HALA UPZONING: See the 10 changes suggested for West Seattle’s part of the plan

ORIGINAL REPORT, 11:58 PM TUESDAY: More than tbree years have passed since then-Mayor Ed Murray proposed the upzoning plan eventually named HALA Mandatory Housing Affordability,to affect commercial and multifamily property citywide, as well as other property in the city’s “urban villages.” Now it’s moving toward a final vote, expected in mid-March. First, councilmembers will consider potential amendments to the plan. Wednesday morning at 9:30 am, they will look at 10 amendments proposed for West Seattle, as well as 1 for South Park, plus dozens in three other City Council districts. From the agenda documents, here are short descriptions of the 10 amendments proposed to modify what HALA MHA upzoning would otherwise do in West Seattle:


Intersection of SW Carroll St and Beach Dr SW
Do not rezone the Residential – Commercial node at the intersection of SW Carroll St and Beach Dr SW.

That’s the area by Weather Watch Park, best known businesswise for La Rustica.

1-2 through 1-6

Single-family zones within the West Seattle Junction Residential Urban Village: Modify all proposed rezones from Single-family within the West Seattle Junction Urban Village to Residential Small Lot.

Otherwise, the single-family-zoned areas there are slated for upzoning to Lowrise 1.


West Seattle Junction Residential Urban Village: Triangle Area
Increase proposed maximum heights of Neighborhood Commercial zones within the Junction triangle area from 75′ to 95′.

The Triangle area went through its own planning process early this decade.


Area west of Fauntleroy, south of SW Graham Street
Reduce the proposed zone designation in the Morgan Junction Urban Village south of SW Graham Street and northwest of Fauntleroy Way SW to a less intense Lowrise multifamily zone designation.

That would be LR2 instead of LR3.


Area bounded by SW Barton, Barton Pl SW and 21st Ave SW
Reduce the proposed zone designation within the Westwood-Highland Park Urban Village in the area generally between SW Barton Pl and Delridge Way SW from Lowrise multifamily to Residential Small Lot.

Here’s an explainer of RSL and other zoning designations.


26th Ave SW between SW Barton & SW Roxbury ST
Reduce the proposed zone designation within the WestwoodHighland Park Urban Village along 26th Av S from Lowrise multifamily to Residential Small Lot.

(Close-up maps for each proposed amendment are toward the start of this document from the meeting packet.) The council will discuss these, and the amendments proposed for three other council districts, at Wednesday morning’s meeting (9:30 am, City Hall, live coverage as usual via Seattle Channel) with more discussion planned February 8th. An evening public hearing is planned February 21st, and then the council is scheduled to vote on amendments February 25th.

ADDED WEDNESDAY AFTERNOON: The video of today’s council committee meeting is now available online.

43 Replies to "HALA UPZONING: See the 10 changes suggested for West Seattle's part of the plan"

  • WS Guy January 16, 2019 (12:13 am)

    Sensible changes.

  • Mike January 16, 2019 (5:52 am)

    Are we bumping up our light rail from 2030/35 to 2020?  Do we get a new sewage treatment plant this year?  Is City Light beefing up the grid and replacing all substations this year?  I don’t understand how we’ll handle the impact of more density, doesn’t seem sensible without infrastructure supporting it.

    • JVP January 16, 2019 (10:48 am)

      You plan for the future, not for today.

      • HappyCamper January 16, 2019 (12:17 pm)

        I couldn’t agree more. The reason this conversation is happening right now is that people didn’t plan for the future and here we are now in the future. I personally am 100% certain that in 20,30,50 years the up zones and changes will be judged as a good decision overall. It will probably be criticized for not going far enough when they have to upzone again for growth decades from now.

  • LoveWS January 16, 2019 (6:01 am)

    It’s important to remember that the majority of these amendments are ones brought by neighborhood groups in the past. There is a process to go through before the actual vote, council members are required to present amendments. RSL would not bring affordable housing so I wouldn’t get excited at least with them making any changes around the Alaska junction. Although I do agree it makes more sense, but there’s also a chance there would be more development with RSL and there is still no requirement for parking, nor do developers need to pay into an MHA fund. 

    • TR/WSB January 16, 2019 (6:18 am)

      Yes, we’ve noted that Councilmember Herbold for example met with community group members regarding potential amendments. There was a detailed discussion at JuNO last Thursday which I have not had time to write up due to Viadoom overwhelm since Friday. (And it’s on Morgan’s agenda tonight – see our calendar.) Just wanted to get this, brief as it is, out as the meeting is this morning – the agenda wasn’t even online as of late last night (I got it via the automated committee-agenda mailing list). – TR

  • LoveWS January 16, 2019 (6:25 am)

    You guys are always on top of things :) thanks for all that you do!

