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Seattle Homeowners Start To Have Concerns About Mayor's Plan For More Density

Jennifer Wing
A single family home in Wallingford, on the right, is next to another home that will soon be torn down. The home on the left will be replaced with a milti unit apartment complex.


Now that Seattle’s new City Council is in place, work will begin in earnest on Mayor Ed Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda, otherwise known as HALA. Many of its recommendations aim to increase affordable housing in a city that is becoming financially out of reach for many.



Murray and the HALA committee say one way to accomplish this is to rezone some single family neighborhoods to allow for more density. Developers would either be required to set aside units for affordable housing or pay into a fund the city would use to build more low income homes.


People living in areas that would be upzoned under HALA, are starting to notice where they are on the map, and they have a lot of questions.


Jenny Brailey is one of them. She lives in a yellow Craftsman on a corner lot in Wallingford. People call it the bird house because it has an atrium on the roof where the former owners kept their parrots. Brailey’s home is inside the black line on a map. This is where HALA proposes to upzone.


“My house is on a street full of single family homes and under this proposal a developer might come in, knock down the three small houses next to my house and put in a giant apartment complex, totally blocking all my sunlight, changing the character of the neighborhood," said Brailey. "You know it’s not friendly anymore. We can’t just go from lawn to lawn visiting. My kids go up and down the street right now visiting with their friends.This would just look really odd.”


Brailey said she knows the city has to create more density, but said she, "doesn't want it to happen at all costs." She wants it to be done in a thoughtful way that keeps the character of her neighborhood intact. She joined more than 100 people who turned out last week for a Wallingford Community Council presentation about HALA.


Pictures of tightly-spaced townhouse developments with no room for trees or yards built right up to the property line of quaint bungalows were projected onto a large screen. These were examples of what the Wallingford Community Council doesn't want to see built.


Fourth District Councilman Rob Johnson got wind of the event and showed up to answer people’s questions. He says the HALA recommendations will be acted on by the council over the next 18 months.


“And even after zoning changes happen it’s often times a long time before anything comes onto the ground. This feels very immediate. It’s a long term process we’re going to be discussing for several, several years,” said Johnson.

Almost every neighborhood in the city could see more density if the current HALA rezoning recommendations are approved. Mayor Ed Murray, who says Seattle is facing the worst affordable housing crisis in decades, will be talking about HALA and answering questions at a public meeting Tuesday, January 26. The meeting is from 5-7 p.m. in the Bertha Knight Landes Room at City Hall.

Jennifer Wing is a former KNKX reporter and producer who worked on the show Sound Effect and Transmission podcast.