Money, microhousing, more @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s November meeting

By Tracy Record
White Center Now editor

Here’s what happened at tonight’s monthly meeting of the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council, held online:

CRIME STATS/TRENDS: Community Deputy Bill Kennamer spoke of some “pretty ugly crime trends.” Robberies totaled 40 this time last year, 72 so far this year – “an 80 percent increase – definitely a problem.” Weapons violations are up 65 percent. “Simple assaults” (lower level of injury) are up 40 percent – from 162 to 229. Drug offenses are up 110 percent – “we are seeing less and less hypodermic needle action, but an absolute ton of fentanyl smoking going on.” He believe that’s the reason for an increase in overdoses. If you have family or friends who use drugs, get Narcan just in case. “It works. … it keeps people alive.” He said there’s “some good news on the drug front” – a special-emphasis team in the precinct did a raid yesterday that got $5.5 million in drugs off the street. He couldn’t say where but the raid was executed by “precinct-level detectives.” Deputy Kennamer said today’s garage fire was in a garage used as a residence by the adult son of the adjacent homeowner. The resident went to the hospital with smoke inhalation (that’s an update from our earlier coverage). Asked about staffing, Deputy Kennamer said what’s happening now is “a staffing crisis.” They have the openings and the funding, both Kennamer and King County Councilmember Joe McDermott agreed, they just don’t have the people applying and training to fill them.

COUNCILMEMBER McDERMOTT: He’s budget chair this year. The first vote on the proposed “striking amendment” – which will go public tomorrow, with councilmembers’ proposed changes to King County Executive Dow Constantine‘s budget proposal – is planned one week from today. First, per the previous discussion, he wanted to emphasize that King County “has NOT defunded the police.” The alternative programs it has supported/will supported are in addition to law enforcement, not instead of. “We’re doing innovative things, responding to some issues (for alternative public safety),” but not proposing cuts in law enforcement. The proposed two-year budget was almost %16 billion, he said. That includes revenues collected for a specific purpose that must be spent for a specific purpose. Property tax revenue is limited to a 1 percent increase year by year, but “even in a good year” expenses go up more than one percent, so there’s what they call “a structural gap.”

His budget priorities in general include: public safety, law-enforcement oversight, rider experience in transit, firearm safety, promoting helmet use, supporting the White Center Food Bank as it moves to its new location, affordable-housing investments, more money for participatory budgeting, Narcan availability, and more. Public comment can be given in-person or online at next Thursday’s budget meeting; the budget then goes to the full council on November 15th.

In Q&A, clarification was requested on the 1 percent cap. It’s the maximum percentage by which county revenue can go up – so just because your valuation goes up X percent doesn’t mean what you owe will go up that much – it’s a cap on what the county can collect. Why does the county rely so heavily on property taxes? McDermott explained that property and sales taxes are the main sources approved by the Legislature – even cities have more options for raising revenue. Subsequent discussion involved how much revenue was and wasn’t being spent on/in North Highline – there’s no specific breakdown by geography within the county budget, said McDermott. He also reminded everyone that while the county collects property taxes, it’s just the treasurer – only a fraction of what you pay actually goes to King County.

On other topics: Councilmember McDermott had an update on the Subarea Plan; legislation won committee approval in July, and a full-council public hearing will be at 1 pm November 22nd – online or in-person – and you can comment via email too: He talked about some refinements that are being proposed. NHUAC’s Barbara Dobkin asked about inclusionary zoning and whether it was really right for North Highline – something Seattle’s been doing for several years – and McDermott said it should lead to a greater variety of housing availability. NHUAC’s Liz Giba voiced concern that the Subarea Plan documentation had only recently appeared online but had been otherwise in existence for months. She read some criticism attributed to the White Center Community Development Association saying the process had been inadequate. Giba suggested any decisionmaking be delayed, and more outreach be done. Dobkin also alleged that the WCCDA itself didn’t reach out to all parts of the community. Permitting division head Jim Chan jumped in to say that inclusionary zoning is meant to be anti-displacement, not to lower taxes for some so others pay more. If all housing that was built was market-rate, people will be displaced. Also, he said, the Comprehensive Plan will have an Environmental Impact, and that will cover the Subarea Plan as well. Giba asked the question, is there no chance the Subarea Plan might lead to more tax-exempt housing in North Highline? McDermott said no, he couldn’t say that.

