A bill aimed at putting higher-density housing around light-rail transit stations has run into controversy even before its introduction in the legislature, by sponsor Rep. Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island. Drafted by Futurewise, a nonprofit that works to preserve rural lands, the bill encourages creating walkable neighborhoods by requiring a zoning capacity of 50 units per acre within a half-mile radius of the stations -- a measure supported by the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance, which is seeking to mandate a threshold of affordable housing within the transit areas.
The Seattle Displacement Coalition's John Fox calls the density far out of scale with what's around the stations today -- only four units per acre in all of Rainier Valley, where Fox says the bill will help displace the city's lowest-income renters.
"They've wrapped a pro-developer agenda in a thin patina of green," he says, adding that he is meeting with neighborhood leaders to fight the bill unless the density level is brought down.
Sara Nikolic, Futurewise's urban strategies director, says the bill is intended to protect low-income housing and that Fox is comparing today's density to a future use that, in most cases, zoning already allows. "The bill doesn't do anything," she says, "to force changes to what's on the ground today."