Ahoy There Planning Wonks: Tell Us What’s Good or Bad About Seattle’s Multifamily Zoning Update

[ Diagram illustrating proposed affordable housing height bonus ]

The process of updating Seattle’s multifamily zoning code has been underway since 2005, the most recent milestone being the environmental determination of non-significance issued on December 7, 2007. The proposed ordinance will be put before the City Council in Spring of 2008.

I was recently reminded of the update process by the Seattle Community Council Federation (SCCF), which issued an “alert” that was picked by several neighborhood blogs, see here, here, and here. And so I spent a little quality time with SCFF’s screed, as well as with the City’s documents.

To me, the City’s proposed changes seem reasonable and well thought out overall. On the other hand, while I respect SCFF’s intentions, I found much to disagree with in their criticisms. I’m inclined to be a little more restrained than Will at Horse’s Ass, but it was definitely disappointing how SCFF seemed to be so hung up on tired misconceptions about density (this subject deserves its own blog post), and to have such kneejerk negative reactions to new concepts such as the “Green Factor.”

The Squire Park Community Council has also published multifamily update recommendations, which I find to be relatively sensible and well-stated. Their main goals are to preserve existing housing stock, to create smaller, more affordable units, and to create more aesthetically pleasing buildings. To these ends they recommend density bonuses for (1) new units that preserve existing housing, (2) smaller units, and (3) green building, as well parking requirement reductions and the allowance for accessory dwelling units.

Anyhoo, here are a few of my favorite items in the City’s proposed update:

  • zero parking requirement in urban centers
  • height bonus for affordable housing
  • 4-foot fence height limit in front setbacks

Nothing stood out to me as an obviously bad idea (though admittedly, I didn’t exactly linger over the documents — life’s too short, no?). So then, precious wonks who are still reading, what am I missing?