Seattle’s Planning Alternatives

We are beginning work on an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) that will assess how the location and form of growth over the next 20 years could result in different benefits and impacts. The EIS will include analysis of transportation, housing affordability, and numerous other environmental elements.

For planning purposes, the Growth Management Planning Council of King County has allocated 70,000 households and 115,000 new jobs to Seattle. In order to plan for this projected growth, the EIS will analyze three alternatives each of which assume the same amount of growth, but vary in how the housing and jobs would be distributed.

We want to hear from you … what should the EIS planning alternatives be? The EIS will provide key information and analysis to shape the final plan update and ensure all the issues are considered. You can submit comments through this site, by email to, or come to one of our open houses we will be having over the next month. You can also view a PDF of our Planning Alternatives Brochure by going to our Document Library.

Alternative 1: Urban Center Focus

Most growth would be encouraged in our urban centers: Northgate, University District, Downtown, Uptown, South Lake Union, and Capitol/First Hill.

    • More households and jobs would go in these locations than over the past 20 years
    • Most new households and jobs would be located in buildings 6 or more stories tall
    • Would help advance the regional growth strategy

Alternative 1 Pie Chart Housing and JobsColor Key for Alternatives Pie Charts

 Alternative 2: Urban Village Focus

More growth would be encouraged in urban villages, such as Columbia City, Lake City, Crown Hill, Morgan Junction, Fremont, and Eastlake.

  • Closest to how household growth has been over past 20 years, but more jobs would go to villages
  • Many new households and jobs would be in mixed-use buildings and apartments about 4-6 stories tall
  • Would help strengthen neighborhood business districts

Alternative 2 Pie Chart Housing and Jobs
Color Key for Alternatives Pie Charts

Alternative 3: Transit Focus

Growth would be encouraged around our existing and planned light rail stations in the Rainier Valley, Capitol Hill, the University District, Roosevelt, and Northgate.

  • New urban villages would be located around the I-90 and NE 130th Street stations
  • Some village boundaries around light rail stations would expand
  • Taller buildings would accommodate households and jobs in urban centers while smaller buildings would be in other locations
  • Would take advantage of regional transit investments

Alternative 3 Pie Chart Housing and Jobs
Color Key for Alternatives Pie Charts

Seattle’s Urban Centers, Urban Villages, and Light Rail Routes


Seattle Urban Villages, Centers, and Light Rail MapAlternatives Map Key



Public Commenting Deadline is April 21, 2014

Do you have any comments on these alternatives? Are these the right alternatives to consider? You can submit official comments through the comment feature below, by email to Gordon Clowers, or by mail to (you can print this optional, self addressed form, but don’t forget the stamp):

City of Seattle
Department of Planning & Development
Attn: Gordon Clowers
700 5th Ave, Suite 1900
PO Box 34019
Seattle, WA 98124


So much vehemence! I'm surprised by it all. I don't think we need to be so dramatically pro/anti growth, parking, etc.

I think the approach taken by the planners is appropriate - people will move here, and population will grow - where would we like to put them?

The most important part of any answer to that question, for me, is that we don't increase sprawl. If we don't let people move into Seattle, they'll move into the rural areas at the edge of suburbia (and then the rural areas at the edge of that new suburbia), which leads to the kind of low-density, car dependent, bland, and impossible to serve with public transit areas that we already have far too much of. 

So we should make sure this growth can happen in Seattle. Yes, we want to avoid some of the architectural nightmares that have been put up in the Ballard area, but we would do well to remember that Ballard is a success, too: it's full of pedestrians, thriving local businesses, and character. That character is concentrated on Ballard Avenue, because the old brick buildings have survived, but it's alive and well, and driving growth. 

Anyway, we need to embrace this growth happening in Seattle, because the alternative is to grow out, like L.A., or Houston, or Atlanta. 

We don't have room to grow the street grid, which means we have to put people on public transit (or shorten commutes, or get people on bikes). In that sense, all of the alternatives are good ideas, because all of them focus people into places that already have lots of people. The best is alternative number three, because transit is the most viable way to get these people around. 

It also makes the most sense fiscally. An empty train costs the same amount to run as a full train, but a full one comes with a pile of ticket sales, meaning that the city has to put in less money (or use the money to improve service). And even more so, an empty track costs the same amount (a few billion, that we've already spent the money on) as a track that has trains going by every couple of minutes, and those trains are comparatively cheap. If we focus our population growth along the transit lines, we'll end up with more frequent service, which is not just a good return on our investment, but makes the train more useful to everybody. 

