In an editorial published on Tuesday, we offered our vision on how Seattle must accommodate growth over the next 20 years. We believe that all four Seattle 2035 alternatives presented by the city are insufficient policy statements to appropriately sustain the growth that Seattle anticipates. Instead, we believe that present and future residents of this great city deserve a more inclusive growth approach that emphasizes diversity, equity, opportunity, and accessibility to all. In the editorial, we endorsed our own Alternative 5 which made four concrete proposals to achieve our vision:
1. All areas of the city have an obligation to support growth, and the right to access the urban benefits that come with it. Regardless of wealth, race, class, or zoning, each portion of the city must support its share of the city’s growth. As an example, single-family residential zones are appropriate for many of the common Missing Middle housing types, such as cottage housing, detached accessory dwelling units, duplexes, triplexes, townhouses, and even rowhouses. These housing options should be broadly allowed with minimal interference from neighbors. These building types are equitable, desirable, and compatible with the character of residential neighborhoods. While this type of growth may seem painful to some, it presents a wide range of opportunities and benefits: proximity to jobs, access to high-quality transit, grocery stores and restaurants, parks, schools, and more. All these benefits come from growth and density, not the other way around. All residents, whether new or old, deserve to partake in these urban benefits, regardless of where they live.
2. Expand the number and size of urban villages to accommodate growth throughout the city. There are ample commercial and medium-density residential areas in the city that have no urban center or urban village designation, such as Aurora Avenue (north of N 36th St to N 85th St), Upper Fremont, “Frelard”, Westlake, Nickerson, Madison Park, Wedgwood, South Magnolia, Interbay, Graham, and many more. Each of these areas presents an opportunity to absorb growth while providing tremendous urban benefits. The city should also consider extending boundaries in these areas beyond just the immediate medium-density residential and commercial core properties. Transit walksheds extend beyond the core, and bikesheds extend even farther. Connecting bike rides with transit, something that will become even easier with Pronto!’s expansion, shows that the urban villages can be much larger. Overconcentration of growth leads to targeted displacement and disruption. Only by spreading growth throughout the city can we ensure that no single area experiences an unreasonable share.
3. Expand urban zoning in urban villages and urban centers. Designating areas as urban villages isn’t enough. The city needs to go further and expand the areas of urban development in urban villages and high-intensity zoning in urban centers, especially where there is extraordinary demand for housing (e.g. Ballard, Wallingford, South Lake Union, and the University District). This will reduce the number of people that are displaced due to demolitions.
4. Actively mitigate the impacts of growth in areas where displacement risk is high. We support adopting policies that will alleviate or prevent actual displacement. This might include mandatory participation in the multifamily tax exemption (or a similar program), mandatory inclusionary zoning or linkage fees, one-to-one replacement of affordable units in perpetuity, focusing housing levy dollars in these areas, using the city’s bonding authority for sustainable affordable housing options, and other socially progressive housing strategies through the land use code or city actions in the form of programs and partnerships.
We urge you to take action on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for Seattle 2035. The comment period closes tonight (June 18) at 5 PM. Please share your thoughts with the Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) and let them know that you think The Urbanist Alternative 5 is the best approach to growth over the next 20 years. Brief comments are greatly appreciated by city officials, as are comments that make compelling and thorough arguments. You’re welcome to quote our four points above verbatim in your letter to DPD.