Jolt axth2t

Council member Mike O’Brien has amended the city council’s housing affordability [HALA] work plan and timeline to restart the volatile discussion about adding housing flexibility (and density) into single-family neighborhoods.

The council's special HALA committee added O'Brien's changes to the council's HALA work plan last week. The item, titled “Adaptation of Single Family Homes,” considers "changes to allow existing [single-family] houses to be converted into multiple housing units. Development standards for Single Family zoning including height, bulk and lot coverage ratios continue to apply.” This comes just two months after Mayor Ed Murray caused a stir by first including changes to the single family zones to allow duplexes and triplexes in those zones and then walking it back two weeks later. O'Brien's idea is different than Murray's and HALA's evidently nuclear idea. It would not allow new construction but simply renovations to allow multi-family living within single-family homes.

While this is just a conversation starter, the idea is to allow for multi-family living arrangements and increased density in preexisting single-family homes without the development of totally new triplexes and duplexes, keeping the surface look of exclusive bungalow neighborhoods intact. The interiors of multi-story single-family homes could be revamped to create multiple, individual units complete with separate or shared kitchens to be sold or leased to new owners or tenants.

It’s unclear whether this disguised multi-family housing in single-family homes would be allowed in all 65 percent of Seattle’s single family zones or just in select areas. That’s all up for debate in the committee. The work plan calls for legislation "amending development standards to allow more flexible use of homes in single family zones that exist prior to January 1, 2016."

Murray spokesperson Jason Kelly told PubliCola this afternoon: "There was a recommendation from HALA to explore new housing types in single family zones, if the council wants to advance that discussion it certainly can ... the council sets its own work plan." Kelly said the mayor's policy staff is looking at the work plan. Referencing the mayor's decision to yank the HALA committee's original proposal, he told us: "He [Mayor Murray] just felt earlier this summer that that discussion [the SFZ discussion] was a distraction from the other recommendations."

We have a call out to the Department of Planning and Development to get clarity on how these code changes would precisely differ from current single-family zoning regulations.