Tacoma council set to finalize ambitious plan to reimagine single-family zoning

The Tacoma City Council will be presenting the latest draft of its plan to reimagine single-family zoning on Tuesday, with plans to finalize the proposal by the end of the month.

Tacoma to take next step toward doing away with single-family zoning

This marks the culmination of nearly seven months of gathering community feedback, incorporating committee recommendations, and holding numerous public hearings. In practice, the proposed ordinance would do away with the “single family zoning” label entirely, and instead reclassify housing types into new categories.

Those categories would be “low-scale residential” and “mid-scale residential.” Low-scale would encompass houses, mother-in-law units, duplexes, triplexes, small-lot houses, and cottage houses. In “some circumstances,” it would also include fourplexes and “small multi-family” dwellings. Mid-scale would include townhouses and “medium multifamily” housing, defined as apartment complexes topping out at four stories tall.

In total, the city estimates that roughly 75% of its residential land is currently zoned solely for single-family homes.

New recommendations were also incorporated in late October, which would limit four-story properties to areas in designated transit corridors, while tailoring potential upzoning to the makeup of specific neighborhoods.

Key differences between Seattle, Tacoma plans to axe single-family zoning

The hope is to transition parts of the city situated next to transit corridors as mid-scale residential areas, while transitioning Tacoma’s traditionally single-family zones into low-scale residential, all in service of permitting more diverse housing choices.

By shifting away from the more binary single-family and multi-family monikers, city leaders hope to focus more on “building form, design and scale,” which would include exceptions for larger apartment complexes in areas where taller buildings are already present.

The ordinance set to be finalized by the Tacoma City Council will focus on transitioning the city into its new zoning classifications. Then, in 2022, the next phase will hone in on further zoning changes, updating design standards, and more.

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