HALA UPZONING: See how/whether your neighborhood would change in the ‘preferred alternative’ for Mandatory Housing Affordability

(WSB photos)

Though the mayor who proposed it is out of office and a new mayor takes over in less than three weeks, the citywide upzoning for the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda‘s Mandatory Housing Affordability component is going full speed ahead. That was the message delivered by Mayor Tim Burgess and City Councilmember Rob Johnson at a noontime event that went forward as planned, outdoors in a Capitol Hill pocket park, despite steady rain.

The event was timed to be concurrent with today’s release of the city’s “preferred alternative” maps for the proposed upzoning – as part of the final Environmental Impact Statement for MHA, which adds more development capacity – an extra story in many multifamily areas – in exchange for requiring that either part of the redevelopment be set aside as “affordable housing” or that the developer/builder pay a stipulated fee to the city, which will use the money to fund “affordable” projects.

A key concern of MHA skeptics has been that more if not most developers will just pay the fee, and that won’t guarantee affordable housing anywhere near the new development. We asked about that at the Capitol Hill event; the mayor said they actually prefer the fee option because the city gets more affordable housing for its money.

So here’s what you need to know, for starters:

*As mentioned in our early-morning preview, here’s the clickable/zoomable map you can use to explore what’s proposed in specific neighborhoods, all the way down to your own address

*While this is from the “final” EIS, it is NOT a final plan. The mayor’s office will send legislation to the City Council by year’s end, and then a months-long review process will follow, with opportunities for public comment, and a Council vote not expected until next summer. In fact, two local events are already scheduled, though they are months away:
Open house about the MHA maps, 6 pm May 9, 2018, at Louisa Boren STEM K-8
Council District 1 public hearing about MHA upzoning, June 5, 2018, at Chief Sealth International High School

*The full EIS is broken down into sections linked from this page. That includes this section, with the not-clickable maps.

There’s much more to say about this, but right now, community members are closely reviewing what’s just been made public, and how it compares to what was proposed previously. We have a lot more reviewing to do, too, and we also will add video from today’s announcement when it’s ready. (Added 4:36 pm: Here it is:)

After the jump, the city’s official news release:

Today Mayor Tim Burgess and Councilmember Rob Johnson proposed a plan to implement Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) requirements on new development across Seattle that will meet the City’s goal of at least 6,000 new rent-restricted homes for low-income people over the next decade.

“Today we continue our push to address Seattle’s housing affordability crisis,” said Burgess. “With this plan, we will extend our requirement that new developments contribute to Seattle’s affordable housing supply. We’ve already implemented this requirement in the University District, downtown, and elsewhere. Now it’s time to bring this requirement to other high-opportunity neighborhoods so that we can hasten our progress in building a more inclusive and equitable city.”

Councilmember Rob Johnson (District 4, Northeast Seattle) said, “We all want to keep Seattle a welcoming, affordable city for families and people of all incomes, now and into the future. I’m excited to be one step closer on this key strategy which will create thousands of rent and income-restricted homes as we grow. Over the coming months, I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues and the community as we implement MHA citywide.”

The Council has already unanimously implemented affordable housing requirements on new development in six neighborhoods (University District, Downtown, South Lake Union, Chinatown-International District, along 23rd Ave in the Central Area, and Uptown). By extending MHA to Seattle’s other urban villages, as well as all other existing multifamily residential and commercial zones, new development will generate the rent- and income-restricted homes to meet the City’s 10-year goal.

“Today we are seeing an unprecedented need for affordable housing in Seattle — and the need is growing,” said Susan Boyd of Bellwether Housing. “For over a decade, affordable housing and social justice advocates have called for an inclusionary housing program as part of the solution. We are pleased that today our city is one step closer to implementation of this proven, effective housing strategy.”

Seattle continues to experience some of the fastest housing cost increases in the nation, with the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment rising 35 percent in the last five years. Today 45,000 Seattle households spend more than half of their income on housing. Under MHA, the cost of a rent-restricted two-bedroom apartment for a family of four earning $57,600 would be $1,296. For an individual making less than $40,320, a one-bedroom would cost $1,008.

The City is proposing zoning changes necessary to implement MHA in all urban villages and multifamily and commercial zones. The affordable housing requirements take effect when the Seattle City Council adopts new zoning that adds development capacity. By enacting affordable housing requirements and development capacity increases at the same time, MHA is consistent with a state-approved approach used in other Washington cities.

