Should Seattle’s neighborhoods be upzoned in exchange for the promise of affordable housing?

posted Sep 6, 2015, 4:27 PM by PRCC Webmaster   [ updated Sep 6, 2015, 4:36 PM ]
Should Seattle’s neighborhoods be upzoned in exchange for the promise of affordable housing? Will the plan currently under consideration by the City actually create that housing? And should Seattle accept the recommendations from the mayor’s controversial Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) committee, or look for other answers?   

There will be a public hearing on the HALA recommendations on Wednesday September 9th, 2015 at City Hall.  If you have an opinion, now is the time to voice it.

HALA Recommendations Hearing
5:30 p.m.
September 9th, 2015
City Council Chambers
600 4th Avenue, Seattle

The city council is acting quickly to consider and implement the HALA committee’s and mayor’s recommendations, including broad upzones across the City which are supposed to create more affordable housing. Although actual upzones aren’t scheduled to be implemented until next year or 2017, legislation under consideration now presumes the zoning changes will occur.  Initial measures will be introduced on Tuesday, Sept. 8. 

Here’s a link to the announcement of legislation by Mayor Ed Murray and Council Member Mike O’Brien:

And here’s a link to the website for the Council’s “Select Committee on Housing Affordability.” Scroll down to “Legislation to be considered in fall 2015” for links to the ordinance and resolutions to be introduced on Sept. 8:

As mentioned above, there will be a public hearing on the HALA recommendations Sept. 9 at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall. The public announcement doesn’t specify the purpose of the hearing, but it’s safe to assume that a broad range of comments will be taken. There’s also an opportunity to comment via email. If you want to send an email to all council members, send it to You should also send an email directly to CM O’Brien, who chairs the council’s committee on housing affordability and ls running for re-election in District 6. His email address is:

As noted, actual zoning changes related to the HALA recommendations aren’t scheduled to be considered this year; however, the council will begin groundwork leading up to possible changes; so the time to weigh in is now.

In a related note, the City is gearing up for renewal of its housing levy next year. There will be a public meeting on the levy Sept. 21. As part of his affordable-housing recommendations stemming from the HALA report, the mayor has proposed doubling the levy. here’s the announcement of the public meeting:

Housing Levy Community Meeting - September 21

Monday, September 21, 2015
5:00 - 7:00 p.m. 
Seattle City Hall, Bertha Knight Landes Room

Join the Seattle Office of Housing to learn about the 2009 Seattle Housing Levy and discuss the future of this proven community resource to create and preserve affordable housing in Seattle. We will share information on the current levy and its successes, and engage with you in a discussion about the future of the levy.

Note: As part of his affordable-housing packing, CM O’Brien is proposing limited “linkage fees” on commercial development to help pay for low-income housing. However, the City is not discussing assessing other development impact fees, allowed by state law and imposed by a number of other Washington cities.  As an interesting bit of opinionated background, here’s a column on impact fees from last year by the Seattle Times’s Danny Westneat:

Other material of interest:

CM O’Brien’s blog post on changes to single-family zoning, and the kinds of changes he would consider: