City of Seattle


Residents of Seattle voted in favor of investments in transportation choices (such as bike lanes, sidewalks, paved roads and transit) through Bridging the Gap. These are important to the environment, the economy, and to our quality of life.

This was reiterated last November with the overwhelming approval of Mass Transit Now, which provides more light rail, commuter rail, and buses. In July of 2009, Light Rail will begin operation in Seattle. Planning has begun in three new transit station areas: North Beacon Hill, North Rainier and MLK Jr. @ Holly. It is critical that these investments work with our communities.

Transit Oriented Communities, HB 1490, is being sponsored by Representatives Nelson, Pedersen, Goodman, Simpson, Upthegrove, Appleton, Dickerson, Liias, Morris, Roberts, White, Ormsby, McCoy, and Miloscia.

It makes some changes to the Growth Management Act, the Regional Transportation Planning Organizations, and county-wide planning policies to incorporate measuring and reducing climate pollution.

It requires a minimum residential zoned net density of 50 du/acre within a ˝ mile radius of transit stations in over 20 cities in the Central Puget Sound.

This bill was initiated by environmental groups. It is one of four priorities set in the Priorities for a Healthy Washington process, which includes 24 environmental groups.

The City of Seattle’s Position

We support connecting communities with fast, frequent, and reliable transportation choices.

We support leveraging our voter-approved investments in transit to create great neighborhoods.

We do not support a prescribed density requirement within a transit station radius. We, along with our partners in other cities, are currently making recommendations to change the legislation.

We believe that each neighborhood is unique and that successful planning requires local decision making. We remain committed to our process of working with neighborhoods in the planning of how transit stations will support our neighborhoods.


Feb 6th, letter from Office of Mayor to Rep. Nelson begins here

City of Seattle

Office of the Mayor

TO: Representative Sharon Nelson

FROM: City of Seattle Office of Intergovernmental Relations

RE: Comments on HB 1490

DATE: Friday, February 6, 2009

Thank you for the opportunity to provide comments on FIB 1490, reducing greenhouse gas emissions through land use and transportation requirements. The City of Seattle believes all levels of government should implement practices and policies that provide for strong climate protection and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions We strongly support the goals of this legislation, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through land use planning and to maximize the public investment in mass transit being made by the Puget Sound region by encouraging dense, affordable communities around high capacity transit stations.

We are committed to working with you and the proponents of this legislation to address the above goals. Thank you again for the opportunity to provide comments. If you have any questions about our suggestions below, please do not hesitate to contact Tim Gugerty, State Legislative Liaison, at 206-650-7833 or tim.gugerty

Major Issue: Net Density Requirement and distance

If some net density requirement remains in the bill, that term needs to be defined. Does net mean that all public purpose lands (parks, schools, fire stations, etc.) are subtracted &om the total land area, or only streets are subtracted? Does net mean “allowed on every lot within the affected area” or is it an average allowed across the affected area? Measuring success by only the allowed housing density misses the importance of accounting for jobs in these areas, or in the case of 1-lusky Stadium station - hospital and university employment, plus a large contingent of students (with not a lot of potential for housing). The Lakewood, Bellevue park/ride lot and Edmonds shoreline areas are other unanticipated conditions. Successful station areas can have several different looks - from dense residential areas, to more complete mixed-use areas.

The bill needs to define an average if a number must be specified. Any mandated distance is going to raise problems in some locations.

Assumed housing densities under current Seattle zoning for area within ˝ mile of light rail stations:

Beacon 1-lill - 18 du/ac*

Brooklyn - 50

Columbia City -21

Mt. Baker - 25 *

Northgate - 49*

Othello - 22*

Rainier Beach - 15

Roosevelt - 20*

Husky Stadium - 8

(Note much of the development capacity is in mixed-use zones that allow both housing and commercial development. The following densities assume that only a portion - generally around a half- of what is built in these zones will be housing)

* = Upzones that would increase these densities are now being considered

Major Issue: Affordable housing requirement and relocation assistance

The bill requires 25% of the total units in new developments to be affordable. This requirement can be applied to every development, or the city can achieve that threshold throughout the TOC via a master planning process.

The financial analyses performed earlier this year don’t support that amount of affordable housing in each project through incentive zoning alone. Seattle might be able to achieve 20% affordable housing on average in new development, however, especially if we used a combination of incentive zoning, MFTE and funding. This is highly dependent on the amount of increased density allowed. The bill as drafted assumes a 25% density increase to accompany the 25% affordability requirement. In reality, additional density at market rate would be necessary.

The affordability thresholds in (1) need more analysis about the amount of density that would be needed to achieve the target as well as the combination of developer requirements and funding that it would take to achieve them. We would benefit from more time to do research, consult with cities and the bill proponents, etc. — in order to determine whether a workable threshold is possible in State statute.

As an alternative, the bill could just require cities to use incentive zoning, consistent with 36 within TOCs. CTED could report back to the legislature about programs adopted and units produced. This would allow time to consider the varying market situations, including the need to mitigate for affordable housing that is demolished.

