Let’s agree on these things:
- Seattle is probably not getting any smaller.
- A diversity of housing types and neighborhoods is essential.
- Homeowners and small businesses owning their own buildings and land are good things.
- Affordability is essential for renters and owners of housing and business spaces.
- Strong families, schools, neighborhoods, and business districts are golden.
- Trees and open space deserve more than enough room in our neighborhoods.
- Entire life cycles are natural and our built environment should reflect them seamlessly.
So why are our electeds in such a hurry to toss those things away with blanket rezoning of just about the entire city?
Seattle needs a sea change in November when it comes to the city council’s land-use committee and the sustainability committee in order to re-build the middle class, stabilize housing and its costs for renters and owners, maintain verdant and humane places for people to live, and assure that our next generation of renters, homeowners, small business owners, and entrepreneurs will have a place they can call home.
For some time now, we’ve been fed a steady diet by our electeds that these lovely neighborhoods need to be snuffed out in the name of social, economic, environmental or some other kind of justice.
That premise is false and the battle cry is nearly criminal.
We already have all the potential density we’ll need for the next hundred or 200 years in our “single family” zones (i.e. SF5000). Similarly, our mixed-use commercial zones already have all the potential density they need for at least 25 years, but probably 50 or more since another Amazon in Seattle is probably not going to happen in the immediate future.
So, again, I ask – what’s the rush?
We should all ask our councilmembers to table the rezoning because there is so much political mismanagement of density and affordability issues. A new council not so beholden to developer-driven lobbyist rhetoric can bring better ideas that send a message demanding gentle density and an acknowledgement that the people who live in Seattle and the people that own businesses in Seattle – now and in the future – actually matter whether they own or rent. We all want solutions, not fakery.
In SF5000 zones, with a long-term “gentle density” approach, owner-occupants over generations will develop their land to fill the building envelopes and cover the lots as prescribed. We can expedite that with incentives any time we want, but we never have. Why do the electeds offer obscene incentives to commercial developers to supposedly create affordable housing that they barely create, yet they never do that for residents and business owners who are long-term owner-occupants?
From their developer giveaways, all they get is crumbs in the way of affordable housing and nothing in the way of affordable business space. Did you know that most of the deals they’re making for those crumbs of affordable housing expire into nothing in 75 years? Yikes. That’s one heck of a can to kick down the road, people.
It seems to me that we need those strong-rooted long-term owner-occupant homeowners and business people who are so essential to the neighborhood fabric to be the developers, not necessarily all the folks blowing in for the boom. I hope that makes sense to you.
If we helped folks add affordable rental spaces to their houses, basements, backyards, and business spaces, it would make it so much easier for them to make the payments. More could own their home and place of work and more people could afford the rental spaces those people create. Over time the situation gets nothing but better.
On a SF5000 lot you need to leave 65% open space and limit lot coverage to the other 35%, but you can build up to 35′ to the roof peak with a pitched roof and have a backyard cottage, too.
Additionally, lots of our commercially zoned properties have 40′ limits. Helping people to maximize the residential land they live on and the commercial land they own and run their business on would be huge.
In our SF5000 zones, the height and coverage limits allow for a verdant neighborhood with room for sun, trees, yards, gardens, streetscapes and off-street parking. When the building envelopes are maxed out over time as they are at my house, you can fit a lot of people on 5000 sf without crowding and without increasing building footprints from their historic proportions. People can have room to live a life, not just a place to sleep.
Tax incentives and Zero Interest Loans could help expedite that process whenever we’re ready. I know I am. My neighbors said they’re interested, too. We could certainly create all the affordable housing and business spaces we need in 5 – 10 years.
Long-term owner occupants could keep the “gentle density” development going on into the future, too, because our policies and programs could support that and home economics will insist on it. More homeowners, more businesses that own their own buildings, and more affordable home and business rentals in great neighborhoods. Yes!
We could set goals for continually raising the ratio of owner-occupancy and the number of affordable rental housing and business space in these zones, too, so we can make sure as many people as possible can own the house they live in and the building they do business in, and that the spaces they rent to live and work are stable and affordable.
We can and should slow down the blur that is gutting the fabric of our neighborhoods at the expense of most of us via the current blade and build redevelopment trends directed by our electeds and carried out by their commercial developer comrades. They just might not be thinking of any of us, the importance of quality human environments, or our social fabric.
A new designation or overlay like Owner-Occupied Residential Zones and Owner-Occupied Business Zones could get this done. It would strengthen our families, neighborhoods, schools and small businesses.
There’s so much I could do as a city councilmember to help people get a piece of the rock and hang onto it once they have it and our families, communities, schools and businesses will all benefit.
Please comment or give me a call (206) 579-3703 to share your thoughts.
PS: Four $25 Democracy Vouchers will arrive in your mailboxes in mid-February. Please consider contributing them to my campaign.