May 11, 2013 – How to accomodate Seattle’s growing population

Challenges and Opportunities of Infill Development in Seattle

Infill development in Seattle is an issue that gives heartburn to residents, developers and city officials alike.

Because Seattle is largely built out, infill developers look to find empty or underutilized parcels on which to place their projects.  Pressure is extremely high on desirable neighborhoods to add additional population density – at times beyond growth targets the community and city  had adopted.

In the last many years, in the name of better and more infill development, we have rewritten the lowrise zoning code, allowed backyard cottages (detached accessory dwelling units, or DADUs) and in-home mother-in-law apartments (attached accessory dwelling units, or ADUs), squeezed in small lot houses based on ancient platting, and placed many dozens of tenants in micro-apartment projects to the surprise of those next door.

And while most would agree that infill development is a major factor in the future of Seattle housing, the results to date have been varied.  Some projects have been well received, but it is clear that the results of all of this focus on infill development has not borne the promise of ‘smart growth’.

What is the future of infill development in Seattle?  What are the challenges that architects and developers face regarding zoning constraints, affordability and ‘environmental’ impacts?  How do we add population density gently so that existing neighborhoods are not victims to gentrification through rising housing costs or marked change in their neighborhood’s character?

Today’s speaker is David Neiman.  David is an architect specializing low density infill development.  He and other members of CORA (Congress of Residential Architects) participated extensively in the rewrite of the lowrise zoning code.

by Bill Bradburd,  April 30, 2013


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