Shoreline Council mirrors Obama housing plan but residents have concerns

Monday, October 3, 2016

By Diane Hettrick

On September 29, the same day that the Shoreline City Council completed its rezone of the 145th Street Subarea, the Obama White House released a study on the need for denser housing in urban cities.

The White House paper, Housing Development Toolkit, talks about zoning regulations fueled by local opposition preventing the development of housing affordable enough for workers and their families to live near available jobs in big cities, such as Seattle.

It discusses the issue of having workers live far from their jobs, with the problems resulting from long commutes. Worse, that workers cannot connect with available jobs, stifling economic growth in the most productive regions.

Scarcity of affordable housing drives up rents, making it even less possible for workers to live near jobs.

The report presents tools for cities to create adequate, affordable housing, including:

  • Streamlining or shortening permitting processes and timelines 
  • Eliminate off-street parking requirements 
  • Establishing density bonuses 
  • Enacting high-density and multifamily zoning 
Local policies acting as barriers to housing supply include land use restrictions that make developable land much more costly than it is inherently, zoning restrictions, off-street parking requirements, arbitrary or antiquated preservation regulations, residential conversion restrictions, and unnecessarily slow permitting processes.

That night, the Shoreline City Council coincidentally did what the White House recommended. They adopted the 145th station area subarea plan, which includes high density multi-family zoning with affordable housing requirements and a planned action SEPA ordinance that streamlines the permit process. As the White House report says, this action will help address the affordable housing crisis in our region and help local families and the local economy.

Councilmember Will Hall stated that "While some local opponents wanted to prohibit apartments and businesses in the station area in an attempt to prevent their neighborhood from changing, the City of Shoreline is responding to the housing affordability crisis by allowing higher density in exactly the places where it belongs: within walking distance of high capacity transit and along existing and planned commercial corridors."

Residents have many points of disagreement with these conclusions. There is a consensus that areas near the transit stations should have greater density, but few expected that the rezone areas would cover such a large area.

Residents fear piecemeal development, when developers are able to acquire sufficient property for townhouses or six story buildings in random locations within the rezone. Retired homeowners with paid up mortgages feel they will be forced out of their neighborhoods when they find themselves in the shadow of multi-story buildings, and that they will have to move far away to find housing they can afford.

Environmentalists are concerned about air quality when trees are replaced with concrete. The 145th rezone includes two bodies of water, with feeder streams and wetlands. Residents really do not appreciate insufficient parking for apartment buildings, questioning the assumption that if there is no parking, people will get along without cars.

Yet, nothing will happen until real developers (as opposed to real estate speculators who are blitzing the rezone residents with offers to buy) are actually interested in constructing buildings in the rezone areas and residents and their neighbors are willing to sell.


Anonymous,  October 3, 2016 at 10:39 PM  

So not only could Shoreline expect to sued by the PSRC for their preferred zoning, but we'd also be looking at federally mandated zoning from the Obama administration. Thanks Obama!

To correct Will Hall's statement:
1) "Some" local opponents doesn't accurately capture the amount of opposition. The city has yet to proof of the overwhelming support they claim they have for the upzones.
2) Those opposed to the upzones are not opposed to change and would have welcomed reasonable density increases. Just not the super-sized, crazy train levels of density and height... a happy meal, cookie cutter "plan" that came with no plan for infrastructure, schools, 1000+ tree replacement, watershed protections, loss of air quality, loss of tree canopy, utilities, additional funding for human services. You're misrepresentation of how your opposition views change is getting sad, old, tired. Do come up with something more original next time.
3) In addition to reasonable upzoning and density, these 'opponents' do support commercial and apartment buildings where they belong... a concentric circle adjacent to the station and... in the eyesore vacant lots along aurora... next to.. not just within walking distance, but right outside the front door....wait for it... high-capacity, rapid ride transit!

Anonymous October 4, 2016 at 10:12 AM  

These recomendations make for a very not-welcoming living style. Let's pack them in like rats, then jack up the rates anyway and make a bundle!!! If the need is for people to live close to downtown Seattle jobs, why not keep the growth in Queen Anne, Capitol Hill, Magnolia, .... oh yeah, those have wealthy people living there already and they don't want change...

Anonymous,  October 4, 2016 at 1:22 PM  

And don't forget about the real estate agents spreading blatant lies and misinformation in the their attempts to ignite a selling blitz and mass exodus. If you've received the 8x5 black postcard in the mail from a self-proclaimed "rezone expert" with the map and list of projects. Ignore it, because none of the projects can not be verified and they're just going of off a rather lame attempt at interpreting development codes and min/mac densities. Honestly, if you were going to sell, would you trust that transaction to someone who is so misinformed and confused about the process?

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