Of course, what I really hope is that we build out our rapid transit system to cover all of the urban centers and most of the urban villages, so that Alternative 3 ends up looking a lot like alternatives 1 & 2, just focused a bit more on where the trains end up going. 

Lastly, because this has gotten way too long already, I'd say three things about how I'd like to see growth happen. 

1) If we aren't building more roads (and where on earth would we put them??) we shouldn't build more parking spaces. We've got too many cars for our roads already. Also, the neighborhoods where parking is legitimately hard (downtown and greater downtown, cap hill, U-district, Ballard, sometimes Fremont) are either on Link or really, really should be by 2035. We shouldn't be encouraging people to drive to these places by building more parking. 

2) Increased density does not come at the price of character (does NYC lack character?), but it does come at the price of peace and quiet. We need to build more parks and open spaces for when you need respite from vibrant urban centers. Rather than require so many square feet of concrete per residential unit, so that our cars have a place to sit, we should require a similar number of square feet of public green space. Alternatively, developers can pay the city the cost of building underground parking, and the city can use that towards parks and bike paths. 

3) In the long run, density leads to character rather than taking it away (again, compare NYC to L.A., or to pick on someone our own size, try Seattle vs. Denver). But it's true that in the short run, because building density involves building new buildings, you can lose some character. Therefore, we need to focus less on pure building height, which is basically a proxy for density, than on how we build those buildings. Ideally, I'd like to see three things: 

a) Ground floor must be retail, preferably dominated by small storefronts, so there is lots of variety and room for small businesses in walking distance of all these people. 

b) Buildings can be tall, but only if the tall parts are setback from the street. Seattle is sunlight-deprived enough already. 

c) Historic buildings are preserved. One of the reasons I cite Ballard as a success story is that 4 and 6 story condos that are ugly as sin and everybody loves to hate are by and large replacing 2 story 1970's apartments that are even worse. The historic, beautiful downtown buildings remain, though, and anchor the neighborhood. We can do better at creating character and inviting spaces than the new buildings in Ballard, but we will surely mess up now and then; it's all OK if we make sure to keep the really great stuff, just in case. 


As others have pointed out, the three alternatives presented are only slight variations on the same theme.  Alternative 3 seems the least objectionable.  Maybe planners aren't asking the right questions.

As anyone familiar with the current real estate market is aware, it's nearly impossible to buy a single-family home in Seattle right now because demand outstrips supply by at least 10 to 1.  Clearly a lot of people don't want to live in high-density, and planners can't really force it on them.  If we continue to see density implemented in the same unappealing ways it has been in recent years, people will simply choose to live in the suburbs instead.  Thus density will indirectly lead to even worse transportation problems.

The growth targets for Seattle seem to be stated as a given, without any discussion as to whether or not those numbers are reasonable.  Rather than debating where to stuff all the additional people, perhaps planners should consider whether that level of growth is sensible.


You and I, the citizens of Seattle, need to embrace all three alternatives presented within this plan. Embracing growth while continuing to seek better urban form will allow us to maximize vibrancy, social values, equality, our economy, and the environmental protection of our region.

Every time we restrict multifamily housing from a specific area, we miss out on more potential customers for our beloved neighborhood retail stores that are now under more pressure than ever. This pressure continues to grow when we only allow multifamily housing to replace current commercial sites rather than welcoming additional housing into our neighborhoods. Restricting multifamily housing to arterial streets also gives this housing less appeal to those who rent by choice, reinforcing the idea that only those who cannot afford a single family dwelling would live in apartments. All of these factors reduce the vibrancy of our neighborhoods, making them feel more and more like our neighboring suburbs than our wonderful City. To all the homeowners out there: if you want to maximize “livability” (and, by association, house appreciation) consider taking steps to maximize the vibrancy that the next generation desires.

The citizens of Seattle have strong social values and desire to take meaningful steps to improve the lives of others while strengthening our community. Increasing vibrancy by welcoming more development into our existing neighborhoods will benefit both newcomers and longtime residents. This shows good social values and maximizes equality through a lack of artificial restrictions on the amount of rental housing stock.

