Futurewise's current version of their TOD Transit Oriented Development Bill.Google Washington State Legislature, click on Bill information, then type in HB 1490.  See especially page 21 Section 9 paragraphs:

Futurewise's TOD (Transit Oriented Development) Bill HB 1490:  Our response: "It's still a bull in a china shop"

Summary of HB 1490:

Futurewise's TOD bill requires local jurisdictions to zone for a minimum of 50 units per acre within a one-half mile 502 acre radius of every light rail, heavy rail, and rapid bus transit station. In response to criticisms, they have slightly moderated the density thresholds by requiring cities to first subtract out land within each "TOD area" given over to streets making their calculation on the remaining "net" land area. With about one-third (their estimate only) of a TOD given over to right of way, that leaves about 340 acres of developable land. If 50 units are required on each acre, that's 17,000 housing units required within each TOD under their bill. Developers also will be exempted from parking requirements when they develop in a TOD area and they will be rewarded in individual sites with an additional 25% increase in density but must include about 25% of the units between 60-80% of median. There are at least 45 rail stops planned for the region including 18 stops in Seattle. Many bus rapid transit stations also are planned but not yet identified. (For full text of HB 1490, it can be accessed by googling the Legislature's website).

*   Contrary to Futurewise's assertion, current zoning within nearly all TOD areas falls well short of a capacity of 50 units per "net" acre.  Stations within the downtown core of Seattle and Bellevue appear to be exceptions although much area around these TOD's are oriented towards office and retail. Of nine Seattle neighborhood stations outside downtown, drawing off information provided in the most recent City Comprehensive Plan (See Urban Village Section-line below) each is currently zoned for about 20-30 units per acre (Net).  Only Capitol Hill's station may be near or over the average of 50 units per acre (Net). Mt. Baker may be the most dense of the other neighborhood stations in Seattle and it is currently zoned for capacity of about 36 units per acre (not 51.3 units per acre as Futurewise claims) See chart below comparing Futurewise's calculation of current capacity to our corrected numbers:

* Futurewise has overestimated by a significant factor how much density can be absorbed within single family zones and just about all multi-family zoning designations. The City says (for the 2007 Buildable Lands Report) for example that RS 5000 zones have capacity to yield 8 units per acre when Futurewise says that zone can absorb 17.4 units per acre. When the city  says a C65 zone can absorb 150 units per acre, Futurewise assumes that zone can handle 172.3 units per acre.  When the chart above is corrected using ratios set by the city (and based on actual performance in each zone), the actual zoning capacity currently in the Mt. Baker TOD is 36.8 units per acre (net).  To reach 50 per acre, the area must be upzoned to accommodate an additional 4446 units.

* Futurewise says the entire area of a TOD must average 50 units per acre.  Their bill allows cities however to retain those low density single family areas. But, since the whole area must "average" 50 per acre, these low densities must be off-set by even higher densities in the remaining multi-family and commercial areas. In the above Mt. Baker example, if all the extra density is pushed off onto the remaining one third of total acreage not zoned single family, then those areas must be upzoned to 146 units per acre (net) or 111 unit per acre (gross). These areas must be upzoned to look like parts of Manhattan or S. Chicago for the entire area to reach an average of 50 units per acre!  Seattle would have to either dramatically upzone single family areas or turn McCLellan and Rainier into S. Chicago.

* The problem is compounded within most of the other neighborhood TOD areas in Seattle both North and South along the rail corridor. There is even more area given over to single family

zoning within the S.Henderson, Othello, Edmunds, Beacon Hill, and Roosevelt TOD areas.
Northgate also has high concentrations of single family and lacks any area zoned higher density commercial.  According to the city's recently revised comprehensive plan these TOD areas currently have average densities that range from 4 units per acre in North Rainier (Edmonds station), 5 per acre at Rainier/S. Henderson , 6 per acre in Edmunds/Columbia City, 6 per acre at Othello up to about 9 per acre in Roosevelt, North Beacon Hill, and Northgate.  Around the other two stations in the neighborhoods, current densities are at 25 per acre (First Hill-Capitol Hill), and 9 units per acre around the U-District Brooklyn station.

