Earlier this afternoon, Councilmember Lisa Herbold (D-1) broke the news that Seattle’s proposed Mandatory Housing Affordability rezones will be pushed back by another two months. In a newsletter to constituents, Councilmember Herbold said that primary driving factor is environmental review. The Office of Planning and Community Development must develop a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) prior to recommending legislation to the City Council. The original Draft EIS had been anticipated for publishing in March, but the timing appears to be closer to May now. The late Spring timeframe should allow staff to adequately evaluate the possible environmental impacts of different rezone alternatives and propose strategies to mitigate their impacts.
Given the far-reaching scope and nature of the rezones touching every urban village and possibly expanding them as well as other commercial and multi-family residential rezones elsewhere, the delay shouldn’t come as particularly surprising. It’s not exactly clear when final recommended rezones will be transmitted to the City Council. But what we do know is that after the Draft EIS is released, there will be an extended comment period followed by development and publication of a Final EIS. It still seems possible that final legislation could be adopted by end of year, but then again, it could also slide into 2018. In the meantime, the City will continue to host neighborhood-based events to discuss the rezone proposals which aren’t just about increasing allowed building heights and floor area, but also specific development regulations tailored to development types and neighborhoods.
I wanted to make sure that you heard from me first that the office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) is amending the schedule for release of the draft EIS for the proposed citywide MHA zoning changes and now it is anticipated to come out in May. This will give the community an additional two months to provide feedback before the draft EIS is published. The Department of Neighborhoods (DON) plans to door knock all of the single family homes that are part of the potential upzones. Also, DON and OPCD will conduct another series of meetings in May and June. In addition, depending on how well the Draft EIS identifies and addresses the issues raised in public comment, which the Council has been compiling, I will consider whether there is a need for additional time for public comment on the Draft EIS.
Stephen is a professional urban planner in Puget Sound with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. With stints in great cities like Bellingham and Cork, Stephen currently lives in Seattle. He primarily covers land use and transportation issues and has been with The Urbanist since 2014.