Shoreline to explore ‘natural evolution’ to single-family zoning

Apr 13, 2022, 10:29 AM | Updated: 10:49 am
Shoreline single family zoning...
Shoreline, Washington. (Haruo, Wikimedia Commons)
(Haruo, Wikimedia Commons)

Shoreline will soon become the latest city to explore changes to its housing density, after its city council approved an amendment to look into allowing duplexes and triplexes in areas zoned for single-family homes.

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Roughly 70% of Shoreline is zoned almost entirely for single-family homes, excepting instances with accessory dwelling units and basement dwellings where the owner also lives in the residence. The hope from Councilmember Chris Roberts is to provide more options by allowing duplexes and triplexes to be built in those areas, which he says could effectively triple the city’s housing supply.

“We’ve seen that housing, especially the kind of multifamily housing that many cities have been promoting, is very expensive to build,” he described during a session this week. “We need the federal government and the state to come in to build that kind of low income housing — short of that we need to really increase supply.”

“When we think about all of this, I don’t think it’s a terribly bold thing to say and explicitly say that yes, duplexes can be and should be allowed under our code,”  Roberts continued. “I think it’s just sort of a natural evolution of where we are.”

Roberts’ amendment doesn’t immediately expand Shoreline’s existing land use regulations. Rather, it tasks the city’s Planning Commission with looking into such an expansion through community outreach, studying environmental factors, and determining the exact land use codes that would need to be altered or replaced.

Among those in support of the proposal was Councilmember Eben Pobee, who pointed to how it could open up more options for younger first-time home buyers in a market where many have already been priced out.

“If a young man who just got married possibly cannot afford a dream house, I think a duplex is just better at the time to start a life, continue to live in the city, and contribute to community-building, which is very essential,” he posited.

Others expressed hesitance, with council staff voicing how it was “concerned about adopting goals, policies, and development regulations for duplexes and triplexes before the State adopts a missing-middle housing bill.” A proposed state bill this session that would have expanded middle housing options near major transit corridors failed to get a vote, despite several key aspects being scaled back during the committee process.

Tacoma approves landmark bill doing away with single-family zoning label

Others still noted that while they’re supportive of denser housing options, they had reservations about a proposal that will still require years of outreach and development, while further pointing out that the Planning Commission is already working on plans to potentially allow other alternatives like cottage housing.

“This is a tough one for me because I believe that we do need to add density and I really support and thank the folks who jumped on board to give comment today,” Deputy Mayor Betsy Robertson said. “It also feels like it’s not fully baked yet.”

“I’m really interested in increasing density — I completely share the views of so many of my colleagues that we’re in a time where this is something that we all need to identify and look at,” Councilmember Laura Mork added. “But the Planning Commission to my understanding is already working on the cottage housing and the missing middle components of this, and I want to get that done first.”

Ultimately, Roberts’ amendment passed by a 4-3 margin, meaning that Shoreline will soon begin work on further exploring the feasibility of the proposal.

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Shoreline to explore ‘natural evolution’ to single-family zoning