Welcoming more intensive commercial development into our neighborhoods that are well connected to transit will continue to solidify our position as the primary economic center of the Puget Sound Region. Although we can continue to position new jobs within the downtown area over the near term, we only have so much capacity for an attractive range of development in the City center. With continued zoning restrictions on the new supply of high quality commercial space, our next or other new startup is ever more likely to be founded and / or nurtured outside of the City limits. Placing more intensive commercial development near transit is our best option to maximize employment growth without maximizing traffic growth.

What is true for employment growth is even more compelling for more intensive residential growth. We should absolutely plan for far more intensive development to be located near our current and future light rail stops. In addition to greatly increasing vibrancy, this also allows middle class families the choice of a more residential setting without purchasing a single family house or adding traffic to our already clogged arterial streets and highways. Given that we cannot provide very many more single family houses in the City, this type of high intensity development is some of the most environmentally beneficial to our region because it helps slow “sprawl” elsewhere.


I'm not sure which plan I favor, but I have several concerns. I don't see that the proposed plans for the new high-rises in the area include adequate parking, or park and green spaces. With bus routes being cut, like the # 8, how will people get around? There are plans for less public transit here, not more. What about the capacity of the local schools?  Living in Mount Baker here are a few of the things I've noticed about the newer high rises that have already gone in. They are not yet fully occupied, either in terms of residences or retail locations--why will the new ones be any different? Many of the retail shops are low quality. We don't need more fast food "restaurants" or pawn shops or pot shops. These new high rises have done nothing to make the neighborhoods feel more walkable or safe. I see nothing that adds to the quality of life, but only taxes the neighborhood. Instead we seem to have a neighborhood that is less walkable than ever, with more burglary and theft than ever.

Tom R
Tom R

I support Alternative 3 because it combines urban villages with a preservation of manufacturing. We need to be a blue collar and a white collar town, and we need to build around rail transit centers so that large numbers of people can walk to work or to high-speed transit. I live near North Rainier Valley and support denser development in the only neighborhood that will have two light rail stations. 


I support a combination of Alternatives 2 and 3, planning for the growth of urban villages clustered around transit hubs. As others have mentioned, growth will happen relatively organically in downtown, Capital and First Hill, South Lake Union, and other areas that are already rather dense or have high demand for further density. They require planning, of course, but no longer require concerted oversight to incentivize and guide that growth in a highly determined way. Other areas near transit hubs, particularly in Rainier Valley, offer terrific potential for urban villages. They currently feature huge parking lots along Rainier Avenue that could be redeveloped to move parking underground, citing retail, housing, and green space above ground. I can't think of another part of the city that offers such potential for ambitious development as areas around the transit hubs in Mount Baker, Columbia City, and Beacon Hill.


I hate what has become of the City of Seattle. With all it's rampant "growth" it has lost most of it's character and is looking very much like towers of metal and glass.  There is NO affordable housing anymore so where are all these people going to live unless they make >$70,000 annually.

It seems that building permits have been flying out the door of what ever city office is responsible without much thought to what all these new, ugly buildings are doing to the landscape and the environment.


I favor Seattle Planning Alternative 3 (of the 3 offered) – transportation corridor growth, but it is FLAWED.

* Without strategic investments in transportation (buses, rail, traffic-jam-free corridors, eg HOV for transit), Alternatives 1 and 2 are impossible.

Transportation and growth corridors need to be implemented E and W as well as the N and S emphasis shown on your transit corridor map.

Communities and neighborhood councils need to be listened to and their [long-labored over] development plans respected.Some, especially Roosevelt Neighborhood, agreed to have increased density owing to the rail station they were getting, but the building height and density limits were beyond what the neighborhood had wanted, and had put into their long-range plans.

Developers need to PAY for growth with improvements in: transit-friendly wait-stations, added capacity for sewage, landscaping to retain/enlarge green and sunny spaces, and pedestrian-friendly (and wide) sidewalks, bike paths,and building frontyards leading to transit centers.Too many zero-setbacks for large buildings are now occurring.Our transit corridors will become shady, wind-blown, boring concrete facades instead of interesting, and activated streetscapes.

* Design review in all aspects of Seattle’s growth need to be implemented with transit growth areas DESIGNED attractively and energy-efficiently to include jobs, office space, retail as well as housing.Ballard received 3 times the growth it was slated to get by 2014, and yet it did NOT get the jobs and transportation possibilities to accompany this growth.

