We analyzed the five maps the City of Seattle released last month: Aurora-Licton Springs, Capitol Hill, Crown Hill, Othello, and South Park. We also delved into the U District Rezone this week which will be one of the first rezones on the docket and have the most ambitious changes. Now the City has released the rest of the draft MHA rezone maps for urban villages, which includes 21 new maps (see after the jump).

As I suggested in my reaction to the first five maps, the City has used high-rise zones very sparingly. In fact, in the new maps the only use of zoning greater than 95 feet I saw was in Northgate where a few existing NC-125 zones are planned to go to NC-145. My major criticism is that the City should follow the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) committee suggestion to use zones of at least 120 feet to nudge developers out of stick frame construction. Northgate seems to be the only place where that is happening.

Some urban villages are seeing NC-95 which is in the grey area beyond Type 5 construction but shy of heights where concrete or steel construction pencils out well. 95-foot zones are going to struggle to get bids that fully use the zoning, especially without being breadloafs. In other words, NC-95 may not be a meaningful improvement over NC-85 (which was already being built similarly to NC-75).

Criticism aside, expansion of low-rise and mid-rise zones should be applauded and that enacting these changes would mean the affordability requirement–which we just learned is going larger than had been expected–fully goes into effect. This plan would be a major step forward.

Urbanists should hope to see some more aggressive changes, particularly in light rail station areas and especially in light of large “M2” style capacity increases unlocking the highest inclusionary requirement of 11% in high cost areas. Let’s create more M2 areas.

UPDATE (10/22/16): A full copy of the draft MHA rezone maps is available for download, but note that the PDF is over 200MB in size.

The key for the MHA draft rezone maps. (HALA)
The key for the MHA draft rezone maps. (HALA)

Westwood-Highland Park Residential Urban Village


West Seattle Junction Hub Urban Village


Wallingford Residential Urban Village


Upper Queen Anne Residential Urban Village


Rainier Beach Residential Urban Village


Northgate Urban Center


North Rainier Hub Urban Village


North Beacon Hill Residential Urban Village


NE 130th St Residential Urban Village


Morgan Junction Residential Urban Village


Madison-Miller Residential Urban Village


Lake City Hub Urban Village


Greenwood-Phinney Ridge Residential Urban Village


Green Lake-Roosevelt Residential Urban Village


Fremont Hub Urban Village


Eastlake Residential Urban Village


Columbia City Residential Urban Village


Bitter Lake Hub Urban Village


Ballard Hub Urban Village


Admiral District Residential Urban District


23rd & Union-Jackson Residential Urban Village


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Doug Trumm is The Urbanist's Executive Director. An Urbanist writer since 2015, he dreams of pedestrianizing streets, blanketing the city in bus lanes, and unleashing a mass timber building spree to end the affordable housing shortage and avert our coming climate catastrophe. He graduated from the Evans School of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Washington. He lives in East Fremont and loves to explore the city on his bike.

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“Displacement caused by new construction does real damage to vulnerable people and communities… in our current mid-rise and high-rise construction, only 4 existing units are demolished for every 100 new units built… while low-rise zones add housing at the cost of high displacement.”

I think Seattle In Progress made a pretty good case for higher upzone.

In light of that, it is a bit disappointing that “the City has used high-rise zones very sparingly”.


Greenwood and Queen Anne mutlifamily areas are embarrassingly skinny and only along major arterials. In fact it looks as if almost nothing was done to upzone them.


Those are just residential urban villages. None of the long terms plans intend to push much growth to these neighborhoods. All they get is a small bump in height & FAR. More aggressive up-zoning is intended for hub urban villages & urban centers

Charles B

Glad to see Northgate going as tall as 145ft, wish they’d push for 165 though. Squeeze maximum benefit out of those Metro owned lots next to the light rail!


Looks like Lake City is getting a few pockets of 125′?


Yeah I like it, but seems pretty random to have +125′ in Lake City but not in other hubs.

Once Link station locations are known in a few years, there may be an opportunity for more aggressive zoning of specific parcels in Ballard & WS Junction, similar to the aggressive zoning in North Rainier? But otherwise, I see no reason why LC gets this treatment & other hubs don’t.