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If You Care About Climate Change, Weigh in on the One Seattle Comprehensive Plan

By Edie Gilliss, Citywide Climate Initiatives Coordinator

Seattleites have a rare opportunity to help set the stage for climate action in Seattle: the One Seattle Plan, which will determine how the City accommodates housing and job growth over the next 20 years, covering policy areas ranging from zoning and infrastructure to transportation and resilience.

The One Seattle Plan is required under state law to address growth – a particularly relevant concern given that the City’s population grew by more than 20% over the 2010s. As we prepare to welcome new neighbors, it is time to consider how best we can plan to accommodate necessary housing, jobs, utilities, while making Seattle a more affordable, resilient City. The Office of Planning and Community Development is currently gathering initial public feedback online, with the expectation of finalizing and adopting the plan in fall 2024.

This planning process has been structured to take climate and environmental concerns into consideration. Last month the City Council and Mayor passed a resolution “stating the City’s intent to address climate change and improve resiliency” in the One Seattle Plan and the Office of Sustainability and Environment and the Office of Planning and Community Development will be working to ensure that the climate elements of the plan are strong.

Linkages between land use and the environment

There is a strong relationship between how land is used, and our impact on the climate. Where people live, how far they have to commute, the efficiency of our transit system, how efficiently goods and services can be moved through the city, and how efficient our buildings are all play a part in the story told by our climate emissions.  The plan is a great opportunity to make progress on our goals of emissions reduction, resilience against climate change, and environmental justice. You can do your part to make sure the City takes advantage of this opportunity by providing your input.

Racial equity is also a key driver of the plan. Some Seattle neighborhoods, which have long been targets of disinvestment, are home to many communities of color and have significantly lower life expectancy rates and higher rates of childhood asthma. Building a plan, and the future investments that are driven by it, should ensure that the neighborhood someone lives in should not be a factor in their ability to thrive in this City.

Seattle is growing in population, staying the same in terms of physical size, and seeking to reduce carbon emissions. This means that the city will have to become more densely populated while decreasing each person’s carbon footprint, in order to meet our ambitious goals. Fortunately, this is not as hard as intuition might have us think, because density is good for the climate.

That’s right: denser neighborhoods with more closely located amenities tend to have lower carbon footprints. When people must travel longer distances in gas-powered vehicles to commute to work, run errands, drop off kids at school, or engage in leisure activities, this leads to more emissions. Planning for a city where people don’t have to travel as much by car is a huge opportunity for emissions reduction, given that transportation accounts for more than half of Seattle’s greenhouse gas emissions.*

*Another part of this equation is making sure the transportation options that people have at their disposal are better for the environment. In a future post, we’ll discuss how the Seattle Transportation Plan, on which SDOT is currently soliciting public input, is crucial to meeting our climate goals.

How you can weigh in

Our colleagues at the City’s Office of Planning and Community Development have created a Community Engagement Hub where you can voice your opinion. This site contains a lot more information about the details of the plan, as well as forums where people can provide comments and can view and respond to what others have said. Some of the categories include:

OSE encourages you to check it out, think about our climate, and voice your opinion. As the old saying goes, an ounce of civic engagement is worth a ton of carbon emissions!