Along with any allowed greater building heights, developers should be made to replace and/or pay:

a) for low income housing displaced at least 1 to 1;

b) for shading of current solar electric installations that will now be shaded;

c) for community solar installations on their roofs to increase our green electricity;

d) for bike storage at residences and transit centers.

There should be a moratorium on large developments, especially microhousing, until

a) a strategic and comprehensive design review is implemented

b) current urban centers and villages receive adequate infrastructure such as transportation and jobs/retail (eg Ballard)


I wanted to voice my support for Alternative 2 in the Seattle 2035 Comprehensive plan. I think that the urban centers like downtown will continue to grow in density in an organic way but I believe that encouraging density around the light rail stations and encouraging the development of urban villages in our neighborhoods would have a greater positive impact on the city in many areas especially in the environment and in quality of life.

I know that the areas with the biggest carbon footprint are the suburbs where people need to drive to do absolutely everything. Right now, downtown and the U district and other urban center already have a high walkability. To have the greatest impact on the city overall, it makes sense to focus on the urban village areas and make them more walkable and allow people to stop using their cars. 

If we add more services like grocery stores, restaurants, libraries, etc.; have good transit options, and make the streets pedestrian and bicycle friendly, these areas would become much more environmentally sustainable, more pleasant (higher quality of life), safer (more eyes on the street) and more economically successful.

This takes some serious urban planning and focus from the city to make this work. I think the urban centers already have plenty of private developer interests and finances but it's the urban village areas where the city could make the biggest impact.

I'm in the Mt. Baker neighborhood so I can see the HUGE potential positive impact of an urban village around the Mt. Baker light rail station. That area of Rainier is currently pretty miserable and not at all friendly to pedestrians. The grocery store is actually within walking distance but none of us walk there because the streets or so intimidating and car oriented and unpleasant. With the light rail station right there, I could easily see, greater housing density, more jobs, more services and I could see my family and my neighbors walking to do their errands. This is an area that is crying out for some thoughtful development and urban planning.

B A Meyers
B A Meyers

There are no plans to invest the needed infrastructure. Seattle can increase density to the highest level in the world and that would have no impact on transit funding, sewage treatment, parks, libraries, etc. There are no impact fees for any new development in Seattle. Regressive sales taxes are the only answer that Seattle and King County public officials have for funding city services.


I would like to see more TOD along the bus rapid transit lines. I would encourage higher density 

and affordability in housing, but also designated areas that are job and business focused within

the urban villages.

B A Meyers
B A Meyers

Why bother doing a comprehensive plan when the Planning Department's zoning and land development regulations totally ignore the previous plan's goals, objectives, and growth targets. Why ask for public comment when Seattle Planners tell residents that they will not modify their recommendations to City Council. Why continue to try to have a dialog with anyone in the Seattle Department of Planning and development when a Seattle Planner tells the audience at a recent Central Ballard Resident's Association meeting that since almost all of the 300 comments that the public submitted about the proposed micro-housing regulations were negative that the Department will not make any changes in their recommendations to City Council. Why bother giving comments, when the same planner admits that all of the data that the Planning Department used to base its development regulation only came from developers. Why bother trying to participate in a public dialogue when the final recommendations to "regulate" micro-housing doesn't even contain the items that were in the original version submitted for public comment. Why participate in a process where developers are given complete control over how Seattle neighborhoods will develop and existing residents are told to stop asking questions. The Planning Department can banter about "theories of dispersion", but it is completely obvious that citizen views carry little weight in City Hall.

Laura O Neill
Laura O Neill

So much development is predicated on public transportation being available now, when in fact it is not, or increased in the future, when in fact it won't be.  The CITY OF SEATTLE DOES NOT HAVE JURISDICTION OR INFLUENCE on public transportation decisions, so why do officials continue to sell development as though they do?  

When will exceptions to height limits stop?  An exception to the rule changes the rule. We are already seeing 7 stories where there are 5 in surrounding buildings.  Why is this necessary?  So the development will be economically viable?

The description of Urban Villages and their true locations is deceptive at best.  These zones are being exploited by developers before the neighborhoods know what is happening.  Queen Anne was savvy early and doesn't have them.  In other areas, unique neighbors are being sacrificed to this concept.

Catherine hit the nail on the head:  

I am disappointed that there are not three real alternatives.  In planning purposes, these are slight variants on the same approach.  It's lazy.  It's vanilla.  It homogenizes the diverse Seattle neighborhoods this administration keeps claiming make Seattle unique.  Well... not for much longer if things don't change.