  • WSRedux January 16, 2019 (6:53 am)

    I’m having trouble opening the City documents describing the potential upzones. What otherwise would be allowed with the upzone of the small, anomalous residential/commercial node at SW Carroll St & Beach Dr. SW?

  • Also John January 16, 2019 (7:19 am)

    Much better direction……

  • KM January 16, 2019 (7:59 am)

    What’s the best way to get in our feedback on these proposed changes, besides the public meeting?

  • CMT January 16, 2019 (9:54 am)

    I’m so pleased for the residents of WS Junction that Councilmember Herbold is seeking solutions that minimize displacement in the community, allow for additional density that will not overburden already taxed infrastructure and resources and encourage residents to build affordable housing themselves.

  • pdid January 16, 2019 (10:14 am)

    The current version of HALA upzoning was already pretty watered down IMO. I don’t see the need to dilute it further.

    • LoveWS January 16, 2019 (10:27 am)

      I agree. Hasn’t happened yet :)

    • HS January 16, 2019 (11:49 am)


  • LoveWS January 16, 2019 (10:25 am)

    CMT – Some residents. Not all are on the side of SCALE, most are actually for the original plan, which is most likely how it will remain. RSL will not create affordable housing    Again, council members are required to bring ALL amendments, I don’t think it should be looked at as your council member coming to their senses. It’s part of the process.

    • KM January 16, 2019 (11:09 am)

      Not all are on the side of SCALE”  100% correct.

    • CMT January 16, 2019 (11:23 am)

      “RSL will not create affordable housing.”  I’m not sure of the basis for your statement but the City itself conducted an analysis of the likely reduction in affordable units if all of the all of the MHA proposed SF upzones citywide were to the RSL designation  rather than LR1 or LR2.  It was an exhibit in the EIS appeal.  For the WS Junction, the loss would likely be negligible.   Also an exhibit in the EIS appeal was an analysis of all of the written feedback provided to the City from individuals identifiable as WS Junction residents in response to the City’s MHA outreach.  Support for the proposal was far outweighed by requests for a less harmful alternative.  I certainly hope that RSL is the decision for the sake of the WSJ residents that will live with the consequences of the legislation.  (And I understand that you have a different hope).

  • AMD January 16, 2019 (11:21 am)

    Bummed it got diluted so much.  Glad at least SOMETHING is moving forward.  Hopefully this won’t be the last round of upzoning in the near future.  

  • Peter January 16, 2019 (12:01 pm)

    HALA was literally the least we could do to address our critical housing shortage, and now they want to water down even that tiny improvement to our insane zoning laws? I do like amendment 1-7, but increasing building height in one tiny area will never meet our housing needs.

  • LoveWS January 16, 2019 (12:12 pm)

    Ok CMT :) ,    AMD – Nothing got diluted yet. 

    • KM January 16, 2019 (1:35 pm)

      I read AMD’s statement to imply that HALA was diluted from the initial process, where much more of the city’s total area was considered for upzoning–maybe they meant that?

  • Matt January 16, 2019 (1:16 pm)

    The basis that RSL will not create affordable housing is simple.A 5,000 sf. lot would yield only two homes (1 unit max per 2,000 sf.  area).Cost basis of said lot sold to developer will still be $500,000 min regardless of how run down existing structure is. Likely much more in most cases.  Assuming ~$250,000 cost per developable lot and ~$350,000 cost to build each 1,875 sf. home (hard costs, site development, permits, arch/engineering,  financing,  etc.),  I don’t see how affordability is achievable  under RSL.  After adding a developer profit to above costs (no one wants to work for free) the price point would need to hit $750,000 minimum  to make it worth a developer to pursue.  Assumes market transaction in current environment, no HALA related costs.   Be weary if you  assume it will  solve for affordability. RSL is much less dense vs.  LR zoning, and if the conern is the ability of someone to construct  8  875 sf.  townhomes on the same  5,000 sf. lot, easiest  fix would be to just require a minimum unit size (say 1,150 sf. or so )under the existing LR zoning program which would  limit unit count to 6 vs. 8. 6 count  would be 3x the unit count allowed under RSL. Smaller units, smaller sales price needed to “pencil”.  Density drives affordability. 

    • HappyCamper January 16, 2019 (3:21 pm)

      Ding ding ding! Well said Matt. It’s actually very simple math. RSL essentially equates to more of the same in terms of affordability. This needs to happen now so that the timing of density and transit dovetail. The whole peninsula isn’t going to get bulldozed overnight. But people don’t build things that don’t pencil out.

