With days left to comment on what’s in the draft ‘One Seattle Plan,’ West Seattleites get a bonus briefing

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Almost two months have gone by since the city announced the draft of changes to the 20-year plan for Seattle’s future, officially known as its comprehensive plan, currently going by the name One Seattle Plan. (Here’s our first report on it, from March 9th.)

If you have something to say about the draft plan, you have four more days (go here). If you don’t know enough about it to comment, you’re invited to an online informational meeting at 6 pm tonight (here’s the connection information) – and you might be interested in what more than 70 people heard at a West Seattle briefing earlier this week. (Here’s the slide deck used, if you want to cut right to that.)

The briefing was arranged by City Councilmember Rob Saka‘s office after Chief of Staff Elaine Ikoma Ko – who spoke at the meeting – learned that the community groups in Admiral, Alki, and Fauntleroy felt under-informed about the plan, though there was a West Seattle open house a month ago (WSB coverage here). This meeting Monday night at Admiral Church wasn’t a public hearing and wasn’t meant to be a formal comment opportunity, either – just informational.

Nonetheless, some in attendance offered their thoughts, especially learning about the new state law that will be incorporated into the comprehensive plan, requiring many jurisdictions – including Seattle – to allow up to four dwelling units on any lot (six, if two of them are “affordable”). That seemed to be a surprise to many, though current zoning allows three units, with the changes a few years back to open the door for attached and detached accessory dwelling units (ADUs and DADUs) on every lot.

Michael Hubner, the city Office of Planning and Community Development manager who’s leading the plan-revision project, affirmed that its spotlight feature is “confronting our housing challenges,” with Seattle’s population potentially hitting a million people in the next 20 years, which would be a 25 percent increase from the current number. He was joined at the briefing by OPCD’s Brennon Staley.

Hubner also noted that while those in attendance might have not noticed, this is the third year of the comprehensive-plan revision process – a meeting was held in late 2022 at South Seattle College (WSB sponsor), for example. The end of the process is in sight – the final plan will be sent to the City Council for action by the end of the year.

What’s open for public review, Hubner explained, is a trio of documents – the draft plan itself, zoning changes for areas currently zoned “neighborhood residential” (called “single-family” until a council-approved change more than two years ago, and the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the plan.

Hubner reviewed the five types of places outlined in the draft plan – regional center, urban center, neighborhood center, urban neighborhood, manufacturing/industrial center. It’s a “more understandable hierarchy,” he said. Here’s the District 1 version of the map:

District 1 would have no “regional center.” Its current “urban villages” would become “urban centers,” and the West Seattle Junction’s boundary would expand eastward to Avalon (where a light-rail station is planned) – that expansion is one of the things on which the city is “actively seeking feedback.”

The “neighborhood centers” (noted in our first report in March) don’t have boundaries firmed up yet, but each would have a core and expand outward 800 feet – covering “one to three blocks” – from there, with “denser housing and a mix of uses.” Hubner said that in comments, they want to hear “are these the right locations? What do you think about the concept? Want to see more of these, less of these, or?”

As for “urban neighborhoods” – that covers most of the rest of the city. Along with the “four units allowable on every lot” – not required, but allowed – “corner stores” (small stores or restaurants) would be allowed too, and lots might be eligible for six housing units if two were guaranteed to be “affordable,” though the city reps said they doubted that would be common.

One attendee observed that would likely lead to mostly multi-story development, and “what does that do for people with limited mobility? It’s discriminatory.” Staley noted that “stacked flats” – which would mean one-level living even for those on upper floors – might be built too.

Then it was time for Q&A, which some turned into comments.

One person complained about what he saw as too much parking being built into residential developments. The city reps noted that indeed, the city currently has some parking minimums but no maximums, and maybe that could eventually change.

Some zoning might allow more density in “frequent transit” areas, so one person wanted to know how that’s defined. “15 minutes (frequency) all day long and some weekend service.” And yes, bus service will be ‘restructured” when light rail opens the West Seattle extension (currently expected in late 2032).

West Seattle’s lack of a hospital, often brought up in planning discussions, was mentioned. The plan doesn’t really do anything to change that. Hubner said it was an “interesting question,” though.

What about the increased density putting a strain on infrastructure? Utilities have their own plans for what’s needed in the decades ahead, was the reply, but they’re meeting with those entities too.

What about areas that already have neighborhood plans – how did those factor into this? Hubner replied that essentially, they won’t – they’re mostly outdated anyway, in the city’s view. “In most cases, decades old.” But, he added, they do hope to do more “area” (neighborhood) planning “in the future.” (Asked later about what kind of weight is given to neighborhood groups’ comments on the plan, the reply was that it’s important for the comments to describe how many people had input and how it was collected.)

