D5/D6 land use stats for MHA hearing

mike eliason
5 min readMar 12, 2018

Tonight is the Districts 5/6 public hearing for Mandatory Housing Affordability. A common refrain heard from the group overrepresented by homeowners that are attempting to slow/kill the affordable housing upzones of MHA is that Seattle has, ‘adequate zoning capacity’ — but a closer look at the details, especially in wealthier neighborhoods found in District 6 tell another story. Here are a few of those stats heading into tonight’s hearing.

District 6 (Ballard, West Woodland, Green Lake, Fremont, Greenwood, Crown Hill) has 6,127 gross acres. Of that 6,127 — right of ways constitute 1,832 acres. That’s 30% of our land is dedicated to cars and car storage, with a little bit for trains thrown in. This is slightly higher than the city’s overall percentage of R.O.W. — and a good chunk of that ROW is on-street parking in single family zones.

D6 existing land use areas

Guess how much of D6 is zoned for multifamily? A whopping 481 acres. We have nearly four times as much land zoned for cars than we do for people who can’t afford million dollar homes. Two thirds of D6’s net acres are zoned exclusively for single family. At 2,630 acres — we have 5.5 times more land zoned for luxury housing than we have for multifamily or affordable housing. 256 of D6’s acres are waterways or reservoirs. We have almost as much area for water as we do for multifamily residential housing. And almost all of that multifamily zoned land is zoned for low-rise. Just 0.2% of D6 is zoned for mid rise residential — this makes the prospects of a coop, baugruppe, or other cohousing in D6 extremely difficult to pencil — especially given the high land costs. It also means that those midrise parcels are likely adjacent to single family, which would severely effect development capacity, driving up cost/unit.

This also means 84.5% of all residentially-zoned land in district 6 is zoned single family — that is, itis zoned to exclude affordable housing. The lack of multifamily zoned land here is devastating to those who are unable to buy or afford increasing rents. Especially given that at one time, nearly all of D6 allowed multifamily housing wherever housing was legal. The resulting plethora of exclusionary zoning is, not surprisingly, a factor in median single family home values in D6 — almost all well above the Seattle median:
Fremont: $848k
Greenwood: $724k
Ballard: $792k c
Crown Hill: $711k
Phinney: $874k
Green Lake: $883k
West Woodland: $796k
Loyal Heights: $820k

Now on to District 5: Aurora-Licton Springs, Northgate, Bitter Lake, and Lake City. D5 has 8,222 gross acres, of which 1,862 (22.6%) acres are right of way. Again, as in D6, much of this is in the form of on-street parking. There is also a freeway that bisects D5.

A whopping 501 acres are zoned for multifamily in D5, this means 94% of land excludes multifamily. There are 3,999 acres zoned for single family. D5 has a stunning eight times more land zoned for detached housing than there is for duplexes or triplexes, or apartments. Of the net acres zoned residential in D5, 89% of them are zoned to exclude multifamily and affordable housing. Furthermore, just 0.7% of the gross acreage in D5 is zoned for midrise housing — that sweet spot for baugruppen and coops. This is the definition of absurd.

84% of D6 is white (the city average is 69.5%). The median age is 37. It is majority renter households. 69% of D5 is white, median age is 39. It is majority renter household as well. Mostof the planned housing growth in both D5 and D6 is on arterials — an approach rife w/ environmental, social, and economic inequities.

But zoning is not the only major inequity in either District 5 or 6. Parks: there is a massive open space deficiency against multifamily housing in D6 and D5 — especially in urban villages. Almost all of Green Lake is surrounded by single family zoning. All these numbers are from the excellent, eye-opening @sightline article, ‘Opening Parks to More Seattleites

75% of housing within 1/2 mile of Ross Park is single family — though in 1923, it was largely surrounded by multi-family zoned land. 62% of land around Gilman Park is zoned to exclude affordable housing. Ballard commons— which sites *in* the Ballard urban village : 21% of land around it is zoned single family.

Within a half mile of Golden Gardens? 95% of land zoned single family.
Loyal Heights playfield? 90% single family.
North Beach Park? 97% single family.
Soundview playfield in Crown Hill? 89% single family.
Carkeek Park? 91% of land within a half mile is zoned single family (really puts the car in Carkeek)
Sandel Park? 71% zoned single family (this was all proposed being within Greenwood urban village before it was gerrymandered out)
Greenwood Park? 62% zoned single family.
Northacres park? it’s next to a highway. 97% zoned single family within a half mile. it’s an easy bike ride from Fremont, albeit a little harrowing.
Thorntorn Creek? 88% single family.
Meadowbrook Playfield? 92% single family. Just 14 multifamily units within a half mile (!)
Maple Leaf Playground? 89% is single family within 1/2 mile.
Matthews Beach? 100% single family zoning with 1/2 mile.
Lake City Playground? 71% single family.

There are only 3 parks in D5/D6 that are more than 50% multifamily within a half mile: BF Day Playfield, Ballard Commons, and Mineral Springs. MHA goes a small way in starting to address some of those massive inequities. I’m sure the same inequities play out for schools in these districts. The city is majority renter in both households and population… Perhaps it is time our land use code were to reflect this.



mike eliason

dad | designer | writer | Noted shill for housing. interests: Baugruppen, architecture, passivhaus, mass timber, staedtebau, not for profit housing