Every year, the city updates its comprehensive plan—the guiding principles for development in the city—and every year, there are those who object to one proposed amendment or another, arguing, for example, that amendments that encourage density may destroy the "character" of single-family neighborhoods, or that proposals to reduce the weight of vehicles allowed on city streets will damage Metro Transit's ability to operate.
One proposal no one thought would get pushback, though, is the Transit Communities amendment, which would give the city more flexibility to rezone in areas with frequent transit service—the goal being to encourage new housing, jobs, and services in areas that are easily accessible by transit, biking, or on foot.
The amendment (check out erstwhile PubliColan Dan Bertolet's critique of the 2010 version here) would establish a new kind of zoning to replace the existing "station area overlay districts," which center on light rail, to include other kinds of transit as elements like walkability, job concentration, and housing costs. The city council's planning and land use committee will take up all the proposed comp plan amendments at a special meeting tomorrow at 5:30 at City Hall.
"While [station area overlays] have been important, more could be done to encourage transit oriented development around light rail stations, particularly to minimize displacement of affordable housing and business space," the Planning Commission's final report on transit communities concludes.
Affordable housing, access to transit, social equity: Sounds like something everyone could get behind. Turns out, not everyone: PubliCola is hearing that the Planning Commission is getting pushback from neighborhood activists at the City Neighborhood Council, who have historically opposed proposals to increase density in Seattle neighborhoods.
PubliCola asked Planning Commission director Barb Wilson to respond to residents' reported concerns.
But now, Wilson says, they're getting pushback.
Ultimately, this will all probably be a tempest in a teapot: Neighbors will complain, the council will listen, and the amendment will get adopted. The bigger debate will be in the future, when that amendment turns into real, on-the-ground zoning changes that encourage more people to live in compact neighborhoods with easier access to transit, shops, housing, and employment.
Neighborhood activists we contacted declined to comment; we have calls out to the chair and vice chair of the city's planning and land use committee, Richard Conlin and Mike O'Brien.