HB 1490 and Seattle neighborhoods



One of the things I sometimes have trouble with is giving short answers. Another reason the Land Use Committee is great for me. There are no short answers when it comes to land use. People have been asking me if I support HB 1490 and I do my usual, “Well, I like many parts of the bill, but I can’t support others.” Not a satisfying answer to a reporter or neighborhood advocate seeking a yes or no.

HB 1490 is a piece of legislation being debated in Olympia that ties together transportation, land use and green house gas emissions. For many people, the most notable section of the bill (as it is drafted now) would require that within a half mile radius of a light rail station that cities zone for a minimum of 50 units per acre on average. The bill also requires the provision of affordable housing in station areas and replacement of affordable housing lost in new development. Much of that sits in the shadow of the minimum density figure, though. The minimum allowed density would apply to every light rail station neighborhood in Seattle and the Sounder stop cities like Kent, Auburn, Federal Way and Sumner.

While I really, really like the affordable housing requirements in the bill, it would be hard for me to support a minimum density number handed down from the state with no involvement from Seattle neighborhoods. Light rail station areas should grow more dense over time. (Some are already pretty dense, like Capitol Hill and the U-District and might not be affected by the legislation at all.) It makes a lot of sense to group apartments and condos near the stations so people have the option to use their car less or maybe even live without a car. Seattle neighborhoods have set the table for this kind of development through neighborhood and station area planning. I think that’s where the hard work of planning for growth belongs.

There’s a lot of rhetoric flying around about the bill, it’s goals, the sponsors’ intentions, the opponents’ intentions, and current zoning capacity. And so I am hosting a workshop Wednesday, Feb. 18, 6 p.m., at Langston Hughes Cultural Center (17th and Yesler). We’ll hear from proponents of the bill (Futurewise and the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance), opponents (Seattle Displacement Coalition), neutral land use experts (from the Urban Land Institute) and from many neighborhood advocates. The goal is to provide information and to ask questions. It’s up to you then to make your voice heard in Olympia.