Seattle council approves measure to do away with ‘single-family zoning’ label

Oct 4, 2021, 11:29 AM | Updated: Oct 5, 2021, 6:34 am
Seattle single family zoning bill sponsor Teresa Mosqueda, JumpStart tax...
Seattle Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda. (Seattle City Council, Flickr Creative Commons)
(Seattle City Council, Flickr Creative Commons)

The Seattle City Council approved a bill on Monday to officially retire the “single-family zoning” label.

Seattle and Tacoma weigh changes to single-family zoning

The bill — sponsored by Councilmembers Teresa Mosqueda and Dan Strauss — will replace the city’s single-family zoning moniker with “neighborhood residential zoning.” 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, doing away with a term regarded by many as rooted in discriminatory red-lining policies.

“The legislation passed today brings us one step closer to a more inclusive Seattle,” Mosqueda said in a news release following the bill’s passage. “Today, we recognize neighborhoods across our city are home to diverse housing built before increasingly restrictive zoning went into place.”

The measure will take effect on Nov. 13, 2021.

Councilmembers held two separate committee hearings on the bill to gather public feedback. Commenters were largely supportive in both meetings.

“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,” a commenter said during the first hearing in late July.

How to ‘sympathetically’ upzone single-family neighborhoods

“What brings us together is the belief that everyone in our city should have access to a safe, stable, and affordable home,” another said during the second session in late September. “We believe it is important to decouple this designation from the past so that we can better assess our future needs and challenges.”

Both Mosqueda and Strauss have repeatedly stressed that the changes implemented by the proposal are only “to the name, not to zoning policy.” Even so, opponents have expressed concerns that this will be a harbinger to more substantive zoning legislation in the future.

Others on the council have also expressed a willingness to reevaluate the city’s zoning and density on a holistic scale in the future.

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Seattle council approves measure to do away with ‘single-family zoning’ label