Bill to rework Washington’s single-family zoning advances ahead of deadline

Feb 1, 2022, 12:40 PM | Updated: Feb 2, 2022, 5:09 am

Tacoma single family zoning...

Tacoma's Hilltop neighborhood. (Jacob Rose, Wikimedia Commons)

(Jacob Rose, Wikimedia Commons)

A bill that could alter single-family zoning requirements in Washington’s large cities was passed out of committee on Tuesday, beating the deadline to advance this session by just two days.

Economist: Gov. Inslee’s proposal to rework single-family zoning ‘a good start’

In practice, HB 1782 would allow townhomes, duplexes, triplexes, and quadplexes, and more — known more colloquially as “middle housing” — in areas within a half mile of transit stops in cities with populations over 20,000, affecting just over 70 cities in Washington.

In many ways, it echoes a recently-passed bill passed in Tacoma, which recategorized the city’s zoning classifications to allow for more middle housing options in areas near transit hubs that had traditionally been set aside exclusively for single-family homes.

A handful of amendments were added to HB 1782, which could potentially reduce the scale and effect it would have if it’s ultimately approved by the Legislature in its current form. That includes a substitute amendment which would allow cities to extend implementation timelines, as well as scaling the requirement that would have permitted sixplexes within a half-mile of transit stops to instead be limited to fourplexes, and opening up an exemption for cities that don’t provide assurances of transit frequency in upzoned areas.

State Rep. Jessica Bateman acknowledged, shortly after the bill was passed out of committee, that the legislation in its amended form “is not perfect,” while also lauding its passage as “a significant” step in the right direction.

How to ‘sympathetically’ upzone Seattle’s single-family neighborhoods

Housing density advocates scored a second legislative victory Tuesday after a separate bill seeking to sunset local community councils was also advanced out of committee.

Washington has two such community councils — one in Kirkland, and the other in East Bellevue. Today, these councils hold very little power in most facets of local government, but are criticized by housing advocates as barriers to denser zoning.

“Community councils exist only to veto certain zoning or land use decisions of their city councils,” King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci said in a recent Facebook post. “That’s all they can legally do. They are fundamentally exclusionary.”

HB 1769 would amend existing state laws to phase them out entirely, and was approved by the House’s Local Government committee without any amendments.

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Bill to rework Washington’s single-family zoning advances ahead of deadline