Hate the strip-mall-style new bank or chain pharmacy that just went in on your block? Fighting out-of-state developers who are planning some one-story, parking-heavy, suburban-looking crap on a lot that could instead have upper stories of useful, neighborhood-improving residential units?
Well, good news for you, buddy! After public comment that was almost wholly in favor, the city council just unanimously passed minimum density legislation that requires new buildings (or particularly big overhauls of old buildings) to build to a certain height and scale—about half of the maximum allowed—if they're going up in pedestrian-friendly spots in urban villages, urban centers, or near light-rail stations. (I outlined it a little more wonkily over here when the bill was introduced last week; the bill itself is here.) The bill, sponsored by Council Member Richard Conlin, was emergency legislation, meaning it'll go into effect immediately upon receiving the mayor's signature. Mayor's spokesman Aaron Pickus says they'll sign it and commends Conlin for showing "real leadership" on the issue. (Awwwww.)
I know I've been writing about this a lot recently, but it's nice to take a second to marvel at how topsy-turvy this seems compared to so many battles over density in the city. For a city that fights like dogs about scary tall buildings that block out the sun and ruin the character of neighborhoods, a rapid consensus formed over the course of about a month that, at least in some cases, developers should actually be forced to build taller, more useful buildings in our busiest neighborhoods. Seriously, I mean a consensus: We wrote favorably about the bill before it even existed. The Seattle Times published an editorial in favor of it this morning. Neighborhood groups lobbied City Hall for this legislation, the council passed it unanimously with little discussion, the mayor is salivating to sign it. Vince Lyons of the Wallingford Community Council even testified today that the bill doesn't go far enough.
One more repeat of that, because it's really pretty funny: We agree with the Seattle Times, city council agrees with the mayor, and neighborhood activists say the city should do more to get taller buildings with less parking in their neighborhoods. [Insert joke about pigs flying/hell freezing over/Sally Clark being decisive right here.] Enjoy it for a second!
Because this is emergency legislation, it only creates interim rules for the following year, and Conlin told council today they're welcome to help him "fine-tune" it over the course of the year. They'll adopt a permanent version in fall 2014, after going through the full public process that land-use laws usually go through.