Statewide upzoning proposal aims for ‘stout’ housing density near mass transit

Jan 19, 2022, 3:32 PM | Updated: Jan 20, 2022, 7:26 am
Mount Baker Lofts, adjacent to Link and an example of Transit Oriented Development. (Photo courtesy of Sound Transit)
(Photo courtesy of Sound Transit)

Housing, growth management, and a push for upzoning are among the challenges faced by the state Legislature in 2022. How those problems intersect with perhaps the largest ongoing infrastructure project in the Puget Sound region — which includes light rail and mass transit expansion — is the subject of a slate of bills that were introduced in committee hearings on Tuesday.

One of them, House Bill 2020, focuses specifically on housing around light rail and transit hubs in cities planning under the Growth Management Act (GMA). It modifies residential zoning around those hubs and establishes minimum density requirements in support of low and moderate income housing.

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Highlights of proposed new requirements for the 28 Washington state counties that fall under the GMA include the following:

  • One-quarter mile of light rail or a major transit hub must require a minimum base height of nine stories.
  • One-half mile of light rail or a major transit hub must require a minimum base height of six stories.
  • One mile of light rail or a major transit hub must require an average minimum base height of five stories.
  • No density limits may be imposed within one mile of a light rail or major transit hub, but bulk and height regulations shall be permitted.

A transit hub is defined as a stop on a high capacity transportation system that runs at regular intervals during peak hours, like Sound Transit’s Link. It also encompasses rapid transit bus routes or routes that run in high occupancy vehicle lanes.

“It stands up a board to prioritize housing investments,” said Rep. Amy Walen (Democrat, 48th District), and the bill’s primary sponsor, in a committee hearing Tuesday.

“It honors comprehensive plans of cities, but it does make stout requirements for development of housing along transit corridors, density bonuses for passive or environmentally neutral housing,” Walen noted. “And I do think it’s a comprehensive approach to creating a very much more affordable housing development pipeline, including permitting requirements of cities.”

Ultimately, should the bill be passed, it would require municipalities throughout the state, including Seattle, Bellevue, Everett, Tacoma and Lynnwood, to plan affordable housing development projects around their mass transit lines.

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Statewide upzoning proposal aims for ‘stout’ housing density near mass transit