(an excerpt from)

MAKING IT WORK December 28, 2001, Volume III, Issue 7
Seattle City Councilmember Richard Conlin

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On Monday, December 3, the Council unanimously adopted a remapping of the area around Madison Street between 18th and 23rd Avenues. This rezoning will provide for a more consistent zoning pattern in the neighborhood with more orderly transitions from the denser development along Madison to the single-family neighborhoods a few blocks away. The rezone plan also reduces the maximum height on Madison from 85 feet to 65 feet, consolidates some parcels to facilitate redevelopment, and introduces Seattle's first area to be specifically zoned for cottage development (Residential Small Lot).

A set of rezones were developed as part of the Madison-Miller neighborhood plan, but the community was not able to come to consensus in time to include these in the plan presented to the City Council. At the request of some members of the community, I facilitated a community meeting in the fall of 2000. At this very well-attended meeting, most people indicated a readiness to consider new zoning that would facilitate attractive buildings, increase public safety, and achieve the goal of the Madison-Miller Plan to promote more affordable housing. Residents also expressed concerns about traffic issues, and some indicated that the major concern about increased development would be traffic congestion.
To follow up on that meeting, I asked the Seattle Department of Transportation to work on traffic issues, and asked the Department of Design, Construction, and Land Use (DCLU) to perform a zoning study of the neighborhood.

The zoning study was presented to the community at another well-attended meeting in July of 2001. Most of the rezoning proposals received general approval, although some continued to be contentious. Based on the results of that meeting, my office and DCLU made some changes to the proposal, and presented it to a formal public hearing in October.

Only 13 people testified at the public hearing, and almost all supported most of the recommendations for rezoning. I concluded that this process had worked to resolve some of the controversies, and that the Council had enough input and information to take a position on those issues on which there was still not consensus.
The new plan establishes a consistent height along Madison, "downzoning" some properties at the eastern end and establishing neighborhood commercial zoning at the western end to encourage housing over retail as the predominant development pattern. The transition back from Madison steps down through multi-family residential L-4 (37 feet) to L-3 (30 feet) to single-family. In an area of about 4 blocks southeast of the multi-family area, the legislation establishes what is called Residential Small Lot zoning, allowing 2 cottage-type units per each single-family lot. This area is the home of the very successful Pine Street Cottages, so residents were familiar and generally supportive of the cottage development concept. While the area zoned for cottages is relatively small and it is not clear to what extent property can actually be assembled for cottage developments there, this is the first adoption of a zone where cottage development will be permitted outright.

The Madison-Miller rezoning will encourage a better development pattern and hopefully promote more affordable housing. It is an example of successful follow-up action on one of the more complex issues left unresolved in the neighborhood planning process. It is also an example of good public process: just enough process to allow issues to be thoroughly aired and discussed, but with a clear decision point in a reasonable time period. While the public process did not result in complete consensus, almost all parties were satisfied with the vast majority of the changes, there was a reasonable balance between development interests and the concerns of neighborhood leaders, the remaining controversies were settled after many years of disputation, and an innovative zoning was introduced in an attempt to meet a neighborhood plan goal.
Several other neighborhood planning processes were also concluded without being able to reach consensus on rezoning proposals, and I will encourage these neighborhoods to work on resolving their issues through a similar process. I also plan to continue to follow-up on the traffic and transportation issues identified as key concerns in the Madison-Miller neighborhood.