Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck
THE GREENING OF NEIGHBORHOOD BUSINESS DISTRICTS
Committee backs changes for more sustainable development
SEATTLE -The Urban Development and Planning Committee voted today in favor of an overhaul of the rules regulating new development in neighborhood business districts. Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck, Chair of the Committee, said, "This proposal is the biggest overhaul of our citywide Commercial Code regulations in over twenty years. It's time that the rules caught up with the environmental values of our citizens." Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, Vice-Chair of the Committee, said, "These new rules reflect what the public wants: affordable, walkable neighborhoods where Seattleites can live, work, and play without depending on cars." Councilmember Richard Conlin, Committee member, said, "These overdue changes take advantage of the opportunities that development offers to create a truly sustainable Seattle."
The new rules include:
- The Green Factor. All new multi-family buildings in a business district would have to have 30 percent of their parcel landscaped-with trees, bushes, vines on trellises, or green roofs. This will help clean the air, absorb carbon emissions, give habitat for birds, muffle noise, and provide a more attractive urban landscape among other benefits.
- Eliminate outdated parking requirements. Currently the City mandates that businesses and multi-family housing provide more parking than research shows is actually needed by residents and shoppers. This drives up the cost of doing business, providing housing, and promotes dependency on the automobile. "Excessive parking requirements result in costs that are passed along to consumers. It's time to unmask the myth of free parking," said Councilmember Steinbrueck. The new parking requirements will be more in line with Seattle's goal of creating livable, pedestrian friendly, business districts that are well served by transit.
- Support job creation and business vitality. The new rules allow for business expansion, encourage timely leasing of commercial spaces, accommodate a greater variety of commercial activity in neighborhood business districts, and create more opportunity for customers to live near businesses.
- Protect and enhance neighborhood character. The amendments encourage better design solutions for new buildings, allow adaptive re-use of older buildings, help to fill vacant storefronts, and maintain requirements that support the uniqueness of each area's business district.
- Improve the pedestrian environment. The regulations will encourage open spaces and public amenities to be developed at street level, allow residential uses at the street level in areas where commercial uses may result in chronic vacancies, and discourage some uses such as drive-thru businesses.
- Provide for housing growth in neighborhood business districts. Commercial Code changes will allow condominium or apartment buildings in areas that are not critical for retail or other commercial enterprises, and encourage a mix of amenities that will respond to the needs of new residents, such as open spaces, decks, balconies, and shared indoor recreation spaces.
- Support transportation alternatives. The new rules will help create more walkable, transit-oriented neighborhoods and mandate an increase in spaces for bicycle parking and car-sharing programs.
- Make the Land Use Code easier to use. The change makes the commercial chapter of the Land Use Code easier to navigate and read.
The new rules will now go to the Full Council for their consideration on Monday, December 11, 2006.
More details are available at http://www.seattle.gov/council/issues/commercial.htm