I agree with this statement by Michael Brandstetter:

Simpy putting up more and higher apartment buildings and condos without strict regulations as to provided parking, sight zones, etc. is unconscionable.

Where is the political will for these STRICT REGULATIONS.  Such political will does not exist as these three alternatives clearly illustrate.

Michael Brandstetter
Michael Brandstetter

Firstly, I am strongly against giving developers carte blanche to do whatever they want. How that impacts neighborhoods can be easily seen in Ballard. 

Right now, Seattle has already reached 108% of the 2024 20-year residential target and we have not seen transportation or infrastructure improvements that are a supposed part of the growth plan. The idea that new residents in new developments will avail themselves of public transportation cannot be supported. What public transportation? Are not regressive legislative elements attempting to severely cut funding to King County Metro, as well speak?

Simpy putting up more and higher apartment buildings and condos without strict regulations as to provided parking, sight zones, etc. is unconscionable. The idea that one can 'develop-in' more jobs is silly. Sure, it will create a few or local businesses, but for the most part, the exorbitantly high leases offered in the commercial part of new dwellings forestall a thriving community of unique and individual businesses. Hence, we face a further erosion of the unique commercial make-up of our communities and, in architecture and services, a mono culture of banks and retail chains.

I therefore cannot support any of the proposed plans. On the contrary, I ask for a moratorium on development for the next three years. This time should be utilized to

a) catch up on the insane current backlog of infrastructure improvements and repairs necessary to support current residents, and

b) to create and strengthen neighborhood councils with full final authority over the shaping of their environs and de-centralize the entire planning process except for safety code regulations

c) restructure the various planning boards to include neighborhood representatives and non-developer interests.

Isaac Patterson
Isaac Patterson

I support alternative number 2 as the best of the three options although I like the idea of opening up new urban village locations (I think Aurora and 105th is a real missed opportunity). I would very much like to see all areterials being zoned to 6 stories as a matter of right. One of the most important things we should be pursuing is limiting the amount of prescriptive regulations of development. One other option that could be pursued is to increase commercial property taxes which would discourage sprawling businesses.

Jalair Box
Jalair Box

My daughter (age 10) and I sat down and talked through the Seattle of the future.  I gave her information about the 3 alternatives and asked her which one she would prefer to live in when she is 30-something.  She chose Alternative 2, the Urban Village Focus,  I had also chosen that alternative, but I waited with my own opinions, and asked her why?  

She said, "Because I want to live in a neighborhood, not surrounded by high rises."

I agree with her urban village vision.  We are DT Ballard residents who live in fairly massive 6-story condo.  We are in the midst of rapid changes in this neighborhood, many of which are the inevitable result of drawing a line at the edge of our metropolis and saying, "from here on out is the farmland."  I agree with the principle of keeping our farmlands intact, and building up the core as we grow.  How we do this is the difference between delightful, merely livable, and ugly.

Building height should be no higher than 6 stories in the urban villages.  The most beautiful neighborhoods in Paris and London and many other cities have an *inviolate* height restriction.  Why?  Building shadow and wind blowing between the buildings makes a taller building height more impostng and unpleasant.  The City of Seattle is issue height exceptions to developers now, and I do not agree.  Our 2035 plan must have limits based on a vision of  of what makes a livable community.

Transportation to and from work should presuppose more jobs in the Urban Villages.  I do not think the vision goes far enough in this regard.  A village in its classical sense contains its residents with all their basic needs, including jobs.  Think about a Seattle where 10-15% of the residents commute by walking, bicycling, or a shorter than 2 mile bus ride.  What would happen to traffic?  It would evaporate.  It would not be generated in the first place.  Think how the city's infrastructure would be less impacted if, within each urban village, tens of thousand of workers lived within 2-3 miles of their jobs.   In a place like West Seattle, in Ballard, in Northgate, etc., people lived within a 15-20 minute total commute of their home.  Housing affordability is part of this equation, as are building codes and areas for light industrial, office and other types of business.

I am a fan of working close to where you live.  If your door-to-door commute is currently 1 hour, and you reduce that time to 15 minutes, you save 1.5 hours of your life each working day.  Multiply that by tens of thousands and you get less stress, better home cooked food, more time with kids and friends, and a better life.  You get people who actually know their neighbors, because they see them.  They are part of the 'hood.  