The City’s proposal directs future housing growth based on racial and social equity principles consistent with the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan:

· Increase housing choices throughout Seattle, with more housing in areas with low risk of displacement and high access to opportunity (transit, parks, jobs, and other critical resources).

· In areas with high risk of displacement of low-income people and communities of color, focus increased housing choices and jobs within a 5-minute walk of frequent transit.

· Expand 10 urban villages to provide more housing options within a 10-minute walk of frequent transit.

· Minimize growth in environmentally sensitive areas and propose less intensive changes within 500 feet of major freeways.

· Make no zoning changes in federally designated historic districts and critical shorelines.

Maps of the proposed zoning changes are available at www.seattle.gov/hala. No zoning changes are proposed for single family zones outside Seattle’s urban villages and urban village expansion areas.

Since 2015, Seattle’s Office of Housing, Department of Neighborhoods and Office of Planning and Community Development and have worked with community members on the implementation of MHA citywide. A community input summary catalogs the feedback the City has received through nearly 200 community meetings, 20 open houses, telephone townhalls, door belling, and online engagement.

In 2018, the City Council will continue to engage communities as it considers MHA implementation citywide. The Council intends to hold a slate of open houses and hearings across the city through August 2018 so that more community voices can continue to shape the proposal. The forthcoming City Council public process schedule for Citywide MHA is at http://www.seattle.gov/hala/calendar.

Requirements on Development

With MHA, new buildings must include affordable housing (performance option) or contribute to the Seattle Office of Housing fund to support the development of affordable housing (payment option). MHA requirements vary based on housing costs in each area of the city and the scale of the zoning change, with higher MHA requirements in areas with higher housing costs and larger zoning changes. With the performance option, between 5 percent and 11 percent of homes in new multifamily residential buildings are reserved for low-income households. With the payment option, development will contribute between $5.00 and $32.75 per square foot.

The City’s MHA proposal builds on the significant public investments made in the last four years that support livable urban community, as outlined in the recent Growth and Livability report. Additional principles to support livability in the MHA proposal include:

· Allowing more people to live near parks, schools, and transit.

· Incorporating new design standards for buildings to reduce impacts on neighborhood character.

· Improving Green Factor and tree requirements for new development to support the City’s longstanding environmental goals.

MHA is part of Seattle’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda that strives to create 50,000 homes by 2025, including 20,000 affordable homes. The development of both affordable housing and market-rate housing is an important strategy for slowing housing cost increases and providing a wider range of housing choices.

More to come.

35 Replies to "HALA UPZONING: See how/whether your neighborhood would change in the 'preferred alternative' for Mandatory Housing Affordability"

  • Jort November 9, 2017 (2:53 pm)

    Well, it looks like they didn’t use the Alternative F proposal: build a humongous glass dome to completely cover Seattle so that nobody else can get inside and then we don’t have to worry about growth anymore.

    This will be disappointing to some folks!

    • mark47n November 10, 2017 (4:58 am)

      The issue, in my mind, isn’t just growth, though there seems to be little planning to accompany it, is that Seattle never did any planning for it. Ever. Seattle and KC to a lesser degree, have not added the necessary infrastructure to handle all of the additional bodies that Seattle want to pack into its wee landlocked borders. Roads, water, sewer, transit, the list goes on.

      Most cities, when projecting growth in  a DECADE!!! or two make plans for it, build better mass transit, consider options for schools because, you know, children, police, EMS, roads, et al. Seattle has done none of that. Oh yes, there has been talking, commissions to appoint commissions to create blue ribbon panels to hire engineers to study the problems and make some recommendations that will have to be studied by other commissions, panels and committees before being soundly rejected because of the homeless, RV driving folks who need entirely different sets of parking laws because, well, we don’t want to hurt feelings or cause inconvenience. Also, to disturb the native shanty towns and favelas (let’s just call them what they are) would disrupt the local garbage handling infrastructure, which is privately owned and, you know, profits.

      Growth, is inevitable. We, as a species, will outstrip our range, as we continue to foul our nest. We impose no growth restrictions or population controls that other species do and, in my life, have nearly doubled the world population in my lifetime. 

      Fortunately, the earth will kill us off, in spite of the blue ribbon panel making committee formed to study how not to get wiped out by starvation, poisoning, war and the sun going super nova.

