The City Council committee shepherding Seattle’s Mandatory Housing Affordability legislation toward eventual reality will continue its work Wednesday fine-tuning the plan’s upzoning — block by block.
New amendments could mean areas like Capitol Hill’s Miller Park neighborhood won’t see some of the big changes originally proposed, moves that will slice some of the more ambitious upzoning on the Hill but compromises that could also quell concerns from neighbors worried about taller buildings.
UPDATE 10:55 AM: Wednesday morning’s session included very little discussion of the merits of the possible amendments as the council members went through each listed area district by district and item by item.
District 3 representative Kshama Sawant said her office has been contacted by D3 residents and people across the city asking that MHA not contribute to the city’s displacement problems. “What does MHA actually offer and what are the displacement costs?” Sawant asked. She said she supports the plan and is in favor of “any affordability” gains that can be “eked out” but hopes the amendment process can help address some of the questions around possible displacement.
Sawant also surfaced concerns of the Madison-Miller Park Neighbors group and said “in order for MHA to work in best possible way,” there should be a philosophy of a “no net loss policy” for affordable housing including older apartment buildings and single family houses divided up as multifamily housing when considering the amendments.
The D3 rep also said she would support possible additional upzones following any needed additional environmental study — Sawant said several properties in the Central District from the Low Income Housing Institute should also be considered for more intensive development.
As they discussed the overview around the possible amendments, committee members for the most part said they remain committed to seeing equitable and thorough upzones through and that a “do nothing” approach will only bring more affordability problems and displacement.
“What occurs when we don’t try to almost mandate affordability? We’ve seen what happens,” committee member and City Council president Bruce Harrell said. “People continue to be priced out. They continue to lose their homes.”
Committee member Rob Johnson also pointed out that any areas of the city left out of the MHA program will face an incentive for some developers to target those areas because of the lack of affordability requirements.
Original report: Some of the main areas for possible changes on the Hill can be seen in the maps below. A full roster of the preliminary areas under consideration for changes from the original MHA plan is listed in the table. You can see the complete roster for the city here (PDF).
The proposals were compiled “based on input from council members and community members,” the Seattle Times reported.
The likely reduction in upzoned areas across Capitol Hill, District 3, and the city will mean a decrease in funding and new units created by the program when it is ultimately implemented. Under MHA, affordability requirements will vary by scale and developers can choose to pay fees instead of including rent-restricted units. The legislation has been expected to result in $380 million in revenue from the payment option and 1,325 units over 20 years, according to city planners. That $380 million could build another 4,300 affordable units, according to the city’s analysis.
Neighborhoods slated to be part of the rezoning from across District 3 will be on the agenda Wednesday along with areas of Districts 1, 2, and 5. The other districts passed through a session of refinement Monday. A council vote on proposed amendments to the MHA legislation is slated for February 25th.
Despite a so called affordability crisis in Seattle, the path to implementing MHA has been long and winding. In November, the city’s Hearing Examiner ruled against a coalition of neighborhood groups calling for further review of the program clearing the way for the legislative process started in 2014 to finally continue.
The most significant changes to Capitol Hill zoning will come along Broadway from around Cal Anderson Park all the way north to Roy with plans to implement 75-foot height limits and “neighborhood commercial” zoning to allow seven-story buildings with commercial use throughout. The list of potential amendments seems to mostly leave the important changes in the neighborhood’s core intact.
For District 3 and Capitol Hill, some of the areas under consideration for backing off original MHA plans are blocks where single family style homes could be most directly mixed with multifamily development. That kind of mix can be exciting for urbanists and proponents of affordability — but also can be the types of changes most likely to spark homeowner backlash and the City Hall-dreaded community concern.
Some possible alterations could possibly see areas go the other way and receive an upzone but those amendments are less likely, city officials say, because they would require further environmental study. They include a few possible surgical strikes with specific addresses like E Yesler’s Country Doctor Clinic where a more significant upzoning could be introduced.
According to the council memo on the amendment process, not all of the possible changes will be picked up by council members — and new changes could be introduced:
This is not an exhaustive list of potential map changes. Other changes to the proposed zoning may be identified in the course of the Committee’s review and discussion. Inclusion in this memo does not imply that there is a Councilmember sponsoring any change suggested.
Changes that are requested that are consistent with the options studied in the FEIS may be considered as an amendment to the proposed bill. Changes that are beyond the options studied in the FEIS, including requested zoning changes to property that falls outside of the FEIS study area, may be included in a companion resolution with a request to the Executive to conduct a planning process, including additional environmental review, to determine if those changes are appropriate.
Before the final roster of amendments is voted on, the committee will draft a notice for a public hearing “to receive input on all potential changes to the MHA legislation.” That notice is slated to be ready by January 22nd with plans for a February 21st public hearing. A committee vote is planned to take place February 8th with a final vote on the changes slated for February 25th.
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