Equitable Development Zoning

What's Happening Now

In 2016, the City established the Equitable Development Initiative (EDI) to address financial barriers to equitable development projects that combat displacement, increase access to opportunity, and strengthen cultural networks development. Since then, dozens of community-led projects have received EDI funding, but many continue to face regulatory barriers due to complex land use codes that do not accommodate the community-supporting uses these projects include.
Equitable Development Zoning (EDZ) is the City’s effort to align land use policy more closely with equitable development goals. In partnership with EDI stakeholders, we are identifying strategies that would:

  • Help equitable development projects succeed by removing the barriers they face in City regulations and processes
  • Provide resources and supports that increase access to the development process for BIPOC communities and organizations
  • Expand pathways for community-driven anti-displacement projects in our zoning and land use rules

In July 2023, the City Council adopted our Equitable Development Zoning Code Changes, which remove regulatory barriers that often impact projects funded by the Equitable Development Initiative. These code changes take effect August 16, 2023. Read our Director’s Report and the proposed legislation
To inform our EDZ strategies, we have convened a stakeholder group of practitioners and community leaders who had been or are currently involved in equitable development projects and who have experience in development, architecture, community development, anti-displacement work, and arts and cultural space. This group began convening in June 2022 to guide the direction of OPCD’s EDZ work.

Equitable Development Zoning Code Changes

In July 2023, City Council adopted legislation to address common code barriers facing equitable development projects.

Legislation transmitted to Council (Council Bill 120582)

SEPA Draft Proposal

Case Studies 
Equitable development projects often include a variety of activities and uses to support the needs of diverse cultural communities, particularly those vulnerable to displacement. In addition to affordable housing, these can include community gathering space, arts and cultural space, civic and educational programming, job training.

Below are several recent projects that have included these community-serving uses.

Wa Na Wari is a Black cultural space project located in a structure formerly used as a detached residence in the Central Area. Wa Na Wari provides space for art exhibits, performances, workshops, and community gatherings focused on sustaining the cultural identity of Seattle’s Black community. A few years ago, Wa Na Wari converted the house to a community center use, which required a change of use permit and an administrative conditional use permit that together involved almost $10,000 in permitting fees.

Founded in 2016, Nurturing Roots is a nonprofit community farm in Beacon Hill focused on healthy food choices and creating community through gardening. Their work brings community together through volunteer opportunities, hosting various events, and partnering with local restaurants to support food and environmental justice, food access, education, and reengaging people and environment. As an urban farm, the project could not be permitted as a standalone project and had to be permitted as an accessory use to the adjacent institution. This arrangement between property owners and projects creates challenges for future permitting needed for expansion, repairs, and desired uses on site.

Cham Community Center
The Cham Refugee Community proposes to build a community center in the Rainier Valley for the Cham Diaspora and other underserved immigrants and refugees and communities of color as an anchor in the tide of gentrification and displacement. The project would include a community gathering space, a learning facility that hosts ESL and computer literacy classes, and affordable housing and commercial space. The center will accommodate and celebrate the rich heritage, cultural values and needs of this welcoming and hospitable community. Under current regulations, much of the project site will be devoted to 62 surface parking spaces required for the proposed community center use. But for this parking requirement, the organization could expand their community gathering space. Under the proposal, the required parking would be reduced to 14 parking stalls, allowing more of the site to be used for community facilities and open space instead of parking lot.

Estelita’s Library
Estelita’s Library is a small library, gathering space, and cultural space project located on a small site in the Central Area. When paired with setback requirements, the small size and trapezoidal shape of the lot made typical residential or commercial development challenging. The founders partnered with a local nonprofit to design and construct a 225-square-foot building to provide community space and a deck with an accessible entrance ramp. Due to regulations and permitting challenges, the project had to be permitted as a kiosk and was later reestablished as a library after completing a more complex administrative conditional use process that was required since the project could not meet setback and dispersion provisions.

Planning and Community Development

Rico Quirindongo, Director
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 94788, Seattle, WA, 98124-7088
Phone: (206) 386-1010

The Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) develops policies and plans for an equitable and sustainable future. We partner with neighborhoods, businesses, agencies and others to bring about positive change and coordinate investments for our Seattle communities.