More density doesn’t necessarily lead to more affordable housing if it’s not required to be affordable, one person commented, observing that an old half-million-dollar house tends to be replaced with three million-dollar units. The city reps said their philosophy is that density will ease the housing crunch “by increasing supply and diversity of types of housing.” Staley said, “Nothing is affordable right now.” It was also noted that the Mandatory Housing Affordability program – requiring developers to either include affordable units or pay into a fund that the city uses to bankroll it elsewhere – is coming up for a review too.

One attendee asked if the city has a number about how many housing units D-1 has now and how many this might lead to. No number handy, they replied, but the Draft EIS analyzes option.

Other attendees voiced concerns about a shortage of green space, and the tree-cutting that increased density will lead to. “The Great Seattle Tree Cull” is how one described it. Staley said, “Definitely a tradeoff, more housing means less space for trees.” He reiterated that the state is requiring allowing four units per lot so the city has no choice, “but we welcome comments on how to (address the tree concerns).”

Since one rendering shown featured four-story buildings, an attendee worried about the future of views. Hubner said the four-story buildings would be the result of including affordable units and, again, they doubted developers would do that in most areas.

WHAT’S NEXT? As mentioned above, there’s an online meeting tonight, and next Monday – May 6 – is the deadline for comment in this stage of the process. (Here’s how and where to comment.) In October, Hubner said, a “detailed zoning proposal with maps” will be made available for comment, the final plan will go to the City Council by year’s end, and then the “zoning legislation” will follow early next year.

47 Replies to "With days left to comment on what's in the draft 'One Seattle Plan,' West Seattleites get a bonus briefing"

  • AK May 2, 2024 (1:30 pm)

    We don’t need or want more density in West Seattle. We are already crowded enough!!

    • Hannah May 2, 2024 (2:34 pm)

      I disagree wholeheartedly.  Denser populations make efficient use of public infrastructure (which makes it more affordable for all).  It means a more diverse local economy where lots of businesses can thrive and offer residents more choices.   AND most importantly to me, it increases housing affordability and promotes sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles.  Preserving the West Seattle of 50 years ago for the benefit of relatively few and at the expense of future generations and the community is just totally nonsensical, and selfish. 

      • Seattlite May 3, 2024 (1:09 pm)

        “Denser populations” bring a plethora of challenges in what is needed to meet a more dense population:  more schools, more medical/dental services, more housing, more grocery stores, more drug stores, more traffic, poor air quality, water supply challenges, electricity challenges, sewer system challenges,  higher taxes, and on and on.  The question to ask is:  How many people does a densely populated area want per square mile?  What is the magic number that will not infringe on citizens’ way of life economically, environmentally?

    • 47 May 2, 2024 (4:59 pm)

      Speak for yourself. None of this “we” business.

    • Arbor Heights Resident May 2, 2024 (7:02 pm)

      Don’t want more density here? Then I guess you must want housing shortages and the accompanying homelessness it brings. You live in the largest city in the state, if you don’t like density then I suggest you find some nice property out in the county somewhere.

      • Donna May 3, 2024 (5:02 am)

        I’m happy we’re looking at a variety of ways to increase housing availability. I especially ADUs and DADUs. I live in the Seaview neighborhood and walk my dogs all over the neighborhood. I’ve taken to sometimes walk in alleys just to look for them as that’s where they are most visible. There are a few visible along sidewalks. There’s one where clearly the developer was disingenuously taking advantage and tore down and replaced a small house with one large one with a large ADU and large ADU. While I guess that’s an example of other things that will soon be allowed it doesn’t fit in with the concept in my mind. But I’m thrilled to see all the garages that are now DADUs and the occasional new garages with a second story DADU. There are also a few that are ADUs attached to existing homes. I know some are used as short term rentals so that doesn’t do anything for increasing housing units, but most look like long term rentals. I’ve spoken with Rob Saka’s office about finding ways to incentivize keeping the rents at affordable housing levels. I also suggested grants to lower income homeowners to remodel their houses and add an ADU or DADU that again could be incentivized to rent at affordable rates and has the added benefit of an income stream to help people remain in their homes in such a high cost of living city. And I’m sure there are creative ways to make that rental income make it possible for first time buyers to be able to buy a house that would otherwise be unaffordable.

    • Derek May 4, 2024 (3:27 pm)

      You do not speak for me. We need density in a BIG way. 

  • HS May 2, 2024 (1:42 pm)

    Thank you for this WSB. Also appreciate the slide deck. I’m looking forward to the meeting this evening as I’m pretty sure that my property is located in an area with lots of future possibilities. I’ll be super curious to see the proposed zoning with maps to be released in October. 

