Multi-family zoning proposal: More key points

As mentioned earlier, the long-awaited “multifamily code (zoning) update/changes” proposal by Mayor Nickels just went public this afternoon. Next step is City Council review, starting with the Planning, Land Use, and Neighborhoods Committee led by Councilmember Sally Clark, who was cautiously optimistic (and also reiterating no one’s saying townhouses themselves are “bad”):

For full details of the proposal, the right side of this page has links you can check; the full ordinance is 271 pages. We’re still going through them. Here’s what West Seattle architect and Design Review Board member Brandon Nicholson, who appeared with the mayor and Clark at the announcement this afternoon outside a Capitol Hill townhouse cluster (here’s our first report), said he considers most promising:

Regarding townhouses in particular, there are also some design specifics mandated, such as: “Limit the height of fences in a street facing setback to four feet (4’) in height .. Limit building overhangs over driveways and aisles to 3’.”

Another topic of intense interest ahead of time: Height. It’s not changing as much as once feared. In the mayor’s ordinance, it’s addressed starting on page 101, and here’s all the summary says:

1. Maintain the current overall scale and density of zones, including the 25’ height limit in certain Lowrise zones (LDT, L1 and L2).

4. Use an incentive program in the Lowrise 3 (L3), Midrise (MR) and Highrise (HR) zones to encourage affordable housing in exchange for additional height and floor area.

As mentioned in our previous report, “affordable housing” will be defined two ways – for purchasable units, affordable by those making 100% of the state-defined median income; for rental units, affordable by thosemaking 80% of the median.

So how high can you build, if you merit the incentives? That’s what we asked Department of Planning and Development director Diane Sugimura after the news conference. She and assistants say L3 is the West Seattle zone most affected – it’s a 30′ zone but a developer who merits the incentives could go up to 37′. Then there could be an additional 5′ in L3 for a pitched roof, and more height beyond that in this instance:”Additional height is permitted for sloped lots, at the rate of one foot (1’) for each six percent (6%) of slope, to a maximum of five feet (5’). The additional height is permitted on the down-slope side of the structure only …” And two more feet could be allowed as part of a “green roof.” But then there’s a later clause about “additional height and floor area” that says it does NOT apply to L3 in Admiral and Morgan Junction “urban villages” (but does not rule out the West Seattle Junction and Westwood UVs). What does that all really add up to? We’re at the JuNO meeting right now, and expecting to hear some further expert analysis that we’ll include in our report later tonight. 10:55 PM UPDATE: Nicholson was pre-scheduled to speak at tonight’s JuNO meeting, and while the focus of his presentation was townhouse-design-improvement advocacy on behalf of the Congress of Residential Architects, he also wove in some points about the zoning proposal, particularly what had changed from reports/expectations in recent months – including the fact it will not change height limits in most of West Seattle’s zones after all, and does not drop parking requirements below 1 space per unit (except in a certain type of area that doesn’t exist in West Seattle) – he also noted the design-review mandate for townhouse projects was a last-minute addition.

3 Replies to "Multi-family zoning proposal: More key points"

  • Ken July 9, 2008 (9:43 am)

    too late on the height limits for me. Besides there are ways around the inspectors and the city codes.

    The neighbor used the grade of my lot instead of his own to get around building immense 45 ft townhouses 8 ft from my picture windows. His had been graded 5 ft lower than mine for 2 decades before he bought it so he just measured from my grade and filled in around the basement garage to get to the height limit.

  • mellaw6565 July 9, 2008 (12:04 pm)

    Any mention of allowing MIL’s or DADU’s in this area as well? I thought Sally Clark said that was “definitely” on her list?

  • Sandra M July 10, 2008 (5:30 pm)

    I’ve been outside enjoying the warm weather and have not kept up with the MF zoning news. Hopefully this blog will keep us informed on important dates and places for MF zoning-related meetings and city council votes. Thank you WSB.

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