Global climate change is loading the dice, making extreme weather events like forest fires and Hurricanes even more intense. Seattle has experienced some of its rainiest and least snowy winters, its hottest and driest summers, and its highest tides on record. Learn from international experts how homeowners, new development and local government all play a role in improving Seattle’s climate resilience.
Last month, our summer interns participated and attended a Community Conversation event at the Lake City Community Center. Sponsored by Lake City Future First and many other community advocacy organizations, the Community Conversation events bring residents together to discuss important issues, with stations for “Strengthing Community Partnerships”, “Building a Healthy Community”, “Enhancing Public Safety” and “Planning for the Future. Attendees also learned more about what their community has to offer, how to get involved, and more. Here are Allan and Winnie’s thoughts/observations as first time attendees.
The Lake City Community Conversation was an event I’ve never heard of or been to. I remember arriving to the event and seeing an elder who had everyone sign in. After signing in I entered the room and saw all different types of people, in terms of age and race.
They even had different booths talking about Lake City, as well as a poster related to the upcoming projects for Lake City. I remember walking up to one of the booths and heard a very passionate Lake City resident. The resident was very engaged in the conversation on the problems of Lake City. It’s good to see someone very passionate about their community.
I saw children at the event, though they weren’t very engaged into what was happening, it’s still good to expose children to events like the community conversation. The event had food for anyone who was hungry or thirsty. I also remember how nice everyone was, from when I entered to when I exited. The Community Conversation gave me a pretty good experience of engaging with the Community.
The Lake City community conversation was something that I’ve never attended before. There were local businesses, City representatives, neighbors, and community groups coming together to provide information/updates on projects in progress or being planned for the area.
I like seeing everyone gathered together. Even though the turn out wasn’t as big as I heard it could be, I feel that people still got to get the information they wanted or learn more about what’s going on and being planned. There were chairs out for people to sit of course, and it was nice how everyone just sat together and started talking like they’ve known each other forever. At community meetings I’ve seen before, everyone tends to sit by themselves or with people they know. Everyone was very nice and friendly, and easy to talk to.
Near the end of the event, one of the community members started putting chairs away. Allan and I offered to help. As we were helping him, more people began helping him put the chairs away as well. Lake City is a diverse place, and it seems like a welcoming community and neighborhood.
The Seattle City Council has adopted ordinances to require new development along 23rd Ave in the Central Area and in Chinatown-International District to contribute to affordable housing, producing at least 200 new affordable homes over the next decade, in exchange for modest increases in building height and density in the neighborhoods.
Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) requires multifamily residential and commercial development to include rent-restricted homes for low-income families or make a payment to the Office of Housing to support affordable housing. Future zoning changes in Seattle will implement MHA, while increasing opportunities for new housing.
MHA has already been implemented in Downtown, South Lake Union, and the University District. The City Council is now considering zoning changes to implement MHA in Uptown.
Over the last 18 months, Seattle has added more than 10,000 new homes, with 85 percent of all housing construction occurring inside the city’s urban centers and urban villages, according to recent permitting and construction data published in the Urban Center / Village Growth Report. Seattle’s urban villages are identified in the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan as the places to guide future population growth, a policy established in 1994. The Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) has found that recent housing growth is becoming even more focused in Seattle’s densest neighborhood centers.
“Seattle’s urban villages are becoming even more vibrant, with new housing, retail businesses and other resources that support high quality-of-life,” said OPCD Director Sam Assefa. “Because these neighborhoods are closer to job centers and have good access to frequent transit, more people have the option to avoid a long commute and reduce their dependence on cars. We continue to implement Mandatory Housing Affordability in more urban villages, which over the next decade will support at least 6000 new affordable homes in these neighborhoods for thousands of low-income households.”
In 1994, the City Council approved Seattle’s first Comprehensive Plan prepared under the state Growth Management Act, including the urban village strategy which directs housing growth to neighborhoods with more transit options. That strategy has been effective in locating more than 75 percent of new housing in urban villages and urban centers over the past two decades.
In recent months, an even greater share of new homes is being built in urban villages. Since January 2016, Seattle has added 10,123 net new housing units including apartments, townhouses, and single-family houses, with 8,554 of the new homes built inside urban villages and 1,569 new homes added outside urban villages during that period.
In the past 18 months, half of all new housing in Seattle has been built in six areas experiencing the most growth:
- South Lake Union (1322 new homes constructed)
- Belltown (942)
- Pike/Pine Corridor (922)
- Ballard (776)
- University District Northwest (553)
- Fremont (471)
Looking ahead to future development, buildings containing 21,349 homes have received permits but have not yet been completed. More than 82 percent of these homes will be located within urban villages close to jobs, commercial areas, and transit services. The areas with the most homes in the pipeline are:
- South Lake Union (3670 units permitted)
- Denny Triangle (1612)
- Belltown (1197)
- First Hill (1192)
Seattle’s new Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) program requires that all new multi-family residential and commercial development contribute to affordable housing, either by including rent-restricted homes or making a payment to the City’s fund to support affordable housing. To put MHA into effect, the City adds development capacity and expanded housing choices. MHA has already been implemented in Downtown, South Lake Union, the University District, Chinatown-International District, and along 23rd Ave in the Central Area. The City Council is currently considering zoning changes necessary to implement MHA in Uptown.
Seattle is the fastest growing large city in America, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. The Washington Office of Financial Management reports that Seattle added nearly 27,000 net new residents between April 2016 and April 2017, more than the rest of King County combined.
