Rep. Pedersen proposing massive Montlake upzone!?
It has just come to my attention that a bill has been introduced in Olympia co-sponsored by our 43rd district Rep. Jamie Pedersen that in its current form could have huge implications for the Montlake neighborhood.
Here is a link to the official bill information:
Here’s what tipped me off to this:
The bill appears well meaning and is co-sponsored by Futurewise, a pro-environment land use advocacy organization formerly known as 1000 Friends of Washington. However, it applies a dramatic new policy with a very broad brush, to wit:
(1) Except as provided in subsections (6) and (7) of this section,
comprehensive plans and development regulations adopted under this
chapter must authorize transit oriented development within one-half
mile of a major transit station. The allowed net density for these
transit oriented development areas must be fifty dwelling units per
(6) Nothing in this section modifies or otherwise affects planning
or regulatory requirements for airports.
(7) This section does not apply to lands: (a) designated for
industrial or manufacturing uses in comprehensive plans or zoning
regulations; or (b) upon which stadiums that seat twenty-five thousand
or more persons are located.
In my initial reading of this, I have yet to spot anything that would exempt the University of Washington Station, and the Montlake neighborhood, from this requirement. Since the University of Washington would, I imagine, be exempted on some other grounds, being a major state institution with its own master plan and a mission that does not include general housing, Thus, for that station, 100% of the burdens imposed by this bill would seem to fall on adjacent, residential Montlake.
Personally, independent of the merits of this particular proposal, I do not believe it is appropriate for the state to be mandating zoning requirements for local jurisdictions on this level of granularity, locality and specificity. I believe it would be far more appropriate, if any action is to be taken in along these lines, to establish some kind of systemic performance metrics that would allow jurisdictions (such as Seattle) to make locale-appropriate decisions that achieve the stated goals.
This is all the more reason that the efforts by Jon Decker and others to obtain a historic designation for Montlake are vital and not a moment too soon. The average Montlake lot is about one tenth of an acre, so I would imagine we are somewhere below ten dwelling units per acre today (depending on how it is measured), a far cry from the fifty proposed by the bill.
I’ve pasted a map of the potentially affected area below. Basically, everything north of roughly Louisa Street is within a half-mile of the UW station. The Hop-In Grocery is already zoned NC1-30, and could easily be redeveloped with or without this bill as a three-story condo or apartment building with ground-floor retail and underground parking. No eminent domain is proposed and the bill would take effect December 1, 2011, five years before the UW station opens.
Predictably, there is active opposition and active support. I plan to contact Rep. Pederson and express my concerns about the bill in its current form. I encourage all others with an opinion to do the same. If anyone finds language in the bill that contradicts anything I’ve written here, please do share.