I'm a proponent of urban villages with the added dimension of thoughtful growth of business within the framework of this plan.  

I need to add one more thought: transportation planning for workers getting to and from manufacturing and industrial centers.  The bus system is not focused on getting people to these job centers, and I would like to see thoughtful planning in that direction, to reduce car traffic and increase quality of life for these workers.  

My vision of working close to where you live takes in the reality that current job centers will continue to exist.  We have focused almost exclusively on commutes to DT Seattle.  I think we need to assess and refocus.  There is a certain savings in clustering workers in an area, but in terms of carbon savings and wear and tear on citizens and our infrastructure, we could do much better.

Scott Bonjukian
Scott Bonjukian

I would prefer Alternative 3, the transit focus. But if the city pursues that route, it needs to make some significant changes to its zoning code. New development around light rail stations need to have maximum or zero parking requirements, to maximize the use of transit. Height limits need to be increased. Ground floor retail, which some spaces big enough for grocery stores, would need to be concentrated very tightly around the stations as well.

Sound Transit seems to be doing well with ridership and operations of Link, but the real concern is Metro. This growth alternative needs to also focus on cross-neighborhood bus transit. Bus service needs to drastically increase, not just be maintained like with Prop. 1. Impact fees on developers could go towards transit, along with other infrastructure to maintain concurrency.


Transit focus should be the primary alternative. As an example, the new light rail station at I-90 and 23rd Ave. S. and Rainier Ave. S. has all the components required. A large green open space that is both active and passive recreation. The hub of both light rail, buss service to and from the east side, a major bikeway, a retail site at 23rd and Jackson that is going to be redeveloped and undeveloped land west of Rainier Ave. S. that could take high density residental and retail development from S. Dearborn St. south to Mcclellan. There is already some density north and west of the new station. The neighborhhod north of the station has added density and could take more. The proximity to downtown and SODO will bring the needed pressure to finally redevelop the Goodwill site into the retail center that Goodwill always wanted. I have great examples from Stockholm Sweden, Germany and various US cities that show the vibrant live work play opportunities that density brings. To lower our carbon footprint developing around transportation hubs needs to be the primary course for our city to take. Unless you want more coal trains, oil trains, and continue to believe in 1950's suburbia city neighborhoods it is time to accept climate change realities, grow and move forward.

Pictures and more later. 


I like pieces of each proposal.  I am opposed to option 3 - transit focused, as I do not believe we have  adequate coverage with our current transit network.  a lacking transit system should not drive our development   Our transit network needs a combination of streetcar, gondola, bus rapid transit with dedicated lanes (more than just a "rapid ride" route) and light rail extensions that connect Seattle neighborhoods to eachother using efficient ring routes as is standard in any major city's transit network.  our local buses are fine getting in and out of downtown, but are much to slow moving people between urban villages and urban centers.  people will always have cars as long as getting from urban village/center to urban village/center takes twice as long on a bus as it does in a car.  that said, i like focusing  a good chunk of the growth at light rail transit hubs. these areas should become urban centers/villages if they are not already.

option 2, urban village focus, is attractive because it is likely to encourage growth in less expensive areas of the city and create more affordable housing for seattle's workfoce.  additionally, this option would encourage growth in neighborhood hubs that are currently underserved by quick, efficient transit likely resulting in much needed expansion of efficient mass transit to and between seattle's urban villages.  another likely benefit would be the disbursement of jobs and a more diverse range of businesses in urban villages, which are currently dominated by bars, restaurants, expensive clothing stores.  

option 1, urban center focus, appears to be the direction the city is already going.  it is logical to grow these areas.  high rise construction should be allowed in these urban centers and no parking should be required.  the growth needs to be dispersed, however.  zoning heights should be increased in these areas, but incentives for growth in urban villages and transit hubs should also be utilized to prevent these areas from continuing to absorb most of seattle's growth.

seattle needs to urbanize, density and better connect it's urban centers, urban villages and transit hubs.  growth must be dispersed through each of these areas and we must better connect our urban villages and centers to eachother via expanded mass transit with dedicated lanes separated from single occupancy vehicle traffic jams.


I will admit that it's been just over two decades since I was trained in environmental impact statement design and writing. Things may have changed since then, making this complaint no longer the case in a legal sense, though in a practical sense it is still one of my complaints.  An EIS is supposed to explore a diversity of alternatives, from changing nothing, to changing everything, with at least three distinct alternatives in the middle.  I don't see that here, and my understanding is, that in this proposed setup, this EIS will be vulnerable to successful litigation.  

