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Seattle’s Plan to Build Back Better During COVID-19 Recovery

Updates to the Comprehensive Plan will promote transit access, job creation, walkable neighborhoods, and address impacts of systemic racism.

Seattle’s Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) recently outlined priorities for potential future changes to the City’s foundational city plan, the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive Plan, that will be studied in the coming year.

In testimony before the City Council yesterday, OPCD outlined Mayor Jenny A. Durkan’s vision for planning a reimagined and more equitable City which addresses the systemic issues brought to light during the COVID-19 pandemic, economic collapse and civil rights reckoning. Mayor Durkan proposed new station-area planning around the future 130th St. Sound Transit light rail station, strengthening the City’s industrial maritime jobs, committing to a racially equitable recovery from the global pandemic, and exploring the concept of “15-minute neighborhoods” which could include additional affordable housing near Parks facilities.

In addition to the presentation before the Seattle City Council’s Land Use and Neighborhoods committee, OPCD sent a memo that outlines the Administration’s ongoing work on transit-oriented housing, walkable amenities for every neighborhood, and equitable access to job opportunities in the maritime industrial economy.  

At 130th St. NE and 145th St. NE, Sound Transit is building new light rail stations as part of Lynnwood Link Extension. The City of Seattle has begun a 130th and 145th Station Area Planning project in partnership with community. Education and outreach continue this year as the community continues to craft its vision for more transit-oriented housing and other amenities near the stations. The City is considering early action in 2021 to allow for more housing in the block immediately adjacent to the new 130th St station.

In 2019, Mayor Durkan convened industrial-maritime stakeholders and neighborhood voices to discuss the future of these critical industries in Seattle, with specific focus on increasing family-wage jobs in the maritime and manufacturing sectors. The aim is to strengthen protections for existing maritime-industrial businesses, integrate Sound Transit’s new light rail stations in industrial areas, plan for major projects at the former National Guard Armory and other strategic sites, and encourage new economic opportunities and improved environmental health in industrial areas near residential neighborhoods. The aim is to release policy proposals in 2021.

The global pandemic is disproportionally impacting BIPOC communities, and the City is committed to a response to COVID-19 that addresses systemic racism and supports a more racially equitable future. While racial equity is already a core value in Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan, the City continues to work with BIPOC communities to expand current efforts to support community ownership and wealth building, affordable housing, and OPCD’s Equitable Development Initiative partnerships with community-led organizations combatting displacement and increasing access to opportunity.

The response to COVID-19 has also highlighted the importance of the city’s neighborhoods as places to live, work, and meet our daily needs. During the pandemic, the City has created new uses neighborhood curb space, streets and plazas. Seattle is a member of the C40 Cities and has published a Climate Action Plan that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build a climate-neutral city by 2050. Described as a key action for the health and well-being of our cities by the C40 Mayors’ Agenda for a Green and Just Recovery that was supported by Mayor Durkan, “15-minute cities” mean every neighborhood includes affordable housing choices, shopping and services, health care, parks, office space, and educational and cultural institutions within an easy walk or bike ride. OPCD will be exploring the concept of a “15-minute city” as a potential framework for the next major Comprehensive Plan update due in 2024.