Multiple news sources can’t seem to get the details right about the Everett City’s Council’s action to remove the 2016 ordinance that allowed supportive housing to be placed on publicly owned land in single-family zoned neighborhoods. This ordinance was created specifically to build Clare’s Place, and it was going to be used to build a multi-unit complex in the Norton-Grand historic overlay area, at Norton Playfield.
The Herald and other news sources have repeatedly chosen to use the terms banned, barred and nixed in headlines related to the council’s decision in the most dramatic and inflammatory way. Supportive housing is not banned from multi-family zones or public land in Everett. The city’s legal definition of supportive housing includes a multi-family structure. Therefore, this discussion has always been about development density and less about the type of housing. The 2016 ordinance allowed more density in areas where large-scale development could cause negative impacts to utility infrastructure, parking, historic character and visual quality, negative impacts that City zoning codes and comprehensive plans protect against.
Allan Giffen, Planning Director, explained at multiple City Council meetings that eliminating this ordinance does not eliminate supportive housing in single family or any other areas of Everett. Instead, if supportive housing is built in an area, the density needs to match what is currently allowed in that zone. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways around matching density with current zoning. The developers of the planned complex on Norton Playfield can and did apply to rezone the property with a change to the city’s current zoning code and comprehensive plan. They would like to modify this property from single-family zoning to multi-family. This requires a more careful look than the previous ordinance allowed, with the planning commission, and city council approving the change. A change to multi-family zoning would allow a larger supportive housing structure to be built.
The 2016 supportive housing ordinance discussions have largely been focused on density issues that apply to the City and specifically Norton playfield. Expect the discussion for a rezone to center around an appropriate place for density and development, not the location for supportive housing services.