The notification and relocation requirements are patterned on the condo conversion bill past last year. The developer pays the full relocation amount (determined by the city) to displaced tenants up to 80% of median income. An alternative would be to provide relocation assistance to tenants up to 50% of median, consistent with the existing City program, but that could run the risk of suggesting that local government pay half the cost.

Specific Language recommendations

Section 2 Related to Comprehensive Plan Elements

page 4, lines 17-21

36.70A.070(2)ffl des identifies strategj for and encourages housing within walking or bicycling or transit distance of employment concentrations or high capacity transit stations that is affordable to persons employed withm concentrations. Land designated for housing undef-this subsection (2)(f) must bc

Note — The current language would put jurisdictions in the position of designating land outside their own boundaries (transit distance) within their housing element.

Page 8, lines 23-27

36.70A.070(6)(a)(iii)(B) These standards should be regionally coordinated and must consider all transportation modes in meeting regional transportation demands. In adopting level of service standards required under this subsection (6)(a)(iii)(B), jurisdictions must also consider adopting multimodal level of service standards c bicycle and pedestrian routes

Note: No accepted methodology for establishing LOS for bike and ped routes. Seattle could live with this language but “consider” must stay in the language

Page 10, lines 9-12

36.70A.070(6)(b)(i) Would suggest eliminating the amended sentence at the end of the section and integrating it into the previous sentence:

These strategies (may4neltde) must consider multi-modal improvements or strategies such as increased public transportation service, ride sharing programs, demand management and other transportation systems management strategies. Ordinance adeeted. under this subsection 0) must consider multimodal improvements or strategio&

Section 4

page 12, lines 11-18. Not sure it is necessary to define both of these terms. Compact development is really the goal in many parts of the urban area, whether at a station area or not, and successful compact development will attract transit; rather than planning land use only in reaction to transit stations.

Section 6 Related to County-wide Planning Policies

Page 16, lines 13-18

Section 36.70A.210(3)(h) revise as follows: Policies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions that, at a minimum, support and achieve Policies for reducing depee€Ienee—en—ferei-gn-eil use of fossil fuels, by increasing th efficiency of the transportation system;

Section 9 New Section on Station Areas

See major issues above related to housing density and distance to transit, affordability and replacement

Page 19, lines 29-31

Suggest that it read: “Include standards for streets, sidewalks, and buildings that encourage walking and bicycling, and a process to ensure that these standards are met progress toward meeting these standards

(1) Except as provided in subsections (6) and (7) of this section, comprehensive plans and development regulations adopted under this chapter must authorize trausi oriented compact development around high capacity within one half mile of a major transit stations. The allowed net density for these transit oriented development areas must be fifly dwelling units per aere adopted plans and regulations also must:

(a) Include standards for streets, sidewalks, and buildings that encourage walking and bicycling, and a process to ensure progress toward meeting these standards that—these andardn;

(Note: street standards language above changed to acknowledge funding limitations.)

(b) Prioritize for safe walking and bicycling connections to proximate major transit stations and transit centers;

(c) Provide for a net gain in housing units that are affordable to low and moderate-income households;

(d) Require one-for-one replacement of demolished or converted housing units that are affordable to the income level of the displaced residents at rent levels comparable to the demolished or converted units. If subsidized housing is demolished or eonve the replacement units are—must be in addition to other affordable units required by this section, This subsection (1)(d) applies if the following are demolished or converted: (i) Rental housing units that are affordable to households earning sixty percent or less of the adjusted county median income; and (ii) ownership housing that is affordable to households earning eighty percent of the adjusted county median income;

(e) Require that all new housing or mixed-use developments provide housing that is affordable to the income groups in (I) of this subsection and be offered density bonuses equal to or greater than the number of housing units produced under this subsection (1 )(e), or provide for master planned zoning that identifies locations and incentives sufficient to provide housing that is affordable to the income groups in (0 of this subsection. The housing units required by this subsection must be constructed within one- half mile of a major transit station and must provide a comparable number of bedrooms as the associated market rate development. Affordable units required by this subsection (1)(e) must be affordable for a minimum of fifty years, but counties and cities should consider employing tools to permanently maintain affordability;

Page 20, lines 20-31

Note: The home purchaser income guidclines proposed here are higher than currently requircd in Seattle’s incentive zoning statute, which goes up to 100% of median income.

Page 21, lines 13-14

Subsection 2d — BR’!’ definition should be changed as follows: Stations on bus rapid transit routes that operate on exclusive desi-gnate4 rights-of-way for sixty-five percent or more of the route.

Section 14 New Section on Surplus Properties

Page 27

oppose because it limits agency’s flexibility to sell surplus properties — would impact major projects. Suggest the following change:

An authority that owns surplus land located within one-half mile of a major transit station must provide qualifying public or nonprofit entities an opportunity of first offer to develop the land purchase the land at fair market value

Section 16


Our next comp plan update is due 12/1/11, the same date as the proposed effective date

for this bill, meaning the bill wont apply until our subsequent update, which is due in

2018. Why postpone the effective date?