A modified version of House Bill 1490, the hotly disputed bill that would provide affordable housing protections and require minimum density zoning around some transit stations, will get a vote in the House Committee on Local Government & Housing at 8 AM this morning (watch the action live on TV-W).
The original bill would have required zoning for an average minimum density of 50 units per acre within a half-mile radius of transit stations. The new version requires that number only around stations located in Puget Sound Regional Council-designated urban centers, and the magic number may be reached via a combination of jobs and housing units.
(It's worth noting that pretty much any urban center--Seattle has six: Downtown, Uptown, First Hill/Capitol Hill, University District, South Lake Union--already meets this requirement. In fact, that's probably why it was designated an urban center to begin with.)
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Sharon Nelson (D., Seattle), says the changes were inspired by feedback on the bill and her own observations of Portland.
"I've been really taking a look at Portland and why they've been successful [with their urban and transit planning]" she says. "One of the things is they've built in flexibility. The different centers, depending on how they were being developed, go from density of 32 units per acre up to over 100."
She credits that spirit of flexibility and citizen feedback for the inclusion of jobs in the density count. "What we've heard from folks is that yes, we want to increase residences, but we also want mixed use."
Nelson says she's "really optimistic" about the bill's chances in committee today, and, citing climate change and gentrification concerns, strikes a note of urgency regarding its overall passage. "This is a bill I really want to see get passed this session...It's time to make sure that working families can [stay in these neighborhoods]."
For more info on the bill, or to speak up about it, check out the workshop Sally Clark will be hosting tonight at Langston Hughes. Among others, it'll feature the bill's authors (Futurewise) and most vocal opponents (Seattle Displacement Coalition). Press release below:
Who: City Councilmembers Sally J. Clark and Tim Burgess, and
representatives from the Seattle Urban Land Institute, Seattle
Displacement Coalition, Transportation Choices Coalition, and the
Washington Low Income Housing Alliance
What: "Trains, Density & Change": A Community Workshop on House
Bill 1490. The meeting is free and open to the public; there is no need
When: Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at 6:00 p.m.
Where: Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center Auditorium, 107
17th Ave. S., Seattle
SEATTLE -- Councilmember Sally J. Clark will host a community workshop
on Wednesday, February 18 at 6 p.m. at Seattle's Langston Hughes
Performing Arts Center to discuss State House Bill (HB) 1490, which
deals with transit oriented communities and affordable housing
provisions in areas surrounding Light Rail stations. The panel
discussion and town meeting will include proponents and critics of the
legislation, and planning and land use experts. The panel will discuss
concepts surrounding transit oriented development, the possible impacts
of the proposed bill on Seattle communities, and take questions from the
Councilmember Sally J. Clark, host of the workshop said, "There's a
lot of rhetoric flying around about the bill, its goals, the sponsors'
intentions, the opponents' intentions, and current zoning capacity.
This bill could have an impact on Seattle neighborhoods. My goal is to
get all of the information out there, so residents can get a full
understanding of the legislation."
State House Bill 1490, titled "Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
through land use and transportation requirements" would require that
zoning around current and future light rail stops meet a minimum average
of 50 homes or jobs per acre in the half-mile walking-distance around
the stations. The legislation would also require developers to replace
existing affordable housing, and require that some units of housing be
provided at set affordability levels.
Neighborhood residents around light rail stations are encouraged to
attend and participate.