The litigation issue aside, because that's not my specialty, I am disappointed that there are not three real alternatives.  In planning purposes, these are slight variants on the same approach.  It's lazy.  It's vanilla.  It homogenizes the diverse Seattle neighborhoods this administration keeps claiming make Seattle unique.  Well... not for much longer if things don't change.

Mike McGinn
Mike McGinn

Do these alternatives continue the assumption that new structures don't needed to include parking because new residents won't own cars? If so than I'm opposed to all of them. Even if transit is greatly improved, people will still own cars and will need a place to park them - and on-street parking is already inadequate.

Additionally, micro-housing needs to be greatly curtailed unless guarantees are put in place to mitigate the impacts of their ultra-density on neighborhood. Require developer impact fees that will be used to improve transit, prohibit new residents from qualifying for RPZ permits (if they're moving into a neighborhood where parking is a problem, they shouldn't be adding to the problem), and ensure that micro-housing has common areas where residents who smoke can gather without disturbing neighbors.


Why not focus on aspects of all three? Each alternative has good points and ideas. With Seattle expected to grow as much as it is, we should be looking at all avenues of smart, sustainable growth and not just narrowing it down to one.


I prefer Alternative 2: The Urban Village Focus. Due to Seattle's geography, Seattle's neighborhoods have really become key centers for civil, cultural, and professional life. Places like Ballard, Columbia City, and Greenlake all have a feeling and community unto themselves. Embracing and building on this energy will help make Seattle an even greater city.

I particularly like the idea of promoting more job opportunities in urban villages. Fighting for space in the urban center can be difficult. Providing more flexibility in how businesses grow out in the neighborhoods is a great way to encourage and foster strong local business. It is also better for transit as it allows more people to commute by bike or foot if they live and work in the same neighborhood. It can also take pressure off of peak commuter buses heading downtown in the morning and make our bus system more efficient by filling up more buses in opposite directions of typical commute patterns.

This is also a great strategy for encouraging more walkability overall in Seattle. While the Urban Center already achieves a high degree of walkability, many of Seattle's urban village centers are on the cusp of being highly walkable, but lack a few amenities that would truly allow people to live car free lifestyles. By focusing more development in these areas - not only with more people overall but also with more daytime and nighttime balances of population with more jobs in the villages - we will hopefully see a proliferation of more amenities.

Finally, I would like to note that focusing development on the urban villages allows us an opportunity to highlight and strengthen the unique character that each of these neighborhoods have. I encourage the city to look at funding mechanisms and other strategies for providing resources to maintain and foster the cherished and loved elements of our neighborhoods alongside new development. The mature vegetation, the historic buildings, the view corridors. Explicitly identifying these can help make sure that new development actually leverages there assets to make a greater community overall. The Pike/Pine Cultural Overlay District is a great example of how a neighborhood can continue to grow while maintaining its rich historic past. Particular developments like the Harbor Steps in downtown also provide good examples of leveraging community assets both for new residents and the public at large.

Thank you for the opportunity to comment and I look forward to the rest of the process.

B A Meyers
B A Meyers

@SeattleNativeRyan  How about a little data to support your grand conclusion that building new multi-family dwelling units in any place without any regulation or controls is good for neighborhhood vitality and affordability.

Here is some real data that is based upon research in Washington, D.C and in Seattle.

"Emily Badger shares news of a new study by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, which "suggests that older, smaller buildings do matter to a city's economy and a neighborhood's commercial life beyond the allure of affordable fixer-uppers."

A few examples of the report's findings:

  • "In Seattle, the report found one-third more jobs per commercial square foot in parts of town with a variety of older, smaller buildings mixed in." 
  • And in San Francisco's older neighborhoods, the study "found more than twice the rate of women and minority-owned businesses."

Badger also includes more details on the study's methods as well as a few conclusions drawn from the study by the National Trust.

The report then compared the results to more than 40 metrics of economic and social life, accounting for differences across neighborhoods in median income, transit accessibility and private reinvestment. The trust looked at concentrations of social activity through cellphone use, at businesses per 1,000 square feet of commercial space, at population density and walkability scores

Neighborhoods with many small shops and restaurants side by side are also more conducive to foot traffic and the kind of unanticipated business that's created when you walk to a restaurant on Barracks Row in Capitol Hill and later wind up at a bar next door.