*  The current city comprehensive plan calls for zoning that could accommodate the following densities by 2024 within each of the neighborhood TOD areas (source: 2008 Comp plan Urban Village Section).  Note also that neighborhoods within these TOD's all have developed neighborhood plans and anticipate transit stations.  Growth targets were set based on these assumptions and in the last four years, city-wide we are at 50% of our 20 year targets. Each of these urban villages where a TOD would be located are exceeding their growth targets. Nevertheless Futurewise's bill would require these areas to upzone for 3 times the growth called for in the Comp Plan and 20 year targets.  See chart below also:

    9 TOD's: 2008   units/acre added 2024   units per acre
Northgate     3400 # 8.5 2500 5900 # 14.75
Roosevelt     3000 # 7.5 1000 4000 # 10
U-District/Brooklyn   5000 # 12.5 1800 6800 # 17
First Hill/Capitol Hill   10,000 # 25 1200 11200 # 28
North Beacon Hill   3400 # 8.5 2500 5900 # 14.75
North Rainier (Mt Baker)   1590 # 3.975 900 2490 # 6.225
Columbia City (Edmunds)   1750 # 4.375 800 2550 # 6.375
Holly & MLK (Othello)   2080 # 5.2 590 2670 # 6.675
Rainier Beach/S.Henderson   2600 # 6.5 1200 3800 # 9.5
  source: 2008 Comp Plan              
    current density of  9 TOD's  32820   Growth target: 12490 45310    
City Comp Plan 2024 Total HH Target for these TOD's:        45,310   13 units per acre net    
Futurewise Bill (17,000 X 9 TOD) 153,000   50 units per acre (net    
    City-Wide Current Capacity:  128,000            

There's no if ands or buts....the city's Comp Plan would have to be altered to significantly increase densities to reach 17000 housing units within each 502 acre TOD area (gross) or 337 acre net buildable acreage) .

* the Futurewise bill lacks adequate housing mitigation contrary to their claims (we'll have more detail on this later)

* According to the current 2008 Comp Plan, in nine neighborhood TOD areas that now house about 30,000 households total, The city says, these areas will have to be zoned to accommodate an additional 15,000 units within those nine TOD areas by 2024 (Northgate, Roosevelt, U-District, Capitol Hill, North Beacon Hill, Mt. Baker/S.McLellan, Edmunds/Columbia City, Othello/MLK& New Holly), and S. Henderson (Rainier Beach).  In just one of those TOD's, the Futurewise Bill requires city's to upzone these areas so that they each can accommodate 17,000 units for a total in all 9 of 153,000 units. 

* In their most recent memo responding to the Coalition's column, Futurewise in at attempt to downplay the impact of their bill on Seattle neighborhoods claims most of the TOD areas within Seattle already are already zoned to accommodate 17,000 units or 153,000 total.  According to the Comp Plan these nine areas together now house about 30,000 households.  If their claim is true that means there's an existing remaining capacity in all nine TOD's of about 123,000 units.  In all of Seattle, the 2008 Comp Plan says that under current zoning, there is a remaining capacity available to accommodate 128,000 households. Apparently Futurewise would have us believe that 95 percent of that capacity is located in these 9 TOD's that make up less about 9 percent of the city's developable land.

