Planning Commission: Creating ‘Neighborhoods for All’
Changes to single-family zoning necessary for the city’s future, report concludes
Restoring the flexibility in housing types seen in Seattle’s historic residential neighborhoods is critical if the city is to achieve its goals of being a diverse, equitable and sustainable place to live, according to a new report from the Seattle Planning Commission.
In the report, Neighborhoods for All: Expanding housing opportunity in Seattle’s single-family zones, the commission highlights recent data showing the impacts of current regulations, and presents a set of strategies to allow a mix of housing types that can help neighborhoods retain characteristics of lower-density areas while welcoming a broader range of residents.
The report points out that Seattle’s current zoning map shows three times more single-family land than multifamily and mixed-use land combined. As a result, during this decade of record-breaking population growth, the vast majority of new residents were absorbed in areas zoned for multifamily dwellings, while areas zoned for one house per lot showed little change, and some even lost population. At the same time, the look and feel of many areas zoned single-family are changing as modest houses are replaced by larger, more expensive ones: The average house size has increased by 1,000 square feet since 1900, the report notes.
“Our current approach to zoning has created a bifurcated city, where two-thirds of residential land is off limits to all but those with the highest incomes,” said Tim Parham, chair of the Planning Commission. “The fundamental goal of this report is to encourage a return to the mix of housing and development patterns found in many of Seattle’s older and most walkable neighborhoods, thereby giving more people a wider array of living options.”