratio to restrict size of development and incentivize additional housing units. Currently we are seeing many new single dwellings that dwarf the house that was torn down. On a 5000 SF lot, with lot coverage at 35%, and a height limit of 30’, we currently allow a house to be 5250 SF. Using a .5 FAR for single dwelling unit properties, allowing .7 for two dwelling units and .8 for three dwellings per lot, the same property would allow 2500 SF, 3500 SF or 4000 SF. Restricting maximum FAR will make teardowns/McMansions less viable, put a break on gentrification, and insure that many more housing units and options are built. FAR limitations will create many lots with dwellings with mix of sizes and prices.

    • Double Ownership. Allow split ownership of lots with existing house and new cottage, like a fee simple subdivision, provided the cottage was legally established. Create template for condominium-like agreements to share lot ownership between existing house and new cottage. Seattle has no starter homes and this would create new opportunity for ownership. If we agree ownership is an aspiration, creating more affordable options such as this would be desirable.

    • Allow homeowners to qualify for small loans from Office of Housing from pool of MHA payments when creating additional dwellings. One of the key criticisms of MHA is whether affordable housing created will be well distributed, and by making the available loans applicable at residential scale, on a parcel by parcel basis, there will be new affordable housing integrated into every neighborhood. The other difficulty most people face when creating a DADU is securing financing, and having an additional source would help many owners create their own.

    Otherwise, I’m eager to hear about these ‘exciting, community driven ideas of planning for density.’ Please share them immediately, so we can get started advocating for them!  Light rail isn’t coming for more than a decade-what else can we do to address the housing shortage today?

  • Cid October 19, 2017 (8:45 am)

    I returned from the HALA meeting Tues. night frustrated and disgusted. Clearly “neighborhood input” is not being considered…so why go through all this show?  I wanted to address many things that Matt (love to know your connection to HALA, Matt) said, but CMT said everything I wanted to say quite well. Thank you!

  • Matt October 19, 2017 (11:20 pm)

    Not affiliated with any group or the City, I’m just another west seattleite with strong opinions about our neighborhood’s future. And I’m still waiting on CMT’s “exciting, community driven ideas of planning for density.”

  • Jonathan October 20, 2017 (11:03 am)

    I love the not-so-subtle insinuation that anyone who supports HALA must be affiliated with developers, employed by the city, or an apartment-dwelling amazonian.

    I’m none of the above, just a homeowner in West Seattle who understands that the city is growing, and we need to accommodate that. People are allowed to disagree with your perspective without having ulterior motives.

  • Cid October 21, 2017 (9:16 am)

    Apologies to Matt if I offended. You sounded so much like a spokesman for HALA I guess I allowed my distrust of the process to come out in my statement. We’re not anti-growth…cottages sound like a viable option to address affordable housing in less dense areas., We’re aware that we do not own our view or parking in front of our house. That said we’ve been in our home for over 40 years and have attended many meetings so feel like we have a vested interest in what happens to our neighborhood.  To have any reference to “single-family” be considered “language to avoid” and recent building in the West Seattle Junction and elsewhere in WS (mostly studio’s or one bedroom with little to no parking) gives the impression that HALA’s vision does not include families at all.  Also many people who are currently living in affordable apartments will be displaced and will be priced out of the newer buildings…how is that helping with the housing crisis? 

    • Matt October 21, 2017 (10:03 pm)

      While the residential zones include ‘family’ (single family, and multi family)  Seattle has more singles, divorcees, widowers, multigenerational households, cohousing etc that don’t fit into the traditional description of  ‘family’, and for which a 3 or 4 bedroom detached house isn’t a good fit. The average West Seattle household is only 2.2 people. Around forty percent of people live alone!  

      I’d like our neighborhood to support a range of new housing options close to urban centers so you don’t have to dislocate 20 miles away if your household grows or you want to downsize, or you hit hard times. Supporting choice like that leads to continuity, where people can stay in their neighborhood even though their situation might change.

      Ultimately, what makes West Seattle feels like a small town is not first and foremost building size/use, it is the people-the ones you know from the block party, or the school or coffee shop and see in the street.  I want to make sure all of them have a place in our West Seattle as we grow.  Newcomers should feel that connectedness and will get woven into the community too. 

Sorry, comment time is over.