MICROHOUSING DEMONSTRATION: David Neiman Architects won an RFP process for this and plans to submit a permit application within a few weeks; a pre-application meeting already has been held. They’re asking the county how flexible it will be on a variety of standards. They need to justify anything that would deviate from code, Chan says they were told. One deviation they’ll propose: No parking for the units, Chan said. Dobkin voiced concern about more tree loss contributing to warmer temperatures. McDermott reiterated that they authorized one project to be built in a certain area – just one. He also said he’s proposing an update to the Urban Unincorporated Tree Code, as an offshoot of concerns voiced earlier this year about tree removal on lots where homes are being built. The site under consideration is 16th/102nd, Giba noted – 1619 SW 102nd, per the county website.

HOOKAH LOUNGE: A permit application to remedy a violation was submitted last week and will be reviewed, Chan said. Is the building safe? asked Giba. An enforcement person has, Chan said, and he affirmed that all safety concerns were investigated and nothing of note was found.

FORMER TARADISE CAFE: They did a walkthrough with an inspector two weeks ago, Chan said. “They still have some work they need to do with Labor and Industries – electrical – and Health,” he said, adding that the inspector advised them that more permits may be required “if they expand any further,” and electrical work/fire safety issues were discussed.

WHY NO IN-PERSON MEETINGS YET? Dobkin said they just can’t find a space, though they hope to have some sort of gathering in December somewhere.

ANNOUNCEMENTS: White Center Kiwanis is selling nuts again this year – if interested, call Scott at 206-465-9432.

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4 Responses to “Money, microhousing, more @ North Highline Unincorporated Area Council’s November meeting”

  1. The David Nieman Architects micro-housing demonstration project site under consideration located at – 1619 SW 102nd – is not on a parcel that has been given a Demonstration Project Area (DPA suffix zoning overlay) in the Amendments to Land Use and Zoning Maps 2022 update to 2016 King County Comprehensive Plan.

    In this amendment, 161 parcels are identified with the DPA suffix zoning overlay as follows: 102 parcels (lines 327-333), 31 parcels (lines 405-409), 12 parcels (lines 409-414), 14 parcels (lines 415-419), 2 parcels (lines 429-433).

    The King County parcel number for 1619 SW 102nd, the proposed site for the Demonstration project is 7211401205. This parcel IS NOT one of the 161 parcels identified with a DPA suffix zoning overlay in the Amendments to Land Use and Zoning Maps 2022 update to 2016 King County Comprehensive Plan.

    If the Demonstration Project Area (DPA suffix zoning overlay) is being created to establish an area where a Demonstration Project CAN be built, and the proposed project is not on a parcel with a DPA suffix, THEN THE DAVID NIEMAN ARCHITECTS DEMONSTRATION PROJECT SHOULD NOT BE APPROVED to be built on the site at 1619 SW 102nd BECAUSE IT IS NOT IN COMPLIANCE WITH THE PROPOSED ZONING AMENDMENTS.

    Or, if Demonstration Projects do not have to be located on parcels within a DPA suffix zoning overlay, THEN THE PROPOSED ORDINANCE CREATING DPA ZONING OVERLAY SHOULD NOT BE PASSED INTO LAW.

    Also, if the DPA zoning amendment is unnecessary for the site approval of a Demonstration Project, then it begs the question as to what the purpose is for the creation of the DPA zoning overlay?

    In the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting held on November 3, 2022, King County Councilmember Joe McDermott stated that the purpose of the DPA overlay was to create an area in which a SINGLE (only one) demonstration project could be built. He stated that this larger area (involving 161 parcels) was needed in order to provide an opportunity to initially develop a proposal when a specific parcel for such a project had not yet been identified.

    Instead of creating the DPA overlay, why couldn’t a single zoning variance couldn’t have been approved for the specific site/parcel(s) proposed for the Demonstration Project? This is particularly confounding when the proposed site – 1619 SW 102nd – isn’t even a parcel with a DPA suffix and within a proposed Demonstration Project Area which is purportedly the purpose of implementing this zoning amendment.

