Mobile home park “overlay district” rezone moving forward, finally

After nearly three years of delays and moratoriums, the City Council is finally poised to pass a rezone of the two remaining mobile-home parks in Seattle in an attempt to preserve them as affordable housing — or potentially ensure that affordable housing replaces them.

In January of 2019, the Council passed an emergency moratorium on redeveloping the two parks as the owner of the Halcyon park was entertaining an offer to sell the park for redevelopment into multi-family housing consistent with the then-recently-passed MHA upzone of the parcels. Since then, the Council has extended the moratorium four times.

Earlier this year the city finally proposed an “overlay district” rezone that would preserve the parcels as mobile home parks, but the owner of the other park, the Bella B, filed an appeal of the city’s SEPA “Determination of Non-Significance.” Two months ago the owner signed a settlement agreement with the city, agreeing to withdraw his appeal if the city wrote some specific terms into the overlay district. In short, the terms would allow the parks to be redeveloped if acquired or controlled by a nonprofit or government agency, but only for affordable housing: either rental units targeting low-income households at 60% AMI or below, or for-purchase homes targeting households at 80% AMI or below. The affordable housing uses will allow for building heights of at least 55 feet, minimize setback requirements, and have minimal requirements for amenities as a condition of redevelopment.

An affordable housing developer would be required to provide relocation housing and relocation expenses to existing mobile-home tenants, and a right-of-first-refusal to those tenants for a unit once the redevelopment is complete.

Councilmember Strauss has already introduced a bill that would establish the overlay district following the agreed-to rules. The overlay district would expire on January 1, 2051. The bill is expected to by heard in his committee on November 24, and Strauss said earlier this week that he expects the full Council to vote to approve it on December 6. The new overlay district would then take effect 30 days after the Mayor signs it into law.

One small snag: the effective date would be after December 31, the date that the current moratorium expires. So Strauss has also introduced one final extension of the moratorium to ensure that there is no window of opportunity where other redevelopment could be pursued. That bill is going straight to the full Council for approval, perhaps as soon as this coming Monday.

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