by Susanna Lin
The city has released draft MHA zones Click here to view the proposed zoning changes. Click on the pull down menu to view the map you are interested in viewing. Under this draft proposal, there would be no single family zoning left inside the urban village boundaries. The website includes instructions on how to interpret the map, which I recommend you read. In general, when you look at each zone on the map, our current zone is on the left and the new proposed zone is on the right (Example, LR1 | LR2 (M)).
In Wallingford, for example, the most dramatic changes, where the city wants to change some of the Single Family (SF) zones to Low Rise 3 (LR3), are mostly found west of Stone Way. Anyone remember that time when the city told us that zoning changes would just be “one more floor”? Well, this zoning change increases the height limit from 30’ to 50’ (and if you read further, the end product may be even higher). In general, 10’ is equal to one floor so a 50’ building is usually five stories high.
More common are blocks that are going from Single Family to Low Rise 2 (LR2), with a height “limit” of 40’. These zoning proposals can be a bit confusing to wrap your head around. The city is really changing the zoning twice. For example, the draft map shows a change from SF to LR2. But in addition, the defining characteristics of LR2 are also changing to allow for increased density, in the case of LR2 the heights will increase from 30’ to 40’. So first they change the zoning, then they also change the definition of the zone.
As if that was not enough, these specifics that define each zone in regards to height and setbacks are not as set in stone as you might think. Developers can request height “bonuses” for such things as being partially below grade, roof features, or green building components, although it is questionable how green these buildings really are in the end, but that’s another story (get it, “another story”?) And just so developers know how to take full advantage of these height bonuses, the city has kindly distributed instructions…
Notice that the height limit is 40’ but it says: Total perceived façade height from sidewalk level is about 57’. Nice job, city officials. Very transparent. Are you confused yet? Maybe that’s the point.
Last month the Mayor came to the U District to tout his upzone plan and the reception got chilly rather quickly. According to displacement activist John Fox, CM Rob Johnson and the Mayor don’t feel that upzoning the UDistrict from 240′-320′ highrises from current 45′ to 65′ heights would “stimulate any increase in the amount of new residential and commercial development over what we’re already getting under current zoning.” That’s when the bullshit meter spiked, the residents howled, and the Mayor took a quick exit stage left. Please read the entire article .
This attachment from the CNC Land Use Committee was sent to Rob Johnson the Land Use Chair on City Council prior to the Sept. 15 hearing on the 2035 comp plan. The 24 page document summarizes recommended changes in each section of the comp plan to be considered before passage of the 2035 comp plan at Full Council Monday, October 10.
You are encouraged to email your comments in support of proposed changes as selected from the attached document or just endorsement of the entire document before October 10. The recommendation is to vote no on the passage of the 2035 plan until more essential recommendations from the CNC document are incorporated into 2035 comp plan.
There will be opportunity to oppose passage at the Full Council meeting Oct. 10. Bonnie