Also see earlier responses by Futurewise to our original column click here to see our original column critical of their bill - followed by our responses:

First response Jan 6 '09 Futurewise WLIHA joint letter and response to Fox Colter 1.6.09-1.pdf

Their second memo Jan 13th containing further explanation and response to our column and concerns:

Our response to the Jan 13th memo here:

Our response to Futurewise and Low Income Housing Alliance Jan 6, 09 letter (see link above):

Last week a column of ours was aired in local newpapers critical of a bill about to be introduced down in Olympia by Futurewise (formerly "1000 Friends of Washington). click here to see our original column    Their "Transit Oriented Development" or TOD bill - as drafted with absolutely no input from affected communities - would require cities to accommodate a minimum of 50 units per acre within a half mile radius of all bus and light rail rapid transit stations in our city and region.  Areas like SE Seattle, Capitol Hill, U-District, Roosevelt, Northgate that radiate out rail stations and deep into each neighborhood (encompassing over 500 acres in each area) would have to be upzoned to accommodate a minimum of 25,000 housing units.  These areas respectively now have current densities at 4 units per acre in SE Seattle (or 3000-4000 units), Capitol Hill (10.8 units per acre or about 8000-10,000 units total), the UDistrict (8 per acre 6000-8000 total), Roosevelt (6 per acre 4000-6000 total), Northgate (4 per acre 3000-4000 total).  Click here for full text of their bill and (see especially page 21 Section 9). The downtown and Belltown currently contain densities of about 25 units per acre.

Acres of trees and open space and hundreds and hundreds of units lower density lower price housing for working families, low income people, and people of color would have to give way to much higher density and much more expensive residential development as a result of Futurewise's Bill.

This is scale of communities now located within the TOD areas reaching out a half mile from stations in SE Seattle and around proposed stations in N. Seattle - these areas contain many affordable single family homes and lower density affordable rental units. Currently, the area averages about 4 units per acre.

photos taken of area within TOD area at Othello and MLK Way..

In response to our column - rather than seeking us out first or more importantly rather than meeting with the affected communities first to hear directly their concerns and respond to them - Futurewise has merely shot back with a fiery letter denying that their bill will have any adverse impacts on our city's neighborhoods. And, unfortunately, they also have been joined in their attack on us by the State-Wide Low Income Housing Alliance as co-signatory on the letter. They too to date have not sought out the opinions and concerns of people within these affected areas. (The Alliance is made up largely and is primarily funded by housing authorities, cities, and non-profit housing developers). (click here for a copy of their joint letter)

Below we'd like to offer a response to their letter but we also invite you to be the your own judge. Review especially p. 21 Section 9 of their bill (click on above) and then let Futurewise and the Low Income Housing Alliance know what you think of their bill. Better yet let members of the House Local Government Committee know what you think of a bill designed to cram runaway displacement-inducing densities into our neighborhoods. And please also call you own area legislators that soon will be called on to cast a vote on this bill or a version of it.

* This following link taken from the "Smart Growth, Smart Energy Toolkit" defines appropriate densities for TOD areas at minimums of "12-15 units per acre.  Futurewise's 50 unit per acre threshold is over 3 times that amount.  (read midway down link). Not only are Futurewise Thresholds out of touch with neighborhood reality..there out of touch with smart growth standards: http://www.mass.gov/envir/smart_growth_toolkit/pages/mod-tod.html   Note also these principles state that "The zoning should be tailored to respect the unique setting of individual stations".  There is no such attempt by Futurewise to craft legislation responsive to the unique characteristics of each neighborhood where a station would be located.

* See page 5 of 8 click here on  Futurewise's own website. Even they say the optimum amount of density per acre within a TOD area should be between 12-18 to as low at 4 units per acre, and I'll quote directly from their website:
The zoning in these land uses varies, and the density is some zones is quite low. A general benchmark for density in transit station areas is twenty units per acre, to make high capacity transit feasible. The densities in the potential TOD zones of Auburn range from two units per acre in the R-3 zone, to 12-18 units per acre in the R-4 and RO zones. It is important to note the densities of less than four housing units per gross acre within the urban growth area violation of the Growth Management Act unless they are applied exclusively to lands with extensive critical areas.

Responses to the Low Income Housing Alliance: We are disappointed that they would join as signatory without first talking to us and more importantly affected communities. And we are not at all certain that the state-wide low income housing alliance will support amendments to the bill to ensure that low income housing impacts will be addressed within cities required to upzone within TOD areas.

We stand by our column as written: for more information contact, John V. Fox for the Coalition 206-632-0668