Warping data to grossly inflate city land area given over to single-family

Do City planners have too much time on their hands.  We can find at least 3 different methodologies they’ve devised to calculate the amount of land given over to single family uses – all wrong – all bumped up to make you believe most of our city’s land area is “locked up” in single family zones.   Buried in the Appendix of the Comprehensive Plan, you’re left to figure it out for yourself.

Go to this link where you’ll find a breakdown of city acreage by land use – see page 5 the top chart:

There you’ll see that city acreage given over to single family is  18818.  Out of a city total of 53151, that’s 35.4 percent of the city’s total land area.  Simple straight forward.  What could be clearer?

But leave it to those wild and wacky planners – remember we pay them to figure stuff like this out – they’ve devised at least 3 ways to bump the percent significantly upward.

Option 1: First subtract from the City’s total amount of acreage, the amount given over to right of way, then subtract the amount given over to open space, which gives you 33300 acres.  Now divide 18818 in 1-Family by 33300 and you’ll get.. voila 56 percent.

Option 2: Others subtract only acres in right of way from the city total, then divide the amount of single family area by that number, to come up with 48-49 percent single family. See the pie chart here on this following site.  Note they contradict themselves here because the narrative says 54 percent just to left of pie chart – where apparently a bunch of other planners were still using option 1:


Option 3: The preferred, most creative, and most frequently used by the prodensity zealots and another bunch of city planners… is found here: http://www.seattle.gov/dPd/cs/groups/pan/@pan/documents/web_informational/dpdd016840.pdf

This 3rd approach, allows one with a straight face to arrive at a percent of 65 percent ‘in single family’….  This is accomplished not by subtracting first the percent given over to right of way and/or open space from total city land area before making your calculation, but by doing just the opposite….  First they take that roughly 18,818 in single family, then add to that, the amount of right of way and open space that is within or adjacent to single family areas (this would include greenlake park for example added to the total – last I checked single family homes weren’t allowed there) Then they take this figure and divide that by the 53151 figure for total city land area – and viola that comes out to be about 65 percent……..

The fact is, single family takes up 35.4 percent of Seattle’s total land area.  You can only reach a higher percent by playing around with the data…  Our city planners probably spend hours working these things out.  Perhaps if they qualified or thoroughly explained these alternate percentages it wouldn’t tick us off so much but generally they don’t….

Any length, we guess, to legitimize still more upzones and more runaway growth. And never mind that right now our city has a zoned capacity for 223,000 new housing units – over 3 times the capacity we need to meet our 2035 regionally set growth target.  And under current zoning we’re breaking records for new construction as it is. And never mind that in the last decade, we’ve upzone the hell out of our neighborhoods, nearly doubling zoned capacity as it is….  Any length….


About John V. Fox

Director, Seattle Displacement Coalition
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