      Good day!

      • artsea November 10, 2017 (7:45 am)

        Mark…..I loved your essay.  It all sounds true to me.

      • AMD November 10, 2017 (10:03 am)

        Every time Seattle has tried to get infrastructure in ahead of growth, residents have shot down the plans saying there weren’t enough people here to justify spending money.

        We are where we are because of people putting up roadblocks and making growth happen as painfully as possible, not because the city wasn’t trying to do better.

        • mark47n November 10, 2017 (9:04 pm)

          That’s a load of bollocks. The problem that we have here is that the duly elected officials don’t just do their job. Everything has to get voted on and I mean that in the most negative sense possible! We elect these member of the city council to do as they think best and to look after our respective interests but nothing happens. Washington is bad enough but KC and Seattle are shocking when it comes to analysis paralysis. 

          So, in a sense you are right; the citizens of Seattle are partially responsible, but the pollyanna culture that abounds here stands behind all of it, but that doesn’t excuse the lack of political will that I’d expect of the people that I vote for. I expect someone who represents my interests to fight tooth and nail, not pool noodle to nerf gun.

  • TJ November 9, 2017 (3:44 pm)

    Yep, destroy neighborhood character by selling out to developers. And before someone says that the vast majority of single family blocks are protected, you can bet the goal is to continually erode those. HALA initially said that all single family neighborhoods are a bad thing. The city trying to mandate “affordable” housing in new develoment is comical. How about letting capitalism figure this out by letting the region absorb the supposed transplants coming at the rate we see now, and the city not selling out eatablished residents to attract them here. Supply and demand will work itself out and we will get cheap housing as our socialist politicians are driving away jobs (Boeing already has, Amazon is starting to leave). I actually look forward to it.

    • Jort November 9, 2017 (4:14 pm)

      Hey TJ, 

      If we’re going to let capitalism decide growth and density, as you seem to suggest, then I hope you realize that will also mean that those pesky, socialist zoning laws will be disappearing, entirely, too.

      How about a sewage treatment plant or a 50 story tower next to your house, TJ? Are you totally sure you want capitalism, alone, to address our growth? That seems pretty extreme, but what do I know?

      • wetone November 10, 2017 (9:13 am)

        Hey Jort,  just curious have you ever owned a home/condo or piece of property anywhere, maybe a motor vehicle, boat, water toy, airplane, go hiking or fishing ? you know something to expand ones life.   It might help me understand your comments a little more ;)

        • CAM November 10, 2017 (1:38 pm)

          The idea that owning things somehow leads to a more full or fulfilling life is kind of concerning. The things I find most fulfilling in my life have nothing to do with actual physical possessions. 

          • KM November 10, 2017 (3:40 pm)

            100%. There are other ways to access the many of tools that enable us to lead fuller, meaningful lives.

  • Carole November 9, 2017 (4:57 pm)

    Gee, I don’t see much in the way of increasing density around Magnolia. Wedgwood, Broadmoor, etc.  Must be nice to be special.

    • AMD November 9, 2017 (6:09 pm)

      So?  There’s not much increasing in Gatewood, Seaview, or most of West Seattle, either.  In theory, if you live near an urban village, it’s because you like to be near stuff, not on a giant lot all by yourself.  I don’t understand the people living close to so many amenities complaining that other people also want to live close to amenities.

      I, for one, am a little disappointed that our street isn’t zoned for multi-family in the preferred plan, but I’ll settle for smaller lots for now.  I love my neighbors.  They’re what make my street awesome.  I can’t imagine how having more neighbors would make my street less awesome.

      • Erithan November 9, 2017 (7:13 pm)

        Just a note, some of us live in busy areas(that weren’t before), but not out of choice, I would personally do almost anything  get away from the chaos of the “urban village” scene. Convenience is nice, but I would prefer quiet and my sanity that’s slowly being eroded away.

        Trust me when streets get so busy your apartment is constantly vibrating from bass idiots going by, loud drinks at all hours and exhaust(among other things) you may not like the convenience as much. =/

      • KM November 9, 2017 (8:14 pm)

        I’d also love to have my neighborhood/ block/property upzoned. Happy to trade anyone nearby an urban village for my SF-zoned home for their higher-valued house near the upzoned areas! No parking required.

