No to upzoning: Railroading neighborhoods is not the way

Updated: Mar 19, 2019

The Seattle Times - March 15, 2019 - Martin Henry Kaplan -

As we strategize how best to grow Seattle, let’s do so respectfully and inclusively.

Seattle’s prized neighborhoods are under attack from three fronts. The City Council, together with state lawmakers, are working to eliminate all single-family zoning, confiscate property rights, and haven’t even bothered to ask if that’s OK.

On Monday, the council is expected to pass its ill-conceived Mandatory Housing Affordability legislation. Originally it promised to diversify affordable housing choices within denser urban villages. Instead, it morphed into encouraging developers to buy their way out by paying ridiculously cheap fees-in-lieu, which will result in a modest number of housing units shunted to the edges of our city.

Led by Councilmember Rob Johnson, he and his colleagues have bowed to development money while sacrificing true housing affordability. Many believe this legislation is illegal and as such may be headed for appeal.

Meanwhile, the Legislature is advancing with two bills: SB5812 and HB1797, which would upzone single-family properties in larger cities statewide, removing your rights to object and appeal, while also usurping Seattle’s autonomy to manage its own land-use decisions.

Among many “takings,” these two overreaching bills would allow multiple residences on every single-family property, with no limitations on ownership, parking, lot sizes, or number of residents per lot.

The third front, pushed by Councilmember Mike O’Brien, would eliminate single-family housing regulations citywide, erasing 150 years of our history. Every property over 3,200 square feet could be converted to multifamily with the addition of in-home Accessory Dwelling Units as well as backyard cottages.

Instead of one house, O’Brien proposes allowing three new residences per lot, housing up to 12 people, with no parking or long-term ownership requirements, no control over traffic and tree protections, and no provision for improvements in streets, sidewalks, schools, or our aging infrastructure.

This triple threat to single-family neighborhoods is happening as council members Johnson, O’Brien, Sally Bagshaw and Bruce Harrell are edging toward the door. None are seeking reelection this year. And why would they? There’s little mystery behind their decision based upon their years of ignoring constituent participation, authoring exaggerated citywide upzones that intentionally disregard neighborhood and expert input, and favoring personal ideology, developers and money.

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