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Councilmembers Mosqueda, Strauss and Broad Coalition Applaud Passage of More Inclusive and Accurate “Neighborhood Residential Zoning” Name Change

The legislation is an important step to addressing exclusionary zoning policies

SEATTLE – Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide) and Councilmember Dan Strauss (District 6, Northwest Seattle) applauded the passage of Council Bill 120155, which renames Single-Family Zones to Neighborhood Residential Zones

“The legislation passed today brings us one step closer to a more inclusive Seattle. Today, we recognize neighborhoods across our city are home to diverse housing built before increasingly restrictive zoning went into place. This includes small businesses, parks, schools, and services, as well as diverse households that expand beyond the ‘single-family’ designation – that was a misnomer. ‘Neighborhood Residential’ reflects that diversity more accurately,” said Mosqueda. “We have heard loud and clear from housing, environmental, small business advocates, community members, leaders across our region, and our city’s own Planning Commission: it’s past time to move forward with a name change to update our language so that our planning documents reflect the true character of Seattle neighborhoods, diverse housing, small businesses, and many different types of households,” she concluded.

“This name change more accurately identifies existing zoning, as some of the most vibrant places in ‘single family’ zones have legacy duplexes, triplexes, and corner-stores, all of which are not currently allowed. This proposal is in response to the Seattle Planning Commission’s Neighborhoods for All report which recommended this name change. This legislation does not change zoning, it only changes the name that we call these areas,”  said Councilmember Strauss, Chair of the Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee.

The legislation is in response to the Seattle Planning Commission’s repeated request every year since 2018 to change the name of single-family only to “Neighborhood Residential,” as laid out in their Neighborhoods for All report. The Planning Commission has reiterated this call in their recommendations for 2019/2020 Comprehensive Plan amendments and in their recommendations for analysis for the 2020/2021 Comprehensive Plan update. Since 2018, the City Council has requested this name change be included in the annual Comprehensive Plan amendments proposed by the Executive. This timing of this legislation is an important precursor to the upcoming update to Seattle’s Major Comprehensive Plan, which will unfold over the next couple of years. This legislation will touch many elements of the Comprehensive Plan, including: (1) the Future Land Use Map; (2) the Land Use, Housing, and Parks and Open Space elements; (3) seventeen neighborhood plans; and (4) the Housing appendix.

This legislation was accompanied by extensive public outreach, including two public hearings; four conversations in Council committees; a Community Housing Roundtable that included organizations working to reverse displacement and build affordable housing; meetings with myriad organizations focusing on housing, equity, the environment and community-driven development; a community letter that was sent to nearly 400 individuals and organizations who are connected with the 17 neighborhoods whose neighborhood plans currently reference the term single-family; as well as an open call to community organizations that were interested in a briefing on the proposal.

“I applaud Chair Strauss’ transparent and public engagement on this topic. This step today sets us up for the needed deep community engagement through 2022 to create a more equitable, inclusive zoning and land use system in Seattle in anticipation of the Comprehensive Plan update in 2023,” said Mosqueda. “I look forward to continued work that’s rooted in community input to make sure that process results in meaningful policy decisions to address exclusionary zoning and combat displacement.”

The legislation will take effect by November 13, 2021.

Previous statements made by supporters of the name change:

“One hundred years ago, housing of all shapes and sizes was legal to build anywhere in Seattle. Since its introduction in the 1920s, ‘single family’ zoning has been expanded over time to encompass areas with apartment buildings, duplexes, triplexes, and more. ‘Single family’ zoning was designed to exclude and continues to hurt families and communities struggling with a status quo that doesn’t meet their housing needs—but the multifamily holdovers from the past remind us the status quo can be changed. Let’s use language that better reflects our values and vision for a zoning system that works for all,” said Rep. Nicole Macri (43rd Leg. District – Seattle).

“‘Neighborhood Residential’ is a more accurate description of the zone currently constituting the majority of Seattle’s land area. Current single-family zones allow for more than one family to live on a single parcel and are home to a wide range of uses. Seattle needs a zoning code that permits a range of housing types already existing in many single-family only areas, including townhomes, rowhouses, backyard cottages, in-law suites, and apartment buildings. Legalizing more diverse housing options is the best step forward for livability, walkability, affordability, and the climate.” said Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon (37th Leg. District – Seattle/White Center).

“Updating Seattle’s planning documents to call our single family zones ‘Neighborhood Residential’ will allow us to be more accurate in our description of these areas that contain a diversity of households, services, amenities, and structures, and will help Seattle move beyond a system that singles out a specific type of household to one that’s welcoming to all neighbors,” said Rep. Frank Chopp (43rd Leg. District -Seattle).

“We/I applaud and support the City Council in the proposed amendment changing the name of the zoning sooner than the beginning of the Major Update to the Comprehensive Plan, that should be completed by 2024. It is an important change that will serve as a foundation to inform the policy process considering alternatives to Single-Family zoning which will make it possible for the city to consider expanding the range and affordability of housing choices,” said Patience Malaba, Director of Government Relations and Policy, Housing Development Consortium of Seattle-King County.

“Small businesses can often serve as a hub and center for community and play a central role in the fabric and dynamic of our neighborhoods. Equitable policy and planning must include our small neighborhood businesses—and reflect their role in our communities—in order to support and encourage their future success,” said Andrea Reay, President/CEO, Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce.

“A neighborhood is so much more than a single type of building—it’s a place people live and love and work and call home. This simple change reflects both the current reality of the way many Seattleites live and our vision of Seattle as a city rich with homes for all shapes and sizes of families,” said Brittney Bush Bollay, Chair, Sierra Club Seattle Group.
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