A study of recent and historic development
in the most abundant multifamily zoning designation in Seattle,
Lowrise 3 (L3), shows a substantial gap between anticipated
housing densities and actual densities achieved. In fact, between
1994 and 2000, development density in the L3 zone only averaged
60 percent of allowable density.
The L3 zone plays a large role in helping
Seattle meet its housing growth targets by allowing for three-
to four-story townhouses or apartment buildings. When neighborhood
plans were adopted, the majority of Seattle neighborhoods were
able to meet their housing goals with existing zoning, including
the moderate-density L3 zone. Given Seattle's recent growth
and the high demand for housing, planners had anticipated that
Seattle would get closer to the maximum densities allowed in
the L3 zone than present development demonstrates.
Part of the Land Use Code Simplification Program, initiated
by DCLU in 1998, the Lowrise Housing Study examined different
development that has taken place on land now zoned L3 and the
common housing types developed in the zone. Study findings are
being used to inform potential Land Use Code changes, which
would enhance development opportunities in the L3 zone and encourage
new development to be built to allowable density, thereby advancing
Seattle's Comprehensive Plan housing goals. Any DCLU recommendations
resulting from the study will be carefully designed to provide
for a variety of housing types at consistent, moderate densities,
while also ensuring that new housing in lowrise zones is well-designed
and a positive addition to the neighborhood.
Study findings, published in the "Lowrise Housing Study
Background Report," shows that:
- Townhouse development is accounting for
an increased proportion of new multifamily development in
the zone. Often, new townhouse development in the L3 zone,
due to lower density, is not required to undergo Design Review.
Many projects that go through Design Review, however, better
relate to the surrounding neighborhood.
- New L3 development will likely occur on lots that are currently
underdeveloped. These average about 4,400 square feet in size.
The Lowrise Housing Study was undertaken
by DCLU planning staff and a consultant team, comprised of Heartland
and MAKERS Architecture + Urban Design. These groups analyzed
the economic conditions of housing development in several Seattle
area markets, and compared L3 economic conditions to activity
within each market area (Green Lake, Capitol Hill, and Jackson
Place). Opportunities for public review and input on the content,
issues, and possible solutions were provided as the study progressed.
DCLU is actively working to ensure that any
proposed changes to the Land Use Code encourage development
compatible with the neighborhood goals. Public meetings are
anticipated in May 2002 in advance of making any recommendations
to City Council on possible code changes.
Facts on Lowrise Housing
"Lowrise Housing" is a
term used to describe smaller-scaled multifamily buildings
that are typically two to four stories tall. The City
of Seattle uses the term "lowrise" with five
zoning designations that allow for buildings from duplex/triplex
scale (Lowise Duplex/Triplex or LDT) to four-story apartment
buildings (Lowrise 4).
Lowrise 3 (L3) is the most predominant
multifamily zone in Seattle.
L3 plays a major role in helping
Seattle meet its housing growth targets: 20 percent
of parcels inside of Seattle's Urban Villages are zoned
Between 1994 and 2000, development
of parcels in L3 zones has averaged 60 percent of the
allowed density of one unit per 800 square feet of lot
a Copy of the Report
version of the "Lowrise Housing Study Background
Report" is available in PDF
you have questions or comments about the Lowrise Housing
Study or the report, or wish to learn when the public meetings
will be held, please contact:
Jory Phillips, DCLU