  • C'mon people May 2, 2024 (1:43 pm)

    The people here just cannot get over the tree thing. If you let people build meaningfully denser development (i.e. building upwards) there will be more room on the ground for trees. It is very common zoning practice to allow increased density for preservation of open space on lots (have a developer buy up four single family houses, build 4-6 stories instead of 1-3, double the setback from the road and make that public space). I live in a single family neighborhood and nobody on my side of the street on my block has big trees in their yard, because the houses take up most of the lot and nobody wants the tree falling on their house. Build up, not out and you get more trees. The guy from OPCD should absolutely know better than to call trees vs density a “trade-off.” Furthermore, if we lived denser, land would be cheaper, and we NEED more parks and greenways, which we’re not getting with current land prices.

    • flimflam May 2, 2024 (2:29 pm)

      Losing trees is a real concern and shouldn’t be just dismissed.

      • This is my job May 2, 2024 (4:35 pm)

        You’re proving my point about how much people don’t get the tree issue by not getting the tree issue. If everyone has a single family home, city’s are built out horizontally; more land is built outwards to accommodate the houses and that cuts into previously undeveloped areas, uses up more surface area; over time you’re going to get less trees. If instead of everyone living in a single-family home, 40% live in buildings that are four stories or taller, your city will build upward in more places. The more you build upwards, the less space needed on the ground for development. Imagine, instead of putting four homes on four 1/4 acre lots, you put one four story apartment building on a 1/4 acre lot and preserve the other 3/4 acre as open space. You’ll get more trees. Do developers building large apartment buildings cut down trees and build out the lot as much as they can? Yes. However,  if the zoning is more accommodating of these developments (which it isn’t right now), they will get cheaper to build, there will be less demand for land because we’ll be building vertically, not horizontally. Land for parks, TREES, community space, will be cheaper and more plentiful. Nobody wants to cut down trees, but you have to look at the big picture. Single family housing takes up more space for fewer people. 

        • flimflam May 2, 2024 (8:02 pm)

          You can explain it in any way you want but any trees lost for any reason is not good in my opinion.

          • Tuck May 3, 2024 (7:27 am)

            The policy that preserves more trees by far is building greater density. 

          • Bob May 3, 2024 (8:58 am)

            This is incredible content. You were provided a completely logical breakdown of why the Tree Terror is, in fact, illogical and your response is ‘lol don’t care’. The hubris is breathtaking. 

          • AD May 3, 2024 (9:12 am)

            Where do you want people to live?  In a tent under the trees?  In an RV next to the trees?  In the trees themselves?  How do you feel about cars?  Should we stop adding lanes to existing roads or building new ones?  Should we eliminate parking requirements to prevent tree displacement?  Pull up parking lots to plant new trees?  Are you advocating that humans only settle in deserts, or plains, or places where no trees exist?  

        • zark00 May 3, 2024 (11:15 am)

          If this is an accurate assessment of the impact of density on tree cover, why are the most densely populated neighborhoods in Seattle the same neighborhoods with the lowest canopy cover and also the neighborhoods losing canopy at the fastest rate?I think you are presenting an ideal, that never in fact materializes in reality.  Developers do not, ever, opt to just not build on 3/4 of a lot if they aren’t forced to. There is zero incentive to do that. This is where the assessment just completely breaks down:”Imagine, instead of putting four homes on four 1/4 acre lots, you put one four story apartment building on a 1/4 acre lot and preserve the other 3/4 acre as open space.”Anyone can “imagine” that, but it’s simply not a reality that will ever actually happen.  Fact is, if you want to preserve as many trees as possible, single family lots, as affluent as possible, is the most effective by a massive margin – it’s not even remotely close.  Of course, that would be ridiculous to try to preserve that zoning in in Seattle, unles people really do want to see the city die.  We need denser housing period, it’s not even a debate. We really just need to get used to the idea that, outside of parks, the trees are going bye bye. 

          • This is my job May 3, 2024 (4:07 pm)

            The mostly densely populated neighborhoods were built out over 20-50 years ago in many cases, and the surface parking has been there just as long. Trees have been coming down for a long time due to poor land economics, and losing a few now on already developed lots is nothing compared to what came down for highways and single family subdivisions. Trees do not have to go bye-bye. I acknowledged developers build out full lots and that it’s unlikely for a developer to preserve 3/4 of an acre for the good of the public, but I’m saying if the developer can build 4 units on a 1/4 acre lot, there will be less demand for land because more housing will be accommodated on less of it. It will be cheaper to preserve the other 3/4 of the acre for open space or parks. But, it is genuinely crazy that Seattle is not providing density bonuses for things like preserving open space. It’s often included in conditional permits, but it’s not standardized in the zoning code. It’s a major city, we need to think big. There will be some single family homes, but there is more to cities than that. 

