January 9, 2016 – Engaging with City Planning Efforts

Engaging with City Planning Efforts:  a Conversation with the City Neighborhood Council’s Neighborhood Planning and Land Use Committee
(or: What’s happening to Seattle and how do I get involved?!?!)

Growth in Seattle has engendered lively debate and is reinvigorating community activists around the city.

A rapidly expanding tech sector which is importing thousands of workers is putting undue strain on Seattle’s housing supply, resulting in rapidly rising rents and displacement of lower income residents.   A massive influx of real estate investment capital is fueling speculation, over 18K residential units are in process in downtown, and gentrification and explosive growth in neighborhoods is leading to ever greater housing costs and in certain ways negatively affecting livability.  This is the changing face of Seattle.

The City is setting the table for even more growth, sometimes under the guise of creating affordable housing (as with HALA), or under State-mandated planning of the Growth Management Act (“Seattle 2035”, the major update to our Comprehensive Plan).  The recently approved nearly $1B transportation levy, Move Seattle and the upcoming Sound Transit Light Rail expansions signal even greater reshaping of the city.

City planning efforts and code changes are proceeding to support these changes.  The former DPD Planning function (now called Department of Planning and Community Development) has over two dozen planning efforts identified.  Building code changes are underway to facilitate everything from updating unreinforced masonry buildings and use of manufactured wood technologies to parking requirements and storm-water management. And SDOT has nearly two dozen citywide and neighborhood planning efforts underway.    Council has already started to implement HALA recommendations and has a busy schedule to implement more including rezoning many neighborhoods.  The Comp Plan update is to complete this year.

Keeping update-to-date and engaged in a timely manner is a challenge.

Despite a citizen’s District Council system that several mayors and incarnations of the city council have neglected, citizen participants continue to address citywide issues.   The City Neighborhood Council (CNC) meets monthly and is chartered by Resolution to “provide city-wide coordination for the Neighborhood Matching Fund, Neighborhood Budget Prioritization, and Neighborhood Planning programs” (the latter largely having fallen off the map since the heyday of the 1990s, including an apparent scrubbing of the term from the City’s website and the upcoming Comprehensive Plan).  The CNC is made up of representatives from each district council (the district councils in turn representing local community councils, business chambers, etc),

Additionally many ad hoc groups have formed, such as neighborhood Land Use Review Committees (e.g. Central Area and Queen Anne) and focused advocacy groups (e.g.  Low-rise zones, trees, transit, bikes and Ballard Livability) to augment the work of more traditional community councils.

This month’s SNC meeting will be an open discussion of the various city planning initiatives (focusing on HALA and Seattle 2035), their schedules, and what various actions are underway (or are needed) to respond to these.  Our discussion will be led by the Co-chairs of the City Neighborhood Council’s Neighborhood Planning and Land Use Committee, Cindi Barker and Irene Wall.  This committee meets monthly, has participants from around the city, and reviews and comments on land use and code changes and city planning efforts.    Cindi was a member of the HALA Committee, and Irene has been active in neighborhood planning, zoning and land use issues for nearly two decades as a citizen activist.

This will be an important conversation about what lays ahead in 2016 for the city and our neighborhoods, and what you need to know to be an effective participant in the City’s on-going efforts to address our rapid growth.
[by Bill Bradburd, 01/04/16]

UPDATE:  related links

Dept of Construction and Inspections (DCI)
Projects in work listed under Changes to Code

Office of Planning and Development (OPCD)
Projects in work listed under Ongoing Initiatives

Comp Plan 2035 Update Urban Village Proposed Boundary changes
… and click down on “Urban Village Maps”

Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA)

Mayors Action Plan for HALA: Proposed Areas with New, Mandatory Affordable Housing (zoning changes)

What’s the starting point of the “Grand Bargain” for discussion in the residential zones?

As shown in Aug 17 2015 Council Select Committee meeting, Agenda Item 2, MIH Summary document

And who’s going first after the Grand Bargain Framework is in place?
(attachment B to Resolution 31216) listed with timeframes:

  • Downtown
  • SLU
  • University District
  • 23rd
  • Uptown
  • Rainier Beach
  • Ballard

HALA Panel discussion City Inside/Out: Mike O’Brien, Linda Alexander, Bill Rumpf, Roger Valdez (worth watching, helpful details)