  2. The proposed up-zone of residential lots currently zoned R-6, being up-zoned to R-18, between SW 100th St, SW 102nd St, 17th Ave SW and 21st Ave SW is UNNESSECARY to increase the base density of those blocks.
    The number following the King County residential zoning designation “R” determines the base density and the number of dwelling units that can be built in an acre. For example, R-6 and R-18 zoning designations establish base densities of 6 and 18 dwelling units per acre respectively. As an acre is 43,560 square feet, a minimum area of 7,260 square feet and 2,420 square feet are required for each dwelling unit in R-6 and R-18 zones respectively.
    Tax parcels identified within the aforementioned area, proposed for an R-18 up-zone, are within the Regal Heights Addition plat that was recorded in King County (Plat Book 20, page 94) in 1912. The Regal Heights Addition plat subdivided the land into lots that were between 1,944 square feet to 2,500 square feet. In other words, there are legal lots underlying the current R-6 zoning that allow for dwelling units to be built on much less area than 7,260 square feet specified as base density in R-6 zoning. Effectively, because twenty-two (22) 1,944 square foot lots can fit into an acre, and because seventeen (17) 2,500 square foot lots can fit into an acre, Regal Heights Addition already has a base density equivalent to R-22 and R-17 zoning.

    So, if the R-18 up-zone does not significantly change the base density of the area between SW 100th St, SW 102nd St, 17th Ave SW and 21st Ave SW, otherwise known as the Regal Heights Addition, then why is it being proposed?

    What would significantly change for this area per the proposed R-18 up-zone is the MAXIMUM DENSITY and the BASE HEIGHT limits to buildings that are constructed.

    Per the King County Code 21A.12 Development Standards – Densities and Dimensions Title 21A – ZONING (21A.01 Through 21A.06) (, R-6 zoning allows for a maximum density of 9 dwelling units per acre. The base height, or maximum building height in R-6 is 35 feet. However, the maximum density and base height, through exceptions (footnote 27 in the code) granted under Residential Density Incentives, or RDIs (K.C.C. 21A.34.040), and Transfer Development Rights, or TDRs (K.C.C. 21A.37), can be increased to as much as 45 feet high and 12 dwelling units per acre.

    By comparison, R-18 zoning allows for a maximum density of 27 units and base height of 60 feet, with exceptions allowing up to 36 units and base height of 80 feet. This represents a 600% increase in the allowed base density and about a 200% increase in the allowed base height.

    This illustrates what is significant about the up-zone. King County is proposing the allowance of mid-rise multi-family buildings up to 80 feet tall in and among existing neighborhoods comprised of single family homes with a base height of 35 feet. These are not low-rise, multi-family housing such as those in Seattle’s Lowrise Multifamily Zones. The proposed zoning change would allow for MIDRISE buildings, such as the 9-story Coronado Tower located 1400 SW 107th St with the exact same minimum interior setbacks of 5 feet between these huge midrise buildings and a neighboring single-family house. These are not incremental changes that mitigate the impact of up-zoning. The proposed up-zones are massive changes that are disharmonious and incongruous to the existing character of residential neighborhoods.
    Although King County requested feedback regarding its proposed up-zone, it’s questioning did not explicitly describe these kinds of changes that could occur. Had the county explicitly questioned home owners of single-family residences in these types of proposed up-zones, “Hey, are you ok with and 80 foot apartment building with a 5 foot set-back being built next to your house?” it’s unlikely those residents would responded favorably. Instead, King County mislead residents by proposing base densities roughly equivalent to what already exist in some areas while leaving the information about maximum densities, base height allowances and minimum setback buried in hundreds, if not thousands of pages of zoning code.

  3. CORRECTION: Regarding the proposed micro-housing project, the King County iMap Parcel viewer does not show the DPA suffix for parcel no.7211401205. ( However, apparently the DPA suffix was applied to this parcel through ordinance passed on March 24, 2020. King County – File #: 2020-0032. Again, this another illustration of how buried the details are regarding the changes proposed by King County… particularly when the county parcel viewers do not even show zoning overlay suffixes.

    Also, regarding micro-housing, the King County will allow up to sixty (60) 220 square foot units in a micro-housing building. By comparison, 220 square feet is about the size of a single, one-car garage, parking space. In the North Highline Unincorporated Area Council meeting Jim Chan from the county permitting division mentioned that one of the deviations the developer is proposing is no parking for any of the units. Apparently, the assumption is that residents of this micro-housing unit either won’t have cars and will exclusively use public transportation, or that it’s acceptable for up to sixty residents with cars to park them on the neighboring streets.

  4. Miki, I agree that the proposed Subarea Plan should not be passed. However, I believe the ordinance was passed in June of 2020 and affects 375 parcels – not 161.