Posts Tagged ‘Upzone’

Could Interbay become Seattle’s Pearl District?

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

My travels this week led me to Portland’s Pearl District. I couldn’t help but think about places in Seattle that could benefit from broad changes like those that created the Pearl. We don’t have Tax Increment Financing, but we do have Interbay 

Recently the Interbay/Dravus rezone passed out of the Planning Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee, but has run into some trouble on the way to the full council. 

Should the rezone be subject to the pending incentive zoning proposal? The mayor seems to want this to happen as do some councilmembers. Additionally the Seattle Department of Transportation seems to have some issues with infrastructure missing as part of the rezone. At the PLUNC meeting where the rezone passed, concerns were raised that sidewalks and road improvements wouldn’t happen. 

But Interbay’s time has come.  

Like the warehouse district in Portland that became the Pearl District, Interbay is now a mix of low-intensity uses with no housing to speak of. Because of its location, more people living here is not sparking dissent from neighboring single family neighborhoods. Even the industrial community seems to be supporting the changes.

 The council needs to avoid getting into a battle over the many ‘what ifs’ that could hold this up. The project should look at non-traditional sidewalks to address the SDOT concerns, and a reasonable target needs to be set for affordability. Sustainable reuse of buildings like the Ecotrust building in the Pearl should also be encouraged.  

The council should take the time to get these things sorted out and set some indicators to measure whether the rezone lives up to our expectations. But we’ve waited long enough. 


In case you blinked and missed it

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

September has been a busy month for Seattle land use. Here’s your primer on what’s going down and what’s going up.

South Lake Union looks up: The Department of Planning and Development released three up-zoning alternatives for South Lake Union. These are being studied in advance of the rezone there.

Inside the beehive

In one, residential towers could reach to 30 and 40 stories in most of the neighborhood. In another, most blocks would be up-zoned to 240 feet for both commercial and residential buildings. That’s about the height of 2200 Westlake.

In a third vision, commercial height increases would be minimal, with residential towers allowed to be 160 feet and 240 feet outside the Cascade blocks.

Most blocks in South Lake Union are now zoned at 65 to 85 feet.

Private improvements for Magnuson: Full council gave the nod to private renovation and leasing of two buildings at the Warren G. Magnuson Park at Sand Point.

Building 11 will get $8.5 million for environmental cleanup, seismic upgrades and fire protection. Building 11 LLC would pay $235,000 in annual rent to the city under a 30-year lease.

Arena Sports will invest more than $5.5 million in Hangar 27 for improvements and seismic upgrades. Arena Sports will pay $225,000 in annual rent under a 20-year lease.

Fort Lawton gets Green Light: A plan to turn the formal army reserve center into housing is headed to federal officials for approval. Council said OK to the semi-finalized proposal to build up to 79 single-family houses, 150 apartments and townhouses, and two new neighborhood parks on the 31-acre site.

The project could cost between $60 million and $80 million and is heavy on low-income housing, including three duplexes for Habitat for Humanity and 85 other low-income units.

McMansions reigned in: Full council is scheduled to vote Oct. 6 on design changes for single family zones aimed at curbing McMansions. Heights, lot coverage and garages would all see changes.

Looking ahead: Council’s transportation committee could voice its support for a streetcar network Monday morning, Mayor Greg Nickels gives his budget address Monday at 2 p.m. and a hearing on making the downtown developer bonus citywide is scheduled for Oct. 7 at 5:30 p.m.

Council will also vote on comp plan amendments, set the budget, likely rule on citywide incentive zoning and more well before the star is up on the old Bon Marche building.

Maybe you can rest your eyes in January. . .

Reaching critical mass on Interbay

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

Three years ago, the Interbay Neighborhood Association asked the city to give their hood an upzone.

With businesses testing the water in the traditionally industrial area, and an uber close-in location right on a bus line, they argued it was an ideal place to target workforce housing. The area is zoned commercial, so they wanted tall buildings and a change in zoning to encourage residential-retail developments.

A new life for Dravus?

Since then, the city up-zoned its downtown area. It’s moving forward on plans for height increases for South Downtown. It gave Vulcan a targeted up-zone in South Lake Union.

Metro now plans to run a rapid ride route right through Interbay on its way between downtown and Ballard, starting in 2010. Denali Fitness opened a branch there, and a Whole Foods is under construction. The city is also considering an Interbay site among four other candidates for its new municipal jai, and the hood is a contender for LEED-ND.

This week, Interbay’s upzone finally came to the table, with a council committee hearing DPD’s recommendation on the matter. DPD officials are recommending extending heights in the hood to only 85 feet, not the 125 the INA originally proposed. But they say that upzone could still bring the 1,500 residentail units INA wanted.

Last year, the city passed guidelines for including affordable housing as part of every upzone. They are expected to formally legalize those plans with legislation coming out of the mayor’s office in the next few weeks.

With affordable housing needs at the tip of their tongues, council members said Wednesday that Interbay’s time has come.

Read the full story at

Back to the future of South Lake Union

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

It seems like much of the city’s time is spent working on the future of South Lake Union.

No comment.

From trolleys and targeted up-zones to street redesigns and a new park (dedication shown at right) and trail, proposals for the hood once known as Cascade have kept city officials busy as bees in a hive for the past few years.

But what exactly should come next?

The Seattle City Council’s Planning, Land Use and Neighborhoods Committee will hold a special meeting at noon Thursday to discuss the long-term vision for South Lake Union.

While they’re at it, they’ll bring out the crystal ball on Uptown, too.

The meeting will be held in Council Chambers on the Second Floor of City Hall at 600 Fourth Ave.

Presenters include John Coney and Steven Paget- in charge of the “visioning” process, Craig Hanway of the Queen Anne Community Council, John Savo of the South Lake Union Friends and Neighbors Community Council, Sharon Lee of the Low Income Housing Institute and Michael McGinn, director of the Seattle Great City Initiative.

A neighborhood-wide up-zone for South Lake Union is in the works and could come before council later this year.

Should city take donations for SLU study?

Tuesday, April 8th, 2008

South Lake UnionPlans to up-zone South Lake Union to allow taller buildings could move forward with a little help from some outside cash.

The Seattle City Council on Monday approved a bill that lets the city accept up to $300,000 in donations to help pay a consultant to conduct a study and environmental impact statement required for the area rezone. That money could come from public or private sources, according to the bill.

Department of Planning and Development Deputy Director Alan Justad said the city’s action is intended to let the community know that it is accepting outside funding.

“This has been public that we’re looking for money to get this done,” he said.

In 2004, South Lake Union was designated as an urban center to recognize expected growth there. But much of the area is still zoned for lower-density development.

The prospect of getting as a tenant helped Vulcan Inc. get an early two-block up-zone last December.

Council is expected to vote on a neighborhood up-zone next year.