I am a member of the Lynnwood City Council, and the Snohomish County Tomorrow Steering Committee. My comments below represent my views and are not intended to imply these are the positions of these organizations.
The politicians in Olympia are once again pushing a bill intended to destroy the sovereignty and self governing rights of local cities for City planning zoning. Similar efforts have been defeated in previous years, but that does not keep the politicians from trying again this year, and this year it looks like they are going to have their way, despite the objections of local City Leaders and the Association of Washington Cities.
At its core, this bill will remove the right of local cities to zone their communities based on local information and needs. It uses Olympia’s typical one size fits all governance model and forces all cities across the State to accommodate Olympia’s vision of what our neighborhoods should look like.
To that end, the bill that has passed the State House of Representatives and will now be discussed in the Senate, mandates that Cities change their zoning to allow high density multifamily residential construction in areas of the city previously zoned for low density single family housing. That means that you will see apartments, duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes and potentially even 6 plex housing units built next to your home in your single family neighborhood.
This is a very bad idea for many reasons.
First, this bill will not increase affordable housing. In fact, just the opposite is occurring where similar changes have been made. An 800 SF unit recently sold in North Seattle for $600k. That is $750/SF. Someone looking to sell a house in that neighborhood is going to raise the price they sell for so that they also get $750/SF, which means a 2000sf house would sell for $1.5 Million dollars. Rents move with housing prices and usually are established just under typical mortgage rates for the area. The mortgage on an 800 SF house at $600k is going to be about $2,000/mo. Mortgage on that $1.5M house is going to be almost $6000/mo. Rent for an 800 SF apartment is going to be around $1800/mo and rent for a 1000sf apartment is going to be almost $2500. Instead of creating affordable housing, this measure is going to drive up housing costs and rental costs, decreasing affordability in our cities.
This bill will decrease safety in our neighborhoods.
Single family neighborhoods typically are farther away from transit centers and light rail than multi family. Those distances make it unlikely that these new multi family units will have folks walking to mass transit. They are going to drive, and that means more cars which, in turn, means more traffic moving faster on roads which are not designed for that level of traffic. We have already seen a significant increase in traffic offenses in our city. Crush even more cars into our single family neighborhoods, and the number of people racing through our school zones is going to increase exponentially. Gridlock on our arterials is already one of the biggest complaints of our citizens, right after safety. These calls for increased density are just going to exacerbate those traffic issues and destroy the ability of our citizens to move around the city safely.
These additional cars will increase wear and tear on infrastructure.
We already have insufficient budget to properly maintain our roads. These additional cars are going to worsen our roads leading to increasingly dangerous driving conditions. We already have insufficient parking in our city. Passage of this bill will cause the same parking problems you see in North Seattle, where folks park on curbs, across sidewalks, encroach on driveways, and block mailboxes in search of a place to park their vehicle.
This bill is bad for the environment – more cars, more pollution, more CO2 emissions. More houses means more pavement, fewer trees, less grass, less open space. Our already over used parks will be destroyed due to over use from the rising population.
Higher density means increase crime.
It is a proven fact. A study by two professors in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University – Purdue University demonstrates how land use planning affects incidents of violent crime. According to that study, and a long list of similar studies, rates of murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault are all higher in areas with high density residential developments even after accounting for overall population. “Apparently, high-density housing units promote serious violent crime.”
Lynnwood already has very high housing density. We don’t need to destroy our single family neighborhoods in order to remake Lynnwood into the irrational image the politicians in Olympia want. We are not and do not want to be Seattle, but that is exactly what this Missing Middle Housing Bill is intended to do. Destroy our single family neighborhoods and remake them to look like Seattle. This Bill is being driven by the Building and Mortgage lobbies in Olympia who will be the only ones who actually benefit in any material way from this.
What is next? Call your elected officials in Olympia and tell them you do not want this irresponsible over reach where Olympia is micromanaging zoning in the local cities. Tell them we do not want those bought and paid for politicians telling us what is good for our city, overriding the local planning commissions and locally elected officials who you voted for and who answer directly and specifically to you. During this election season, look carefully at which local politicians and candidates are aligned with Olympia in the Seattlization of Lynnwood, which politicians have their campaigns paid for by the Building and Mortgage lobbyists, then vote for the candidates who are instead fighting for your safety by protecting your homes, your families, and your neighborhoods in opposition to this bill. Protect Lynnwood from Olympia’s overreach and keep our city safe for our residents.
Sponsors: Senate Committee on Transportation (originally sponsored by Senators Liias, Gildon, Kuderer, Lovelett, MacEwen, Mullet, Braun, Billig, Dhingra, Frame, Hunt, Kauffman, Nguyen, Nobles, Pedersen, Saldaña, Salomon, Shewmake, Stanford, Valdez, Van De Wege and Wilson, C.; by request of Office of the Governor).
Sponsors: House Committee on Appropriations (originally sponsored by Representatives Bateman, Barkis, Reed, Taylor, Riccelli, Berry, Fitzgibbon, Peterson, Duerr, Lekanoff, Alvarado, Street, Ryu, Ramel, Cortes, Doglio, Macri, Mena, Gregerson, Thai, Bergquist, Farivar, Wylie, Stonier, Pollet, Santos, Fosse and Ormsby)
Patrick Decker, Lynnwood
Editor’s Note: Letters-to-the-Editor do not reflect the views of the Lynnwood Times, it’s publisher nor those of it’s employees and contributors, and are solely those of the author.