Mayor Ed Murray joined local business owners and community advocates to sign legislation rezoning areas of the Central District’s 23rd Avenue corridor, triggering Mandatory Housing Affordability. City Council unanimously passed the measure this week requiring new development to create more affordable housing and to promote preservation of community businesses and landmarks in the neighborhood. This legislation is a key recommendation of Mayor Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda.
Allan is a Seattle Youth Employment Program (SYEP) intern this summer with Winnie Huang. The following comes after Allan’s first time visit and mini-tour of Lake City.
Lake City still seems to be growing like any other city in Seattle. They’re run by certain principles in many topics; Transportation, Diversity, Housing, etc. Lake city is mainly focusing on their “Urban Design Framework” by improving the neighborhood. This would make me expect that the neighborhood of Lake city would have a safe and fun environment for both the adults and youths of Lake City. Lake City also has and acknowledges its history, so I would maybe expect some historic piece of their history or somewhat related to that. Also, Lake city has quite a lot of businesses. Using the help of online research Lake city is known for its abundance number of car dealership businesses.
After visiting Lake city, it has surprised me both in a negative and a positive way. I noticed the animated streets and how active the city was. I soon then met with a resident of Lake city named Oliver, since he’s been living there, he’d probably know more than I do about Lake city. Oliver kept on saying that there is a lot of graffiti around the city, but during our entire adventure through Lake City I only noticed one or two graffiti marks. I also visited the Lake City Community center but before arriving there, I noticed that there is an intersection that does not have stop lights, I don’t know if there are more intersections that are the same but there is a saying, “if there’s one ant then there’s a colony behind it.”
After arriving at the community center, I compared it to my own neighborhood community center (Yesler) and noticed that Lake City’s building looked very old. I also noticed that there are tons of upcoming projects. Though this was a step forward to making Lake City better, it seemed like they were planning way too much but not executing those plans. The roads were mind opening for me as well. Some sidewalks in Lake City doesn’t exist. Going back, there was one thing that met my expectations, it was the fact that the city is filled with car dealership businesses.
Though some of these may be on the negative spectrum on what I saw in Lake city, there are good things I saw as well. Walking throughout Lake City, there was one thing I noticed that warmed my heart. The residents of Lake city are optimistic. I say this because there are community events and people trying to make art murals. Their community events allows anyone to join and have fun, dancing in a circle and holding hands, children, adults, elders (I really saw this, it made my heart fall immensely). The residents of Lake City are trying to do things that keep themselves optimistic and patient on the larger changes of Lake City. I honestly feel like they are creating their own change. Knowing that Lake City has such wonderful and positive residents makes the problems of Lake City presence barely there. Every city has its strengths, and I can most definitely say Lake City’s strength is within its people.
Thatcher has served as executive director of Seattle Parks Foundation since 2010. The Foundation supports community groups dedicated to creating and enhancing parks and public spaces in neighborhoods across the city. He has founded and led various cultural and civic organizations and is currently the board president of Town Hall Seattle.
Meet Thatcher Bailey, Mami Hara (Seattle Public Utilities), and Uwe Brandes (Georgetown University) as our guest panelists at our next Urban Innovations Speakers Series event, titled “How can Seattle ‘Grow’ More Outdoor Space?” Click here for more information.
On Tuesday, July 18, the Council’s PLUZ Committee passed legislation to implement a community vision for 23rd Avenue in the Central Area, including new Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) requirements at key intersections with Union, Cherry and Jackson streets. The 23rd Avenue Action Community Team has been working in the Central Area to support the neighborhood’s unique identity and community character by encouraging pedestrian friendly mixed-use development that promotes new housing options, including affordable housing, while supporting existing and new small businesses to serve the diverse community.
The PLUZ Committee also approved new Mount Baker Town Center Design Guidelines and Pike/Pine Design Guidelines. The proposed Mt. Baker Design Guidelines are tailored so that new development implements the neighborhood’s Town Center vision and improves the pedestrian experience near the transit center. The update to the Pike/Pine Design Guidelines help promote new development that is compatible with Pike/Pine’s unique built character and pedestrian scale.
The legislation now moves to the full Council for consideration. View the July 18 agenda here.
One Center City will create a 20-year vision and action plan to improve transportation and provide great public spaces for everyone. This means having easy, affordable, and reliable travel options, as well as public spaces that are safe and inviting. The plan will set priorities for how we use our streets, make sure that all the pieces of our transportation system work together, and identify opportunities to enhance the public realm. These public spaces are where we experience and move through the city, so they need to be accessible, safe, and enjoyable for all.
The City of Seattle, King County, Sound Transit and the Downtown Seattle Association are collaborating to create a 20-year vision for our urban neighborhoods. But we need to improve mobility and our public spaces now, so the plan will recommend projects, policies, and programs that can be implemented within the next few years.
Seattle’s Equitable Development Initiative (EDI) has received its first round grant applications for projects identified in the Equitable Development Implementation Plan and the Financial Investment Strategy. Last year, Mayor Murray announced a $16 million fund that will support community-driven projects in Seattle’s neighborhoods where communities of color are at highest risk of displacement. The first round focuses on projects in the Central Area, Chinatown/International District, and Southeast Seattle.
We’ll announce our grant recipients later this summer and provide more information about the second round of funding that should start in the fall. We are also in the process of hiring additional staff to join the EDI team in addition to our SYEP summer interns.
For more information, visit our EDI website.