Skip to content

C200: Let’s Stop Putting The Cart Before The Horse

2011 March 22
by Al Levine

< The Beacon Hill light rail station. Last year neighbors filed an appeal against proposed zoning that would allow a six story building on the vacant site adjacent to the station; photo: Dan Bertolet >

Over the past 15 years the City has provided lots of “carrots” for neighborhoods to increase density—new libraries, community centers, parks, light rail stations, matching funds, P-patches and more. These have been accompanied by lots of talk about accommodating increased density, but few “sticks” have been applied to facilitate this increase.

The conversations continue endlessly around rezoning for TOD at rail stations, rezoning South Downtown, Northgate, Capitol Hill, Roosevelt and other neighborhoods.

When new zoning has been put in place, it has generally been too ineffectual to have much impact.

Going forward, let’s stop putting the cart before the horse. Instead, let’s negotiate and implement appropriate zoning before we provide publicly-funded amenities.

Let’s give neighborhoods specific targets for new capacity and a larger toolbox to choose from to accommodate those targets. Options could include large scale duplex zoning, multi-family nodes, arterial rezones without the restrictions caused by adjoining single family uses, special block-end zoning and others.

This approach would give neighborhoods a more flexible voice in shaping their form and it would create the needed incentives for them to take action.


Al Levine is Deputy Director of the Seattle Housing Authority, and the above represents his personal views.