Friday, January 25, 2008


Citywide Upzone Outside Villages Being Rushed Through by Planning Staff
Seattle Urgently Needs Your Help

Over the holidays, the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) quietly issued a Declaration of Non Significance (DNS) on what it bills to the public and Council as a "Multi-Family Update."

Adrienne Quinn, the City's Housing Director, perhaps unwittingly, misrepresented the code changes to City Council when she described them as "some proposed changes to the multi-family code, really more clean-up". (This occurs at 4:13:12 of the meeting of the Urban Development and Planning Committee 12/12/07). See:

Actually this "cleanup" is a total rewrite of all of the development standards for all the multi-family zones, a complete change in the comprehensive plan.

Most important, it destroys the consensus reached after a long process in 1988 and 1989, when the city rewrote the code to deal with ugly, excessively dense conditions created by the city's 1980's attempt at an "experimental code." The 1989 process took over a year and had an enormous amount of citizen input. Now the planning staff proposes to bring back the very problems that caused the 1989 rewrite—and even worse—to break all the promises made to communities who agreed to take Urban Villages. Some of the worst changes will:

• Purge the rezoning criteria of definitive aspects that ordinary people can understand.

• Upzone the most common apartment zones (L2 and L3) and bring back huge ugly, ugly multifamily buildings where both the existing code and Department of Planning and Development's own proposal says they do not belong—outside villages.

Sell zoning—additional height and bulk within villages (in addition to already increased standards) creating even huger buildings in villages that didn't get listed against L3 upzones.

• Dispense with all limitations to assure compatibility with existing development (overweighting DPD Objective 2--"foster creative design through development flexibility." The rest of this list enumerates how this single-minded focus loses all sight of the comprehensive plan's urban village strategy.

• Repeal, in some places, and in other places enlarge building width and depth limits—critical limits that did away with appeals by discouraging the assembling of lots outside villages.

• Replace lot coverage limits in all zones, and density limits in L3 with the complex FAR (floor area ratio) used in commercial zones, so complex that neighborhoods lose the predictable densities and lot coverages promised in 1989.

• Increase permitted height in all the zones below L3 (from 25' to 30' high).

• Replace front, rear, and side setbacks with a flat seven feet (7') all around.

• Leave townhouse disasters unaddressed, if not worsened by the setback relaxations.

• Repeal "open space" and "ground related”, even remove these terms from the glossary.

• Replace nature's way of accepting storm runoff–-open space—with the "Green Area Factor," a complicated numbers game just adopted for business districts that has not been demonstrated to have any real benefits.

• Replace predictable development standards with vague design standards, such as ‘choice of articulation,' with the DPD director (which usually means plan reviewer) as the sole judge and no community participation or appeal allowed.

The Comprehensive Plan still elaborately documents the Urban Village strategy that neighborhood planners honored and expect to be honored—attractive density increases in villages, and in-fill projects that fits in outside villages. This "cleanup" cleans out the urban village strategy and replaces it with high density again scattered randomly around the city. It throws out neighborhood plans and upzones with a code change.

None of the members of the present Land Use Committee of the City Council were there in 1989.
The Department of Planning was there, and has the audacity to think we have all forgotten.

“He who forgets history is doomed to repeat it”

We do not need another round of experimental zoning.

This is the opposite of Simple.

This is the opposite of Cheaper, Faster Permitting.

There is no emergency yet, but there surely will be if we let this "cleanup" pass.


Seattle City Council
600 Fourth Avenue, 2nd floor, P.O. Box 34025
Seattle, WA 98124-4025 ..........684-8806 ............ 684-8802 ......684-8805 ..............684-8805 .........684-8801 ....... 684-8804 ............ 684-8803 .... 684-8800 ....684-8808

In your own words, tell them that this proposal is unnecessary, and then ask many others to do the same.

A written comment sent via postal mail outweighs an e-mail, a telephone call is even better because even if you speak with a staffer your message will be counted.

All the City Council knows about this proposal is what they've been told by the proponents, now they need to hear from us, the affected citizens.

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