    • Kadoo November 9, 2017 (7:36 pm)

      Magnolia’s lawyers won’t let anything happen to their precious neighborhood. 

  • Dave November 9, 2017 (7:54 pm)

    I agree that the wealthy parts of the city are not equally sharing with this horrible density, they have lawyers ready to fight it

    in west Seattle love to see some increase density in the heart of north admiral, once again your wealth determines  if your single family neighborhood gets impacted the same as us middle class

    Decades from now the poor construction will look awful and our grandchildren will wonder what the hell we were thinking with density that resembles a rat’s maze.  

  • TJ November 9, 2017 (10:09 pm)

    Hey Jort,
    I’m not sure what you know, but my guess is your socialist anti-car mentality you rant about applies to housing and density as well. My guess is you have the UN Agenda 21 manual on your desk. The city is passing on taxes to longtime residents for things they are letting developers get away without contributing to (infrastructure, roads, parking). I can promise that things will not get better with ten thousand new people here. We are over a decade away from 1800’s technology rail getting here (which will more than likely be obsolete then with a autonomous car grid on line) and it will not make traffic any better than it is now. Take a look at the cities ahead of us on worst traffic rankings; they all have rail (San Francisco??).

    • Steven Lorenza November 10, 2017 (7:00 am)

      Adding transit doesn’t make traffic disappear.  Never has, never will. The idea that everyone else will get on a train and now you can drive everywhere easily is pretty silly.  Transit provides an alternative and allows for more growth.  If west Seattle wanted to be left alone, we shouldn’t have lobbied to be part of ST3.  For the ” what abouts” talking about magnolia, they have next to no transit and that will continue.

  • Matt November 10, 2017 (5:43 am)

    Detached single house zoning is a third rail that policy makers are loath to touch.  Witness the vitriol surrounding the Junction’s expansion, and it’s easy to see why the city doesn’t jump on what it should be doing: change SF zoning to allow more dwellings per lot by 1) reducing barriers to backyard cottages 2) re-allowing duplexes and yes, triplexes if they fit within the size allowed today by land use code for a new house. 

    We have a housing shortage, a climate crisis, and an increasingly inequitable city.  Allowing more dwelling options, all sizes and price points, throughout the 2/3rds of the city untouched by this rezone, is a great strategy to combat all three. 

  • artsea November 10, 2017 (7:55 am)

    I urge many of you to visit Chicago and see what awaits us in Seattle as the city keeps creating more housing options in ever encroaching urban village neighborhoods.  Visit Chicago’s residential neighborhoods and see what happens when no (or minimal) off-street parking is required when large apartment buildings are allowed to replace modest retail buildings.  It’s coming to a Seattle neighborhood near you.

    • CAM November 10, 2017 (1:22 pm)

      Been there, lived there, loved it. The ease and convenience of living in a dense city with great public transportation driven by people willing to pay for and use it is obviously not for everyone. But don’t assume that the 3 million people who live there aren’t choosing to do so because of what that kind of environment has to offer. 

      • CAM November 10, 2017 (1:31 pm)

        I was trying to edit to add but took too long. Those buildings in Chicago with no parking that you reference were all built a really long time ago before the time when everyone had a car. Keep in mind that cities like NY and Chicago were developed a lot earlier than Seattle and dealt with their growth in completely different eras. I’d argue that once Seattle gets through this rough patch of everyone being anti-growth for one reason or another the people who live here will be quite pleased with the result of all of these policies they are railing against. 

  • JRR November 10, 2017 (7:56 am)

    I’m pretty happy this updated map seems to be more intentional with the changes in Westwood Highland Park. I for one noted in my feedback that we have pockets of classic workforce housing/Boeing boxes in what is now included as RSL. It now seems more responsive to where development is currently organically happening and prioritizes the transit corridors for the higher density stuff.  

  • admiral owner November 10, 2017 (8:40 am)

    For those complaining about “rich” areas of the city avoiding impacts- the preferred alternative tilts the bulk of the changes toward wealthier areas that have less risk of displacement, per the mayor’s statement. Wallingford sees more changes than Rainier Beach, for example. 

    For people complaining about Magnolia specifically, the city just put out an RFP a few months ago to study the impact of converting Fort Lawton into low income housing. http://www.seattle.gov/housing/ft-lawton

    • Matt November 10, 2017 (9:18 am)

      It’s been 12 years since the City set about redeveloping Fort Lawton, and we’re no closer to a real plan today.  Wealthy homeowners absolutely have had an impact stalling this effort.  Sadly, look for this to drag on for another decade while the demand for Affordable housing continues to climb. 

