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Light Rail defines Seattle density

Compare Seattle to Paris for some perspective

Joe Wolf

Light Rail is doing more than moving people. It is also help decide Seattle’s density.

If growth is going to happen within Seattle it is going move up. Backyard ADUs can’t do as much as yet another apartment building or condo complex. As KUOW reports, The Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) will rezone neighborhoods to be taller near Light Rail stations and gradually return to conventional houses as the distance to the stations increases. Taller, is taller, as in two hundred to three hundred feet tall. Early plans will begin the work in the U District in 2021.

For some Seattle is already dense enough. Our geography constrains where we can build (with the exception of a few floating homes) which means any growth increases density inside the city and some sprawl outside the city. An EPA analysis estimated the effects throughout the region. Basically, expect Bellevue to get as dense as Seattle, and Seattle to get as dense as, ...

Let’s see how dense Seattle is. SpareFoot just produced a report comparing Seattle’s density to other world cities. The city limits encompass 84 square miles.


One West Coast neighbor with similar geography is San Francisco. Give Seattle their density and our city would only cover 37 square miles, Green Lake to Seward Park.


Seattle at New York City’s density equals 24 square miles, 520 to Boeing Field.


Get outside our hemisphere and head to Mumbai with a density that would shrink Seattle to 13 square miles, probably more like 520 to I-90.


End at a great tourist, cultural, and historical city like Paris and only take up 12 square miles.

With examples like those, it is at least feasible that Seattle can continue to increase its density; it means, however, that it won’t be the city you see today. Concentrating around Light Rail may only be the first step.