          • AD May 3, 2024 (6:10 pm)

            The tree canopy that is being lost downtown and near the market was to make room for more cars and parking.  I will never take seriously any argument about preserving trees that attacks housing density while refusing to acknowledge just how much canopy is lost to absurd off-street parking requirements and other car infrastructure.

  • CorvidFan May 2, 2024 (2:21 pm)

    Downtown is a wasteful landscape of office buildings, many of them half-empty because many workers have switched to teleworking.  The city should concentrate on making downtown a real, livable neighborhood.  The most unsightly and dangerous parts of downtown are the parts dominated by office buildings, where all the workers empty out at 5pm.  Convert some of the office buildings–I know this would take a lot of work but it’s worth the investment–and there’s your housing.  The people living there could also support downtown businesses.  All without making traffic worse. Having seen many townhouses go up in Seattle, not only do developers seldom leave trees, but they seldom have more than a smidgen of grass.    Not only is this unsightly, but it’s detrimental to our water quality.  A lot of West Seattle is on combined sewer systems, meaning that drainage (rain water) and sewage goes into the same mainline pipes.  If there’s a huge rainstorm, the city doesn’t want a disgusting rain-sewage combo backflowing into people’s house.  So instead the disgusting rain-sewage combo is rerouted into Puget Sound.  These overflow events are bad for the environment, and every time they occur, the EPA fines Seattle tens of thousands of dollars. What prevents sewage overflow events? Having a lot of permeable areas (grass, vegetation, permeable pavement, rain gardens) where the water soaks into the ground instead of ending up in the pipes.  Less grass and trees isn’t just detrimental to how West Seattle looks, it is detrimental to our environment and our pocketbooks.

    • flimflam May 2, 2024 (8:03 pm)

      Tear them down and plants trees and make park space…

    • j May 3, 2024 (9:53 am)

      Good points in explaining the combined sewers of West Seattle, Corvidfan.

      What was missed are the regulations  for new developments.  
      These include the  concrete ‘planter boxes’ along the front or sides of new buildings that are soil filled and planted with greens that the downspouts feed.  
      These are remarkably effective at reducing storm surge run-off as they rarely reach the overflow level that remains tied to the sewer.  

      Only Seattle’s new construction has this, so West Seattle’s majority of old housing stock still have downspouts hard-lined to the combined sewer causing the overflows, and fines.

  • J May 2, 2024 (3:05 pm)

    Remarkable someone had the courage to get up in front of this group of traditional neighborhood homeowners voicing traditional ‘concerns’ and complain about too much parking being built into new housing.  The city rep could have answered the question about views more directly. Seattle has no view rights.  If a structure (or tree) obstructs the view from your property, you have no recourse. 

    • zark00 May 3, 2024 (11:21 am)

      Yeah best you can do here is get a deed with your neighbor to restrict their build height. We have one with the cross-the-street neighbors, they can’t build over a specific height to preserves our view without first paying us an exorbitant amount of money.   It was not cheap, but still a lot less than the added value from the view.

  • Rhonda May 2, 2024 (5:11 pm)

    Housing growth should be concentrated downtown and in SODO with high-rises. This is already happening in Yesler Terrace as well as the U District. Seattle’s downtown has very few residents than most other major U.S cities. SODO could easily absorb 300,000 to 400,000 residents very quickly without trees being destroyed or roads being overwhelmed.

    • j May 2, 2024 (6:24 pm)

      Or we could restore SODO to the tidelands and river delta before returning  to their indigenous peoples. 
      I imagine more than a few businesses and thousands of jobs would oppose both schemes.

    • This is my job May 3, 2024 (4:13 pm)

      Good luck getting the freight industry and trade unions to let you build residential in SODO. Do you know how hard it is to even get sidewalks and bike lanes put in down there? SODO’s staying industrial. We need density where the people already are, see: Junction, Admiral, Avalon Way, Delridge.

  • East Coast Cynic May 2, 2024 (7:01 pm)

    Certain Northeast Seattle neighborhoods, i.e., Laurelhurst, Maple Leaf, Wedgewood, do not take enough of the growth and density that neighborhoods in the center and the south in Seattle get.  Totally unfair.

    • Defund Sound Transit May 2, 2024 (7:36 pm)

      Absolutely. Especially the Rainier Valley area. Under this new plan they’re slated to get slammed with the highest density outside of downtown.

