Seattle proposal to end ‘single-family zoning’ label garners wide support in public hearing

Jul 29, 2021, 5:45 AM | Updated: 9:41 am
real estate, king county, inventory, Seattle housing, single-family zoning...
File photo of houses for sale in Seattle's Laurelhurst neighborhood. (A Mclin, Flickr)

Seattle City Council’s land use committee held the first public hearing for a proposal to do away with the “single-family zoning” label on Wednesday, drawing overwhelming support from those who spoke.

Seattle and Tacoma weigh changes to single-family zoning

The bill — sponsored by Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda and Dan Strauss — would replace the city’s single-family zoning moniker with “neighborhood residential zoning” instead. While it won’t change the actual makeup of Seattle’s density, it’s seen as a necessary first step toward more equitable housing practices, while doing away with a term regarded by many as rooted in discriminatory policies.

During Wednesday’s public hearing, a vast majority of commenters expressed their support.

“I think building a sustainable, inclusive, and equitable city requires us to be more welcoming in our single-family zones, and the rename is a small win toward that vision, because language does matter,” said Calvin Jones with Tech 4 Housing.

“Given the problematic and discriminatory history of single-family zones, Seattle must take action to not only make this important name change, but address the racist legacy single-family zoning has had on our city,” agreed Seattle Chamber of Commerce Policy Director Mackenzie Chase.

Members of several other local groups and neighborhood organizations similarly spoke in favor of the proposal, including representatives from Futurewise, the Urbanist, 350 Seattle, and the Queen Anne Community Council.

Of the roughly 14 commenters who participated in Wednesday’s public forum, two voiced their opposition.

“I feel like our city is special, and we don’t have to do it like Chicago and New York,” local resident Sylvia Stewart said. “What we should do to keep our city beautiful is get some architects to look at each neighborhood and find out where are the best places to upzone in a way that keeps our city beautiful for years to come.”

Seattle begins to lay foundation for new approach to single-family zoning

“I would suggest the term ‘single household’ instead, which is more inclusive language,” Zoe Jenkins suggested.

Councilmembers will next review the existing draft of the bill for potential edits, with plans to formally introduce it in the land use committee sometime in early August.

The council then plans to begin work on a separate proposal, which would “include alternatives that consider allowing a broader range of housing types in single-family areas.” That process would play out over an estimated six months while the council engages with local communities and conducts necessary environmental reviews.

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Seattle proposal to end ‘single-family zoning’ label garners wide support in public hearing