Neighborhood by neighborhood, Seattle working out HALA and Mandatory Housing Affordability changes

Some Miller Park residents are not happy with the proposed zoning changes for their neighborhood in the city’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda.

Those residents will get an opportunity to voice their thoughts in small group discussions following a presentation on HALA, Urban Villages, and the Mandatory Housing Affordability proposal at a Community Design Workshop at 6 PM on Tuesday at the Miller Community Center.

Spencer Williams, a legislative assistant to City Council member Rob Johnson, said the input collected from community members at the workshop as well as from open houses the city has hosted and online and elsewhere will be analyzed by the Office of Planning and Community Development.

Madison-Miller Urban Village Community Design Workshop

“The meeting is happening many months prior to there being a final proposal before the council,” Williams told CHS. “We are really trying to stay engaged early.”

An example of an "ugly" development next to single family-style homes from the Miller Park Neighbors group

An example of an “ugly” development next to single family-style homes from the Miller Park Neighbors group

Zoning along Madison between 14th and 23rd is proposed to be pushed to 75-feet for mixed use with 7% affordability. Starting near 23rd and E Pine, there are several blocks of single family zones that are slated to become new low-rise zones, allowing for medium-sized apartment projects. Meanwhile, the area surrounding TT Minor Playground and the Seattle World School is proposed to get a max height of 40 feet with 7% affordability.

Chief among the HALA principles is that denser housing should be built around major transit centers. Several low-rise zoned blocks east of the Capitol Hill Station would go to midrise zones and be required to have a second-tier (M1) level of affordability. But Madison’s isn’t slated for a similar up-zone even with plans for a new Madison Bus Rapid Transit line. The low-rise zones just off Madison are only slated for the standard HALA bump instead of an M1 level of affordability.

As part of Seattle’s “Grand Bargain,” Mandatory Housing Affordability will link the creation of affordable housing with market-rate development by requiring all new multifamily buildings to make 5-11% of their units affordable or require developers to pay into an affordable housing fund. That part of the program has already been approved by City Council. Over the next year the city will hammer out how to handle the zoning.

This summer, a draft Environmental Impact Statement, which will analyze the proposed MHA program, will be released and the public can provide additional feedback at that time.

“There’s a lot that can happen; there’s a lot of process left,” Williams said, adding that there’s space for flexibility.

Here is how the city describes Tuesday’s meeting:

The goals of this workshop are to support Madison-Miller’s community members to learn more and weigh in on changes proposed for the neighborhood as well as to help inform the Office of Planning and Community Development and City Council about your community’s vision of how our Urban Villages should look, feel, and function in support of important citywide goals for increased affordability, design quality, and housing options in neighborhoods throughout the city.

Debrah Walker, an architect involved with the recently rejuvenated Miller Park Neighbors group thinks the workshop will be the neighborhood’s best opportunity to have its say but isn’t sure their ideas will really be considered.

“I don’t know if we have any ability to influence this to tell you the truth,” Walker told CHS.

Late summer or early fall, when the final EIS is released, will be when people start to see their comments potentially reflected, Williams said.

Last month, CHS reported on a split on Capitol Hill — those living in already dense areas generally support the proposed upzones and changes, while those living in less dense areas generally, well, don’t. That fault line is especially apparent around the Miller Park neighborhood where the area around the Miller Community Center is slated for a boost to mostly 40-feet for townhouses, row houses, or apartments with 7 to 10% affordability. Near the southeast corner of the Miller Playfield, a 50-foot zone and 11% affordability is proposed.

“The challenge at Madison-Miller is going to be unique because their development pattern is a little different,” Williams said. “They tend to have smaller lots and have rich and robust diversity in their neighborhood. … They also have a lot of people that want to live there.”

While Miller Park Neighbors has been rallying area residents to show up and provide their thoughts on proposed changes to the neighborhood, Walker said the city wasn’t very good about notifying affected areas, so the group is late learning about the proposed plans and getting organized.

Walker thinks with the lack of direct public notification and Meany Middle School under construction, the city should hold off on approving any proposed changes to see how reopening the school impacts the neighborhood.

“It feels like there’s too much too fast and it’s too complex,” Walker said.

mha_draft_zoning_changes_madison_miller mha_draft_zoning_changes_madison_miller_2

The Miller Park Neighbors held a meeting earlier this month to discuss the upzoning proposals with neighborhood residents. Andrew Taylor, who was active with the neighborhood group back in its earlier years and is somewhat involved with the new group, said he thought the meeting last week was good at getting information about proposed changes to area residents but didn’t provide a clear consensus for the group to take direction on.

The meeting brought together single family homeowners who have been longtime residents of the neighborhood and had a lot of concerns about parking and ensuring the neighborhood stays livable for families as well as millennial renters with concerns about affordability.

“Their hope with HALA is that if there is more development that prices will go down,” Walker said.

The need for more affordability is something most people agree with Walker, who went apartment hunting with her daughters that are in their mid-20s and early 30s.

“They’re trying to figure out where’s the affordability for them in HALA,” Walker said. “… They make too much (to qualify) and they don’t make that much,” she said.

According to the city’s website, the workshops are an opportunity to comment on a variety of related topics:

We welcome a lively interchange of ideas and opinions on the recently proposed zoning changes for your neighborhood, including where the boundary for urban villages should be drawn, what mix of zones best support the context and conditions of local areas, and how to encourage more housing options and elements of livability (including neighborhood amenities such as frequent and reliable transit, community-serving businesses, parks and schools).

A large turnout is expected on Tuesday, so the city is encouraging residents to RSVP.

UPDATE: Can’t make the meeting? Here is more from Williams on how to participate:

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