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Growing Concerns About Development Prompt Seattle Zoning Changes

Ashley Gross
Development in a part of Ballard designated as a low-rise multi-family zone

Seattle is in the middle of a development boom that many people argue is proceeding without enough limits set by the city. The city council has now voted to tighten some zoning regulations but one councilman says they don’t go far enough. 

Some parts of Seattle are zoned for low-rise multi-family development that allows for three- to four-story buildings. But Ballard residents, for example have complained that when the city council updated the code five years ago, they made it possible for developers to build things that are out of proportion with the rest of the neighborhood.

"Some provisions of the new code allowed developers to construct buildings 10 to 15 feet higher than intended, and the result is that today there are buildings that tower over their neighbors and more townhomes are crowded onto lots than had been intended," said Seattle City Councilman Tom Rasmussen.

Rasmussen was the lone vote against the zoning changes that the council just passed. He says even with the updates, developers will be able to demolish older buildings to put up more expensive ones, squeezing out affordable housing.

Councilman Mike O'Brien, who sponsored the legislation, defends the code changes. He says they will result in development that’s more in line with existing homes nearby. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.