  • LoveWS January 16, 2019 (1:33 pm)

    Matt – Thank you for that, I’m not sure why neighborhood groups don’t understand that. I actually believe they do, they just don’t want it happening on their block. 

  • AmandaK January 16, 2019 (2:47 pm)

    The type of planning being done is not to address short term housing affordability, but long term neighborhood livability.    If you want to address affordability, you need to address the market price of units that are being built and with  a 10% vacancy rate, that’s not really a housing shortage. https://www.macon.com/news/business/article223994425.html

    • CAM January 16, 2019 (3:22 pm)

      A previous article from the Seattle Times indicated that when a neighborhood by neighborhood analysis was done those increased vacancy rates and decreases in rents based on vouchers or gifts were specific to particular neighborhoods. The other neighborhoods continued to experience rent increases and had a very low vacancy rate. 

      • AmandaK January 16, 2019 (6:45 pm)

        Tell me more about those particular neighborhoods.  Which ones have higher vacancy rates?

        • CAM January 16, 2019 (9:46 pm)

          Sorry. I was on the bus earlier and unable to link. The article is a bit old (July) but I can’t find anything more recent right now where they break things down by location, which makes a big difference. There is a helpful graphic in the middle of this article showing the difference in vacancy rates between different areas: https://www.seattletimes.com/business/real-estate/free-amazon-echo-2-months-free-rent-2500-gift-cards-seattle-apartment-glut-gives-renters-freebies/“But the regional averages mask the extremes in neighborhoods getting the most apartments: A stunning 26 percent of all apartments in the core of downtown Seattle right now are empty, up from just 5 percent a year prior (the number is skewed by brand-new buildings that take a while to lease up, though vacancy rates at older buildings downtown are also rising).”

  • natinstl January 16, 2019 (4:09 pm)

    I work in HR, some of our West Seattle employees have told me that their landlords are reaching out months before their lease renewal and offering reduced rent if they renew early. I think the recent boom of apartments has glutted the market a bit. It’s great for them. 

  • Robert Dlugosh January 16, 2019 (5:57 pm)

    I hope the amendment that changes all single family up zoning in the Junction urban village  to residential small lot does not pass. Only a few logical neighborhoods were selected for up zoning to L1 and L2, which  allows for significant additional density. The RSL zone is a very incremental step up from single family zoning which will add very little density. Fierce protection of all single family neighborhoods in Seattle is not fair to the thousand of new residents who will never afford a home in these areas. A small amount of additional multi-family zoning is the least we can do for them.  For those who are fearful of the changes in their neighborhood keep in mind redevelopment proceeds at a slow pace, even in Seattle. For example the single family neighborhood south of the steel mill has been zoned L1 for many years and still only has maybe one third of the lots converted to townhouses. Also keep in mind that when you are ready to sell your L1 lot that can have 4 townhouses on it you might receive quite a windfall for your retirement years.

    • Bradley January 17, 2019 (12:39 am)

      Some of us have been West Seattle home owners for 30+ years and don’t want new residents deciding what the neighborhoods we worked so hard developing for a generation or two ate going to look like. Seattle is desirable BECAUSE we have so many healthy-family neighborhoods and we’re not shy about protecting them from the type of density that destroys quality of life. If you want to live in a sardine can or beehive, there are already established urban-density zones where you can pretend you’re in Manhattan or San Francisco.

      • CAM January 17, 2019 (6:30 am)

        Newcomer or not, everyone’s voice on this matters the same amount. I don’t recall anyone saying that the opinions of long term residents aren’t important. I suspect as well that if you asked people coming to Seattle now that few of them would identify the current neighborhood makeup to be a contributing factor. Personally, I moved to Seattle despite the lack of infrastructure that I was looking for in my new home because Seattle was attractive to me for other reasons. People move for many reasons, work, political climate, climate preference, etc. Neighborhood structure is only one factor that people may consider and when people are moving large distances I doubt it’s the driving force behind the move to a particular urban area. 

        • Bradley January 17, 2019 (2:21 pm)

          Suburban Seattle residents have done a great job protecting their neighborhoods from the character and quality of life-destroying high-density developments for decades. This is despite intense pressure from urban planners who loathe single-family neighborhoods. It’s a fight worth continuing as the result of not protecting our neighborhoods would be what most people flee urban areas for.

          • CAM January 17, 2019 (4:09 pm)

            Right…but West Seattle isn’t a suburb. And lots of people flock to urban environments for the fact that they aren’t suburban at all. So it’s probably an even split of those who leave vs. those who come. 

