PORT ANGELES — The city of Port Angeles is seeking public comment on proposed zoning code changes to improve housing development and affordability.
The city planning commission will conduct a public meeting next Wednesday, Feb. 8, at 6 p.m. to hear from the public about Pursuing Housing For All, an initiative to amend the municipal code.
The meeting will be in person at Port Angeles City Hall council chambers, at 321 E. Fifth St., as well as online via Webex, the link to which will be on the city planning commission website.
The public also can provide written comment up until 5 p.m. the day of the hearing by emailing email@example.com or mailing the City of Port Angeles, c/o CED, 321 E. Fifth St., Port Angeles WA, 98362.
The initiative is outlined at https://www.cityofpa.us/1051/Pursuing-Housing-For-All.
A survey is available on the City of Port Angeles website at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HousingForAll regarding zoning code changes and housing in the city.
The planning commission is encouraging residents to participate in the public hearing, and in comments and the survey before the hearing, to provide the city with a general idea of the public view on housing in their neighborhoods, said Ben Braudrick, senior city planner.
“What we are trying to do is just provide more flexibility, more diversity in the types of housing, and reducing the barriers that current codes present to people trying to possibly build a house but don’t know where to start,” said Braudrick, who also presented plans to an audience at the Port Angeles Business Association meeting on Tuesday.
City officials estimate that, by 2036, the Port Angeles population will increase by up to 5,000 residents. The current population is just over 20,000.
Local construction activity has slowed significantly due to a variety of factors including the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation, decreased workforce and access to materials, officials said.
“One of the things we are really trying to focus on is the reality that the current market is not great for developers, that we get code in place so that we are prepared for when it does improve and interest rates go down so that those who want to build, can,” Braudrick said.
Additionally, current zoning codes in the city have limited property owners’ and builders’ ability to build “missing middle” housing.
The phrase “missing middle” was coined in 2010 by Daniel Parolek, founder of Opticos Design, a company with the mission of addressing housing needs. Parolek initially described the missing middle as “a concept that highlights a need for diverse, affordable housing choices in sustainable, walkable places.”
However, the phrase has been increasingly used to describe the lack of affordable housing in communities across the nation, specifically for those in the middle class who make too much money to benefit from social programs and barely enough to pay rent, utilities and other associated costs of living.
“The idea is that you have these areas with variable density — we call it mixed density — where you have an existing housing stock, but you’re not going to have fourplexes on every lot, you’re not going to have duplexes on every lot, but you are going to have this diversity of housing,” Braudrick said.
An example of this type of neighborhood would be the Cherry Hill neighborhood, he said.
In December 2021, the Port Angeles City Council adopted significant changes to Title 17 zoning codes. City officials were particularly focused on changing zoning codes to allow for more multi-use/residential in typically commercial areas.
“A large part of that code update was looking at commercial zones and form-based code structure that is more concerned about how a building looks rather than how it functions, so you can have harmonious function through form,” Braudrick said.
“What we are doing now is form-based as well, but now we are looking at existing neighborhoods that already have housing but there is the potential to add housing,” he said.
Part of this code change included proposed design changes for new builds to maintain the character of the respective neighborhoods while fulfilling the housing need.
Following these code changes in 2021, the city planning commission agreed to continue to review the codes outlined in Title 17 researching options to improve housing availability as quickly as possible.
The planning commission so far has made recommendations to the city, based not only on codes being possible barriers to developing housing but also on recommending increased flexibility in zoning code provisions, increase in housing density availability, reducing development costs, ensuring housing equity and availability, and enabling local property development.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.