    • Eric1 May 2, 2024 (8:15 pm)

      Hmmm .  Take a closer look at the shading on the West Seattle map and where the density is projected to go…  You might think it is unfair when you look at the citywide growth distribution but since you didn’t complain about the local unfairness, I take it that like me, you live in the unshaded areas.  I try to remember that, in certain situations, I live in a “wealthy” neighborhood and complaining about even wealthier neighborhoods rings a bit hollow.  

    • j May 3, 2024 (2:31 pm)

      Anywhere but here!

  • Susan May 2, 2024 (7:15 pm)

    Commenters:  Expressing your thoughts here does not get them into the City process. PLEASE send your feedback to OneSeattleCompPlan@seattle.govotherwise, it won’t get counted or considered. 

    • WSB May 2, 2024 (7:53 pm)

      We’ve also linked the official feedback methods multiple times in the story above.

      • Eric May 3, 2024 (6:58 am)

        Thank you @susan for the direct comment email address.

        @wsb: Both the “go here” and the “Here’s how and where to comment” links go the same site. The site has no obvious way to actually comment, at least not obvious when on a mobile browser. A direct link to the comment form would be appreciated. 

  • JustSarah May 2, 2024 (7:36 pm)

    Couldn’t make it to this meeting because of family obligations, so glad to see this coverage. At least some of the tree canopy concerns were generated by Mike Dey of the Fauntleroy Community Association; he sent out an email specifically to scare people into attending because of all the possible “questions” that come with this terrifying change.

  • Griz May 2, 2024 (8:03 pm)

    Too MUCH parking, and in a city projected to grow 25% in population in twenty years?  Where is there ‘too much parking’?  Parking in any of the urban centers is already a rainbow unicorn.You can not socially engineer an entire city to not own and drive vehicles.Ha……’too much parking’.

    • resident May 3, 2024 (8:39 am)

      This is so crazy to me. I regularly drive to the most urban-y part of West Seattle (the Junction) and you can park in a lot for just a few bucks, and I’ve never even had issues finding free street parking, even at peak times like Friday/Saturday night. I have literally never had any issue finding parking in any part of West Seattle – Alki is maybe the most difficult, but even there it just means you might have to walk a few blocks!

    • Arbor Heights Resident May 3, 2024 (5:45 pm)

      No need to “socially engineer” anyone. If transit becomes good enough and driving becomes annoying enough, people will opt to leave their cars at home when going out and about. The first part is underway with the light rail expansion, and the second part will happen as more people move here and traffic and parking gets worse. The future will see more people getting around without cars.

    • Scarlett May 4, 2024 (4:38 pm)

      Social engineering?  Then what do your call single-family zoning that restricts multi-family construction?  Those who decry social engineering seem to be the beneficiaries of that same social engineering.   But this habit of applying standards to others but not oneself and general lack of self-awareness is absolutely off the charts in this country, particularly post-pandemic. 

  • Joe May 2, 2024 (8:50 pm)

    Remember the urban villages of the 1990’s that never happened? Well, they’re just rebranding  that and adding a few bells and whistles. All they’re essentially doing is changing the zoning. That doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. It will happen when a developer sees a profit potential, buys the land,  and then develops it.

    • zark00 May 3, 2024 (11:26 am)

      this – exactly!  None of this hand-waving silliness means anything until they make it more profitable for developers to build what they want vs what makes them money.Right now, a developer is going to buy a small old house on a good lot, tear it down, and build the most profitable thing they can right?

  • Eric May 3, 2024 (6:49 am)

    I must be missing the official comment link. I followed the WSB link “Here’s how and where to comment” but this takes me to the One Seattle website. There is no obvious place I can see to actually have my voice heard. 

  • New Deal May 3, 2024 (7:54 am)

    Not one neighborhood center northwest of Morgan junction.  Hmmm??  

  • Steve May 3, 2024 (8:24 am)

    I for one would like to see more “stacked flats”, as the article referred to. Putting 4-6 vertical homes where one house stood doesn’t seem efficient. Plus, stacked flats should free up space for greenbelts.

    • j May 3, 2024 (9:33 am)

      Yes, one structure is inheritable more efficient than multiple ones. But, green belts?  The green belts are public lands and not under consideration for development. 

  • Elaine May 4, 2024 (2:51 pm)

    Thank you, Tracy WSB, for your consistently thorough and factual coverage of the important topics and issues affecting us all. 

  • Derek May 4, 2024 (3:26 pm)

    WSB needs to majorly upsize. Too many SFHs in this part of town. Why is there not growth zones all over Triangle and Admiral…

Sorry, comment time is over.