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Lowrise Multifamily Code Corrections

An example of a building allowed under our lowrise multifamily zoning.
Making sure new lowrise multifamily development is a good fit in neighborhoods.

What’s Happening Now?

In October of 2013, City Council President Sally Clark asked us to review building height standards in lowrise multifamily zoned areas, particularly noting concerns in the lowrise 3 (LR3) zones. In response to this request, we are studying recent buildings constructed in lowrise multifamily zoned areas, and will be considering code changes to help ensure the new buildings fit into the neighborhoods. Per the October memo, our project is a focused effort to review height and development capacity (known as FAR (floor area ratio), which is the ratio of the floor area of the building to the lot size). We have been asked to submit legislation to Council in the first quarter of 2014. We presented Preliminary Staff Draft Recommendations to the Seattle Planning Commission in February.

The current lowrise multifamily zoning code was enacted in 2010. Lowrise zoning encourages a wide variety of new housing including apartments, townhouses, and rowhouses. The zones are usually located in between mixed-use commercial areas and single-family neighborhoods; and they play a key role in the production of new housing that can help meet growing demand. Lowrise zoning is meant to allow buildings that are 3 or 4 stories tall.

Some community groups commented that the first wave of buildings constructed under the new lowrise multifamily code were too tall or large. We are responding to these concerns by reviewing actual projects developed under the new code. In particular we are reviewing the LR3 zone, and evaluating current regulations such as height incentives, FAR exemptions and bonuses, and the height measurement approach.

Project Benefits

The review of code changes will:

  • Promote new lowrise multifamily buildings that are a better fit within neighborhoods
  • Provide consistency and predictability for neighbors as well as housing builders and designers

The End Result

We will recommend zoning code changes that the City Council could consider during the first half of 2014.

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