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.

What's Happening Now?

The Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee will hold a briefing to consider potential amendments to the U District legislation on January 19 (2:00 p.m.). The briefing will take place in Council chambers at Seattle City Hall (600 4th Avenue). Draft amendments may be reviewed here.

In September, Mayor Murray presented his priorities for the U District. He addressed recommendations for zoning, affordable housing, and City investments in the neighborhood. A summary brochure covers many of the projects and programs that the Mayor highlighted. Also in September, we presented to City Council’s Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee:

In October, we sent final zoning recommendations to Council for their consideration.

  • 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.

We have been working with the U District community since 2012 to plan for growth and change in the neighborhood. The U District Urban Design Framework discusses neighborhood concerns and goals in detail, laying 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 also completed streetscape concept plans for Brooklyn Ave NE, NE 43rd St, and NE 42nd St. In September 2015, City Council amended the U District goals and policies in the Comprehensive Plan.

We released a draft version of the zoning proposal in May 2016. Public response included a mix of support, concerns, and suggestions for improvement. A compilation of public comments is available here, and a summary and discussion of the themes is available here. This input helped shape the final recommendations that we sent to City Council.

Watch our "A Shared Vision for the U District" video here.

Project Benefits

Working with the neighborhood, we’ve identified the following guiding principles to inform all of our projects in the U District:

  • Recognize light rail as a catalyst for change
  • Balance the regional influences with the eclectic local character
  • Provide a network of great streets and public spaces
  • Grow and diversify jobs
  • Welcome a diversity of residents
  • Improve public safety
  • Encourage quality and variety in the built environment
  • Build an environmentally sustainable neighborhood
  • Improve integration between UW and the U District
  • Support walking, biking, and transit

The End Result

  • The U District Strategic Plan: short- and long-term actions to promote a unique and vital commercial district
  • The U District Urban Design Framework: a clear, cohesive vision to guide development and public investments to create a lively, safe, and walkable neighborhood
  • New working relationships between community stakeholders: between public / private partners in order to plan for change now and to work together for a better U District in the future
  • Policy changes: including Comprehensive Plan updates, zoning changes, new design concepts for several key streets, and updated design guidelines


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