Earlier this month, Mayor Tim Burgess signed off on the Uptown neighborhood’s rezoning but that was only one part of a 30-year plan. Seattle’s Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA), which sits under the larger Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) program, puts Capitol Hill and Central District up next in the Seattle City Council process.
The mayor’s office will hand Capitol Hill, Madison, Ballard, and the Central District over to City Hall next month for the start of the rezoning process. This is when the Council will work out the upzoning details and timeline. The majority of zoning slated for Capitol Hill will change to Low Rise 3 and Neighborhood Commercial 3 and 2 zones (or NC3 and NC2, at 75 feet or 55 feet height maximum). They mostly permit one more story. These categories have square footage limits codified in them as well.
The City Council will likely vote on Capitol Hill zoning changes in 2018, but Jesseca Brand with the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods said we’ll see housing built under the framework before 2021.
One flashpoint area in the process will be around the Miller Community Center. That neighborhood is slated for a boost to mostly 40-feet for townhouses, row houses, or apartments with seven to 10 percent affordability. Near the southeast corner of the Miller Playfield, a 50-foot zone and 11 percent affordability is proposed.
For the Capitol Hill core around Broadway and Pike/Pine where redevelopment has already been heavy, the proposed changes are actually a little boring. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the plan would bring changes to both sides of Broadway between Howell and East Roy Street where an up-zone would allow for seven story buildings with commercial use throughout. Currently, commercial uses are only allowed in the first four stories. That could bring a large office project or (another?) hotel to a part of Capitol Hill that many say is in desperate need of daytime activity.
UPDATE: There are two alternative rezoning scenarios under consideration. We’ll dive more deeply into both as the process kicks back into motion but these maps show the options described above and an alternative with a more significant set of changes also under consideration:
Meanwhile, rezoning creeps across Seattle because each area has environmental impact statements that finish at different times. As each one is done, the council can begin its legislative process.
The pace of things, however, is key.
“We think it’s very important,” Brand said. “There are new developments applying every day and if we delay, it means new buildings not making affordable housing.”
Still, Spencer Williams, a legislative assistant to council member Rob Johnson — who heads the Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee — said the process won’t be rushed.
Plans for a number of projects in the CD and on the Hill are already adding affordable housing units (like Africatown Plaza). These areas have undergone zoning changes before MHA could be implemented. Additional rezoning already dots 23rd Avenue.
Jason Kelly of the Office of Planning and Community Development said, while there may not be a rush, time is of the essence.
“Most of the current development we see across Seattle outside of these areas continues to proceed without making any contribution to affordable housing,” Kelly said. “That’s why it’s important to implement MHA in the remaining urban villages, like Capitol Hill. Every project that goes to permit before the zoning changes necessary to implement MHA is a missed opportunity to generate additional affordable housing for lower-income people.”
The MHA component of HALA will involve approximately 6,000 of the 20,000 units the program is expected to create.
For new buildings, the options will be either five to seven percent of homes at affordable rents for low-income people or have developers contribute $7 to $21 per square foot. Previously, city planners called for seven to 11 percent affordable housing requirements.
Seattle gives more height and bulk to developers in exchange for affordable housing requirements. MHA impacts all Seattle “urban villages” except for the ones already completed (like the ones Downtown, in South Lake Union, the International District, University District, Uptown, and the nose of 23rd Avenue).