The trust argues that these qualities inherent in older, smaller-scale building stock keep cities affordable for local businesses and lower-income renters, although economists like Edward Glaeser have argued precisely the opposite: that preservationists who oppose new development restrict the supply of new housing that might drive prices down.

The idea that building new is going to lead to greater affordability has been the standard economic model of supply and demand," Powe says, "and that may hold true in the aggregate at the end of the day. But it’s very hard to build new affordable housing, and this is a great natural stock of affordable stuff."

By the way, most of Seattle's urban village overlay districts are not served by light rail or street cars and there is no funding to expand this type of transit available for the next twenty years. In fact, the city must raise taxes just to keep the existing level of transit services that have been substantially reduced in the past five years. 

Thus, please provide us with some valid data to support your claims before you choose to preach to us about your vision of a future Seattle where tearing down the older housing and commercial building in neighborhoods like Ballard leads to big box unattractive structures with vacant first floor retail space that small businesses can't afford to rent. Have you walked on Market street from 14th Ave to 17th Ave and enjoyed walking past all of the vacant store fronts? I can't wait for all of the other mid-rise apartment projects that are being built on 24th street to give us even more vacant first floor store fronts.


@B A Meyers  seattle citizens should bother commenting so that our city government knows that seattle is full of people that completely disagree with these obstructionist points of view.  microhousing is a necessary part of development moving forward.  density is necessary part of development moving forward.  urban places build densely.  people are by no means forced to live in a dense, urban area., but if you do live in an urban area, do not stand in the way of the area bettering itself by densifying and becoming more urban.  

density breeds better transit, more jobs, more housing, walkable neighborhoods, less dependence on cars, less energy/carbon use, more collaboration, idea generation, preserves natural areas, etc.  dense, urban living is the only way for our planet to support 9/10 billion people.  

the single family house is a suburban living typology, not an urban one.  and most cannot afford the 600k pricetag associated with a single family house in seattle, but many can afford the 300k pricetag of a condo.  single family neighborhoods are going to turn into townhouses, rowhouses, small apartments and cottage housing as seattle grows and further urbanizes.  we as urban citizens must accept that and work to ensure this growth happens in a way that fits into the existing urban fabric.  


@PaulByron  i agree in theory, but do you find seattle's current transit network to be an adequate framework on which to grow the city?   it would seem hubs like west seattle, ballard, fremont are left to wither if our transit system, as it stands, drives growth.  i think more growth in these areas would enable the density needed to justify expanding high speed transit to these areas...though it is a chicken or egg issue...growth before proper transit will increase car use until proper transit is expanded.

abadgett moderator

@Gm  You're right about looking at aspects of all three. We are not limiting ourselves to just one of these alternatives. Our hope is that we can spur conversation and end up with the best solution to how Seattle should grow. Let us know which parts of these alternatives you like or if we are missing something entirely.


@B A Meyers @SeattleNativeRyan The National Trust for Historic Preservation study strongly supports the idea that we should embrace development in more areas so that we do not lose our small scale commercial buildings that help give Seattle character.  Unfortunately, by greatly restricting the location of multifamily development we continue to see our character structures fall and diverse businesses pushed away because they are located on some of the only sites deemed “suitable” for more housing.  An option to allow commercial enterprise within a greater number of areas will also help keep tabs on rising rents in areas with population growth.  It is key that we “allow” rather than “mandate” this new commercial space in most cases to prevent strings of empty storefronts.

The restriction of multifamily housing to a relatively small subset of Seattle means that some areas see an uncomfortable amount of change during building cycles.  This process also removes a greater amount of older, naturally affordable housing than would be removed if more neighborhoods were accepting of quality multifamily development.  Essentially, the current restrictions on the location of multifamily housing help make our neighborhoods more uniform, less interesting, and less diverse.  A large amount of development in a single area also means that all of this development will age at the same time, which makes the area less resilient in the future.

In total, it appears that B A Meyers and I agree on some important points with regard to the National Trust study.  It also sounds like we both find it unfortunate that Seattle does not currently have a more aggressive plan for expansion of high quality mass transit.  As our city continues to thrive, some of our fellow citizens have started planning to accelerate the growth of our high quality mass transit network.  (  This is an essential step in order to keep Seattle attractive to future generations of citizens, and should be considered within any long range plan.


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