    • admiral owner November 10, 2017 (9:40 am)

      Just to add more context- the preferred alternative classifies each urban village according to displacement risk and access to opportunity. Areas with low displacement risk and high access to opportunity were given the largest upzones. This includes Admiral and WS Junction urban villages along with places like Ballard and Greenlake. Areas with high risk of displacement and low access to opportunity, like South Park, were given small upzones. Morgan Junction was classified as low displacement risk, low access to opportunity so was given an intermediate upzone.

  • Steven Lorenza November 10, 2017 (8:56 am)

    So it all comes down to “other people parking on street makes it hard for me to park on street.”? Do you know how self centered that is?  You can’t force other people to park anywhere, but if it’s such an issue for you you can park your own cars off street.

  • Rick November 10, 2017 (8:57 am)

    Not complaints so much as just plain ‘ole facts.

  • TJ November 10, 2017 (9:16 am)

    Not sure what climate change has to do with housing supply here? Demand has been driven by job growth, which the gears are now in motion for many to go away with our crazy local politicians driving off large employers 

  • JVP November 10, 2017 (9:55 am)

    This looks pretty reasonable, and the map makes it easy to understand.  I do wish they’d do a whole bunch more of the RSL – Residential Small Lot in areas that are currently single family but close to The Junction, Cali Ave, Delridge, Admiral, etc.

    I’m also a fan of allowing more single family homes to be rented as duplexes (rent out your basement), ADU’s and that kind of thing, but I’m unclear what they’re proposing on this front. This stuff adds affordable rentals, helps us pay our bloody high property taxes by renting out the basement, and keep the city looking interesting and not all same-same architecture.

  • CMT November 10, 2017 (10:47 am)

    Really – there is not much new to say at this point. 

    Those of us that realize that the City utterly failed to do any meaningful planning or analysis with respect to these hugely impactful proposed changes, failed to coordinate with Sound Transit to plan for growth and density in our neighborhood, failed to in any way listen to the vast majority of neighborhood feedback with respect to a desire to plan for density, and that further understand that this plan will not provide affordable housing in West Seattle, will result in less diversity in our neighborhood, will result in displacement and further marginalization of low income individuals to outside of areas with transit and amenities are not going to be happy with this “new” version of the same plan.

    Those that do not understand or care about the above and have taken at face value the City’s justification for the rezones will view them as a positive.  If these people actually care about diversity and ensuring affordable housing in the West Seattle Junction, they are going to be very disillusioned in a few years . . . if they still live (or ever lived) in West Seattle.

    Those that have a financial interest in these rezones passing because they make money from building the types of structures that  the rezones will allow will be happy, although naturally they would be happier with more upzones.  

    • KM November 10, 2017 (3:44 pm)

      CMT, I know we disagree 90-100%(?) on this topic, but I wanted to say that I appreciate the thought you put into your comments.

      • CMT November 10, 2017 (6:32 pm)

        I really appreciate that KM. And I’ll bet we agree on far more than we disagree. For example, like me, you probably want the following things:

        – A well thought out plan for accommodating increased
        density in West Seattle;

        – Policies to ensure that affordable housing in West Seattle is maximized;

        – Policies that encourage increased diversity in West Seattle;

        – Continued work toward creating a vibrant, walkable neighborhood;

        – Increased development of transportation options and
        related amenities that would encourage people to choose to drive less often; and

        An atmosphere in West Seattle that fosters a sense of community where existing residents do not feel pushed out and new
        residents feel welcome and included.

        I would like to see our West Seattle community come together and build on the areas of agreement.

  • flimflam November 10, 2017 (2:26 pm)

    “affordable housing” seems like a pretty nebulous term to me – what is the exact price of affordable house, or a price range? this term is wielded as a reason for all sorts of problems, projects to offset the problems, etc. and i would like to hear someone say what, exactly, is the definition we are working with re: “affordable”?

    • WSB November 10, 2017 (2:30 pm)

      For someone earning up to 60 to 80 percent of the average mean income, depending on what type of housing. I’ll find where it is in the documentation; that’s how it was described from the podium yesterday.

Sorry, comment time is over.