City Hall

Afternoon LIKE: The Sacrilegious Sally Clark

Clark says it may be time to reconsider growth boundaries.

October 10, 2014

At a Downtown Seattle Association breakfast panel this morning on housing affordability, Seattle city council member Sally Clark ventured into territory that she may regret: Single-family zones.

Asked by moderator Bob Royer if the Mayor Norm Rice-era (1995) planning guidelines, which targeted growth into specific urban villages while keeping 70 percent of neighborhoods "safe" from new development, still made sense, Clark said expanding non-single-family development into single-family zones needed to be on the table.

(Footnote: Clark quickly joked that people shouldn't mention she said this until after next year's district elections are over.)

"We came up with those plans before there was light rail. The city has changed. The city has evolved."

"It's 20 years later," she told me this afternoon when I asked her to cop to her sacrilegious statement. "It's okay to say we can have a rational conversation about this. We came up with those plans before there was light rail. Lots of places have light rail now. The city has changed. The city has evolved. We can ask, 'Are the [growth] boundaries in the right place?' It's time to ask if we should expand the boundaries."

Asked for an example of a neighborhood she was talking about, she said that "Beacon Hill around Beacon Ave. South comes to mind." (She wouldn't give another example.) She said not being able to build denser a few blocks off the drag might be stalling the vitality of the neighborhood.

The city is currently updating the 1995 plan, which indeed funneled growth into urban villages—directing the majority of development into mixed residential and commercial hubs around the city such as exciting neighborhoods that would blow the mind of a time traveler from the past, like Columbia City, Lake City, Crown Hill, Morgan Junction, Fremont, and Eastlake. 

The new plan, known as Seattle 2035, contemplates continuing that strategy or opting for another vision such as an urban center strategy (pushing housing into downtown, South Lake Union, and Capitol Hill) or a light rail or transit strategy, aligning growth along transit lines.) It doesn not include nudging into the single-family zones. 

Asked if her new idea could be part of the 2035 update, Clark said simply that the Department of Planning and Development hadn't sent the plan to the council yet. 

DPD was supposed to send the plan to council this fall.  But now the update and the public policy questions about where to target growth won't hit until 2016, after the district elections. 

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