U District Urban Design

People dance in the street at the University District street fair.
A four-year strategic partnership between the community, city, and the University of Washington to plan for a vibrant transit-oriented University District neighborhood.

Project Documents

The U District Urban Design Framework discusses neighborhood concerns and goals in detail and lays out many of the ideas that would be implemented by the proposed rezone. Zoning is one of several policy changes aimed at shaping new growth in the U District. We completed streetscape concept plans for Brooklyn Ave NE, NE 43rd St, and NE 42nd St in the spring of 2015. In September 2015 City Council approved our recommended amendments to the U District goals and policies in the Comprehensive Plan. In May 2016, we released a draft zoning proposal for public comment - see "Draft Rezone Proposal" below.  


U District Rezone Proposal

Following an extensive four-year public process in the U District, we’ve sent zoning recommendations to Council. The proposal would allow greater height and density in the core of the neighborhood, apply design standards to help new buildings fit into the U District neighborhood context, implement new affordable housing and open space requirements, and implement incentives for childcare, historic preservation, and street improvements.

  • Director’s Report. A detailed description of the zoning changes. The proposal would allow greater height and density in the core of the neighborhood, apply new affordable housing requirements, and new design standards for buildings.
  • Rezone ordinance. Draft bill to amend the Seattle Municipal Code and zoning map, consistent with the report above.
    • Rezone Exhibit A. Map of the zoning changes.
    • Rezone Exhibit B. Map of the station area overlay district, which will be removed to avoid redundancy with the new zoning.
  • Summary and fiscal note. A summary of the bill, and analysis of impacts to the City budget.

In May 2016, we released draft recommendations. We took public comment through mid-July. The documents below summarize that public input process, which informed the recommendations to Council (above).

U District Comprehensive Plan Amendments

The University Community Urban Center Plan was adopted in 1998. It established Comprehensive Plan goals and policies for the U District, as one of Seattle's six urban centers. Most of those goals and policies are still relevant, but some updates were needed to better align with recent community conversations. We recommended some amendments to the plan and included new, consolidated goals and policies as well as changes to the Future Land Use Map. City Council considered these recommendations in a public process and adopted them in October.

Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)

The U District Urban Design Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) evaluates impacts of several possible Comp Plan and Land Use Code amendments, including changes that would allow increased height and density in the core of the U District.

Objectives of the proposal include:

  • Better integration of land uses with the neighborhood’s future light rail station
  • Development standards to accommodate a greater variety of building types
  • Support for equitable communities with a diversity of housing choices

The public comment period for the Draft EIS began on April 24 and closed on June 23, 2014. The Final EIS was published on January 8, 2015. The Hearing Examiner upheld the adequacy of the EIS document on June 19, 2015.

Final EIS Documents

EIS Addendum: Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA)
This document updates the U District EIS to include consideration of MHA requirements.

Draft EIS Documents

EIS Scoping process (2013)

In September-October 2013, we held a public scoping process to get initial feedback and direction on our Draft EIS alternatives:

Hard copies of the Final EIS are available for public review at the Central Branch and the University Branch of the Seattle Public Library, University of Washington’s Suzzallo Library and Built Environments Library, and the University Neighborhood Service Center. You may get copies of our Draft EIS free of charge (while supplies last) at OPCD which is on the 20th floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 Fifth Avenue. For more information, contact Dave LaClergue at (206) 733-9668 or dave.laclergue@seattle.gov.

Open Space Forum

In Fall 2014, we cosponsored a series of community events with Seattle Parks and the U District Partnership (UDP). The series provided a forum to continue the discussion about public open space in the U District:

  • What kinds of parks, open spaces, and activities are most needed?
  • What are some strategies for making these improvements happen?
  • How to address various obstacles to getting more and livelier parks?

The U District Partnership Board adopted the final report in Fall 2015. The final report, presentations, and meeting materials, prepared by consultants and the U District Open Space Forum steering committee, are available below:

Meeting #1

Meeting #2

Meeting #3

Final Report

Green Streets

In the 1998 University District Neighborhood Plan, the community designated three “green streets”: Brooklyn Ave NE, NE 43rd St., and NE 42nd St. This means that these streets should emphasize open space, landscaping, and a high-quality pedestrian experience. Green streets are improved piece by piece over time with concept plans establishing a vision to improve quality and consistency.

The U District Green Streets plan includes recommendations for sidewalks, street trees, bike lanes, and landscaping on three important streets in the U District. It’s based on a year of community input through the U District Partnership and broader public meetings.

U District Partnership

The U District Partnership is a separate but related planning effort, led by a wide range of groups and individuals within the U District. City planners are coordinating closely with this group to make sure our work aligns with the work going on in the broader community.

Meeting #10 Nov. 30, 2012

Meetings #11-13: review and discuss draft versions of the Urban Design Framework

Meeting #14 July 25, 2013

Studies and Guiding Documents

U District Urban Design Framework: Summarizes a year of public outreach, including the planning process to date, guiding principles for future changes in the neighborhood, and specific recommendations for our work going forward. Key topics include public spaces, street improvements, zoning and building height, and how to expand housing choices in the U District.

U District Retail Study & Strategy: Summarizes existing conditions, assets, and challenges of the Ave, presents recommendations for revitalizing the business district. Developed by the U District Partnership and the Seattle Office of Economic Development.

University District Existing Conditions Report: Provides historical data, demographics, and urban form analysis of today’s U District.

U District Strategic Plan: This plan is produced by U District Partnership. It establishes goals and strategies for neighborhood organization and leadership, economic revitalization, marketing, making the neighborhood clean and safe, and broad urban design principles.

U District Residential Market Analysis: Real estate economists Heartland prepared this report to analyze trends for market-rate housing in the U District. They focused on the question of whether highrise residential buildings will be feasible in the future. We’ll study other important housing issues through the Environmental Impact Statement and our policy development, including: affordable housing, amenities and services, and the balance between preservation of existing housing vs. creation of new housing.

Meetings & Events


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