  • ams January 17, 2019 (6:50 am)

    HALA/MHA is not happening in a vacuum.  I’d like to point out the level 3 alternatives being evaluated for ST3, (orange) West Seattle Elevated & (blue) West Seattle Tunnel, all would require construction through currently zoned Single Family Residential portions of the WSJ.  This is for the track, station and tail end of track to be constructed.  A possible consideration is cost of land acquisition for this project and community plan update once alignment is determined.  By upzoning Single Family to RSL within the West Seattle Junction at this point allows ST3 planning process to play out and OPCD to conduct a corresponding community plan update once the light rail alignment and station locations have been determined.  It would make sense to me that changes in zoning would acknowledge light rail and be planned around alignment and stations.   

  • Plf January 17, 2019 (5:49 pm)

    I agree with Bradley, also appears that the increase in density is not equally applied to all areas/communities within Seattle, very affluent areas seem to consistently dodge the bullit, why is that?also I know this is unpopular but where is the law/policy that we are obligated that everyone who wants to live in an area we have to create housing and policies to supplement that desire,  I would like to live in Medina but I can’t afford it, however I have no expectations that the city should create housing I can afford, I need and have gone to an area and a dwelling that I can afford

    • WSB January 17, 2019 (6:30 pm)

      Sounds then like you would agree that there shouldn’t be jobs paying less than it costs to live in an area – why should anyone have to work in an area for money that won’t cover living expenses? That would solve the problem right there. So everyone working in Seattle should be paid what it costs to live here? Or, all service businesses should move to somewhere that their workers could afford to live – no more restaurants, stores, etc. in a city like Seattle, those who can afford to live here should have to go shop and dine in the communities where the businesses exist because their workers can afford residences?

    • HappyCamper January 18, 2019 (7:14 am)

      I agree with WSB. There has to be some sort of equilibrium. There are all kinds of consequences otherwise. Places that have terribly disproportionate distribution of wealth and opportunity (to all things not just money) have horrendous crime, corruption, etc. that sucks for poor and rich people.I’ll never be able to afford Medina either. That’s not the point though. If more housing is built in the city more people can live near amenities and work improving their opportunity and quality of life. Also, they won’t be living in 4000 SqFt view homes but rather modest town homes or apts.America is great. But we’re a young country with a ton of land. We could probably learn a thing or two from other places that had to tackle problems like this long ago.

  • matt hutchins January 18, 2019 (1:43 am)

    I counted up the SF lots in the Junction being upzoned (431 parcels) and did a calculation of the max development potential under what’s currently proposed, and again if you were to step the 386 parcels zoned for LR1 or 2 and stepped them all down to RSL. The result is about 64% of the potential new homes in those areas are wiped out and 63% of the MHA fees for new rent restricted affordable housing disappears too.  The maximum potential cost is thousands of households (about 2300 less units) and tens of millions of affordable housing construction dollars ($45m). Granted no where near 100% of the parcels will be redeveloped but the rate of lost potential wouldn’t change much.  As much as I like RSL as a zone in principle it doesn’t allow enough households per lot to address our housing or climate crises, relative to Lowrise zoning.  If other people see RSL as an acceptable increment of infill urban growth, we should be expanding the areas for it around the outside the urban villages, not using it to undercut our affordable housing needs.  

    • LoveWS January 18, 2019 (5:53 am)

      Thank you Matt, I totally agree. I do believe the ‘neighborhood’ groups, i.e., SCALE is using it to undercut, but they love to say they do want more housing (not near them of course). The amendments brought forth to the council meeting are simply ridiculous.

    • HappyCamper January 18, 2019 (7:21 am)

      Thank you so much for that. That really puts it in perspective. The anecdotes from opposition groups cannot combat the numbers.And people keep talking about existing capacity, etc. Waiting to build is not a solution. Population increases continue, bubble or not and so should capacity.Waiting to build is like having surgery and waiting too long to take pain meds. We’ll be constantly “chasing” the pain. It’s much better to stay one step ahead.

    • KM January 18, 2019 (7:46 am)

      I think they should replace SF zoning with RSL (in its most dense format) citywide—at a absolute minimum. I agree it shouldn’t be an alternative to LR zoning of any kind. However, I also wonder if those pushing for RSL amendments are hoping the few Queen Anne residents fighting the council on ADUs will win, so nothing changes much in their neighborhood, and they can say the made an effort to compromise.I understand the frustration that some neighborhood are untouched too—that’s why it’s a shame the entire city isn’t upzoning.

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