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Neighborhood Residential Zones

Neighborhood Residential Zoning

On Monday, June 28, 2021, Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide) announced legislation that will change the name of single family zones, a recognition that the term "single family" used in Seattle's zoning laws is a misnomer and has roots in exclusionary practices.

In 2018, the Seattle Planning Commission, in their Neighborhoods for All report, recommended that the City rename single-family areas to “neighborhood residential” areas to “create a zoning designation that promotes the intended physical form and scale of buildings while being more equitable and inclusive.” Since then, the Planning Commission has reiterated this call in their recommendations for 2019/2020 Comprehensive Plan amendments and in their recommendations for analysis for the 2020/2021 Comprehensive Plan update.

The City Council has requested this change to be studied by the Executive every year since 2018 in our Comprehensive Plan Annual Docketing Resolution. This proposal would finally implement that recommendation by first amending the City’s Comprehensive Plan to make that change, and then follow that with changes to the land use code.

Our neighborhood residential areas are home to a wide range of uses, including most of the City’s parks, schools, religious facilities, and other neighborhood-serving services and institutions. These areas include a wide range of housing types, including townhouses, rowhouses and apartment buildings—and are home to a diverse array of households, such as multigenerational households, inclusive group households, and all different ways that people live together to support well-being, community, and affordability in our city. They also include some of our longest-lived neighborhood-serving businesses. Consequently, the Commission recommended changing the City’s plans and regulations to better reflect the mix of activities that occur in the neighborhoods where many of us live. The Planning Commission states, “The name ‘single family’ zoning has been a misnomer since 1994 when the city passed Accessory Dwelling Unit legislation allowing two households to live on a single family zoned parcel and is not representative of the households that currently live in those zones.”1

The Planning Commission also points out about the current name “single family” that “[t]his name is also linked to Seattle’s former use of race-based zoning as an exclusionary practice.” History of exclusion – evolving Seattle’s growth strategy report. You can read more about some of the discriminatory land use and zoning policies that have impacted Indigenous people, Black people, and people of color throughout Seattle's history in the Planning Commission's "Evolving Seattle's Growth Strategy." If Seattle is going to be an equitable and just city, then we must also apply that same lens to our zoning code.

At this point, I am only proposing to change the name of these areas through technical amendments to the Comprehensive Plan and land use code. As the City embarks on its next major update to the Comprehensive Plan, I expect and anticipate that there will be a robust discussion about what our neighborhood residential areas should look like to meet our goals for an equitable and just future.

This change will touch many elements of the Comprehensive Plan, including: (1) the Future Land Use Map; (2) the Land Use, Housing, and Parks and Open Space elements; (3) seventeen neighborhood plans; and (4) the Housing appendix. The neighborhood plans to be amended are:

  1. Admiral,
  2. Aurora-Licton,
  3. Bitter Lake Village,
  4. Central Area,
  5. Columbia City,
  6. Crown Hill/Ballard,
  7. Greenwood/Phinney Ridge,
  8. Morgan Junction,
  9. North Beacon Hill,
  10. North Neighborhoods/Lake City,
  11. North Rainier/Mount Baker,
  12. Northgate,
  13. Queen Anne/Uptown,
  14. Rainier Beach,
  15. Roosevelt,
  16. West Seattle Junction, and
  17. Westwood Highland Park

These proposed changes can be seen on the Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee website.

I welcome your input either in writing or at a public hearing that will be held in front of the City Council’s Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee meeting on July 28 at 9:30 AM.

To send comments in writing:

Written comments on the draft proposed legislation will be accepted through 5:00 PM on July 28, 2021. Please send comments to Erin House in Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda’s office, via e-mail at erin.house@seattle.gov, or by mail to:

Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda
Seattle City Council
600 4th Avenue, 2nd Floor
PO Box 34025
Seattle, WA 98124-4025

To participate in the public hearing:

The City Council’s Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee will hold a public hearing to receive input on this preliminary proposal on Wednesday, July 28, 2021 at 9:30 AM. The hearing will be held in the: City Council Chambers 2nd floor, Seattle City Hall 600 Fourth Avenue.

Due to the COVID-19 civil emergency declared by the City and the State of Washington, persons who wish to participate in or attend the hearing may be required to do so remotely.

The City will provide instructions in the meeting agenda on how to participate remotely. Please check the Committee agenda a few days prior to the meeting.

Print and communications access is provided on prior request. Please contact Noah An at (206) 684-5326 or via e-mail at: noah.an@seattle.gov as soon as possible to request accommodations for a disability.

Questions concerning the public hearing may be directed to Noah An in Councilmember Dan Strauss’ office, by calling (206) 684-5326 or via e-mail at: noah.an@seattle.gov.

Information regarding the proposal is available on the Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee webpage.

Questions regarding the proposal may be directed to Erin House of Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda’s Office at (206) 615-1567 or erin.house@seattle.gov or Lish Whitson of the City Council Central Staff at (206) 615-1674, lish.whitson@seattle.gov.

Yours,
Teresa Mosqueda's signature

Teresa Mosqueda