Neighborhood groups seek to stop Seattle housing upzone plan

Neighborhood groups seek to stop Seattle housing upzone plan

Neighborhood groups seek to stop Seattle housing upzone plan

The city of Seattle’s Mandatory Housing Affordability policy has been controversial from the start, but the tenor of the debate was ratcheted up Monday as 24 groups from around the city rallied at City Hall, vowing to stop the plan.

Several groups, including Madison-Miller Park Community and Save Madison Valley, stem directly from Madison Park.

These largely neighborhood-based groups seek to use Washington’s environmental review process to stop the proposed upzone of 27 areas of Seattle, claiming the plan will make the city less affordable, not more.

Ravenna resident David Ward, president of Seattle Coalition for Affordability, Livability and Equity, derided the plan in a press release.

“It will make Seattle far more unaffordable and also make it more difficult to live here due to more traffic, not enough schools, more pollution, fewer trees and a loss of the diversity of residents we currently have,” he said.

The Mandatory Housing Affordability plan seeks to increase density in various parts of the city and intends to include a affordable housing mandate for future development. According to city documents, the plan will add “at least 6,000 new rent-restricted homes for low-income people.”

Downtown, South Lake Union and the International District already fall under the rules of the Mandatory Housing Affordability plan. The new zoning plan, which Seattle City Council will consider in 2018, would nearly quadruple the square milage of the city under the plan.

Interim Mayor Tim Burgess said the plan would take an important step in making Seattle more affordable for poorer residents.

“Today we continue our push to address Seattle’s housing affordability crisis,” he said. “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”   

Developers in the swath of city under the Mandatory Housing Affordability plan would be required to create a certain percentage of subsidized-rent housing for lower income Seattle residents. They could alternatively pay a fee to the city which would then go to establishing housing elsewhere. 

Under the housing requirements, “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,” according to a press release.

In the preferred environmental study plan, “urban village” parts of Ballard, Fremont, Greenwood, Northgate, Ravenna, Eastlake, Capitol Hill, Central District, Magnolia, West Seattle, South Park, Georgetown and essentially the entire Rainier corridor would have a change in their zoning. Additionally, a swath of land from McGilvra to Madison Beach currently designated as Lowrise 3 would add the “M” suffix of the affordable housing contribution. 

Urban Villages are a City of Seattle designation for places where new development is largely directed.

Several blocks along East Madison Street would increase in density as “neighborhood commercial” with the M suffix. Smaller parcels of land near Madison would also add the M.

The requirements for developers take place when the city council rezones areas that allow for more development capacity.

It’s the latest in an ongoing fight between those who say Seattle needs more density and those who think too much change will damage the city’s livability.

Not everything would be impacted. Neighborhoods zoned for single-family housing remain largely unaffected, as well as historic districts.

The coalition of neighborhood groups said it will continue to fight the plan’s final environmental impact statement presentation to the city’s hearing examiner.