Industrial Lands — Project Archive
For the complete history of this project, please contact us at 684-8880.
On December 17, 2007, City Council approved an amendment to the Land Use Code that lowered the maximum size of office and retail uses allowed in industrial zones. These changes:
- Keep industrially-zoned land primarily in industrial use because industrial activities bring diversity to the City's economy and family-wage jobs to local residents
- Direct non-industrial uses to the many places outside industrial areas where the City has ample land zoned for office and retail uses
The new rules were effective in January 2008.
March – May 2007 — The Future of Seattle's Industrial Lands discussion series
March 2007 — Mail survey of industrial business owners
March 2007 — Best practices report
April 2007 — Phone survey of industrial business owners
May 2007 — Background report released
In 2006, the City Council provided funding for us to prepare an industrial lands strategy that would:
- Ensure adequate land to accommodate the expected future amount of industrial uses
- Provide criteria for evaluating future requests to classify or rezone industrial lands
Industrial zones occupy about 12% of the City's land area — more than any other zone except single-family. Most industrial land is located in two designated manufacturing / industrial centers — in the Duwamish and Ballard / Interbay. Although industry in some cities declined dramatically, Seattle's industrial areas are active and thriving. Even if some buildings are old and worn, these zones hold over 70,000 jobs and a significant portion of Seattle's economic activity.
Zoning and other factors keep prices for industrial land and buildings low. Some owners and investors speculate that the industrial land could be worth more if zoning were less restrictive. However, non-industrial uses (commercial, office, and residential) push up the cost of land (and rents), making it harder for industrial businesses to be profitable or new businesses to locate there.
Industrial and non-industrial uses often conflict. Office and retail uses increase traffic, making it harder for trucks to bring supplies and deliver finished products for industrial firms. On-street parking or sidewalks needed for retail and office affect the large trucks that need maneuvering room. Housing has even more conflicts. Zoning was introduced to separate dangerous industrial activities from housing. While industry today is less dangerous than a hundred years ago, many processes still produce noise, dust, and odors that can be nuisances, or worse, for residents.
The Comprehensive Plan strongly supports the use of industrial lands for industrial purposes. However, previous zoning rules allowed up to 75,000 or 100,000 square feet of commercial uses in industrial areas — a policy inconsistent with the City's goal. A review of Seattle's industrial zones showed that only about 18% of the retail and office uses in those zones exceeded 10,000 square feet in area. The revised limit of 10,000 square feet is closer to limits set in other cities that have successfully protected industrial areas. Portland limits office and retail uses to 3,000 square feet, and Vancouver only allows them as an accessory to an industrial use.
Some think that using more industrial land for offices and retail activities is inevitable. However, a survey of Seattle industrial firms found many prefer Seattle locations which are:
- near the Port's facilities, the railroad, or the highway connections
- close to suppliers and customers
Another healthy sign of Seattle's industrial economy is high demand for industrial space. Building vacancy is low, and industrial land is scarce. Some growing firms do move to the Kent Valley because Seattle lacks space for expansion. And if a firm does leave, a new industrial firm soons takes its place.
Together with the Planning Commission, we sponsored "The Future of Seattle's Industrial Lands,"a 4-part discussion series that included:
- "Lessons from Other Cities" — March 29, 2007, 4:30–6:30 p.m.
A panel discussion with leading industrial lands experts from other cities
- "Conversations About Industrial Lands" — April 10, 2007, 4:30–6 p.m.
Discussion of transportation and land coversion issues
- "Conversations About Industrial Lands Continued" — April 24, 2007, 4:30–6 p.m.
Discussion of issues identified by stakeholders.
- "Alternatives for Moving Forward" — May 31, 2007, 4:30–6:30 p.m.
The next steps in developing an Industrial Lands Strategy for Seattle.
We also met with stakeholder groups, including the Manufacturing/Industrial Council, the Ballard Interbay North Manufacturing and Industrial Center Action Committee and the SODO Business Association.
In addition, the City Council held several public hearings as it deliberated on the legislation.