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Minimum Density

Example of a building that would meet minimum density requirements.
We are proposing rules to require a minimum size (floor area) of structures in our neighborhood commercial areas.

What's Happening Now?

On July 22, 2014, Mayor Murray sent proposed code adjustments for Minimum Density (Floor Area Ratio (FAR)), along with a Director’s Report, to the City Council for consideration. We will brief the Council’s Planning Land Use and Sustainability (PLUS) Committee on Wednesday, August 13, 2014, and hold a public hearing on Friday, September 5, 2014. You can find this proposal on our Project Documents page.

Minimum density specifies a minimum size (floor area ratio) for new development. Floor area ratio (FAR) is the amount of floor space developed on a parcel compared to the size of the property. For example, a lot of 10,000 square feet with a minimum FAR of 2 would require a building size of at least 20,000 square feet (i.e. a 2 story building that covers the full lot or a 4 story building that covers half the lot).

Typically, we establish maximum density requirements but do not set minimum density requirements. Recent proposals to build single story commercial buildings that cover only a small portion of a property in neighborhood commercial zones has generated interest in establishing a minimum size requirement for buildings in specific areas. On September 9, 2013, the Seattle City Council adopted rules that put in place minimum size requirements (minimum FAR) for development on lots with a pedestrian zone designation in urban centers, urban villages, and station areas. The rules were passed on an emergency basis, which means they are only in place for 12 months and are scheduled to expire, unless extended, on September 16, 2014. We are developing permanent rules for the City Council to consider and adopt.

Why Are We Doing This?

The purpose of this legislation is to limit new low-density, suburban-style development that conflicts with the desired urban design and pedestrian-orientation goals of these areas by:

  • Substantially under-developing sites
  • Reducing activity adjacent to the sidewalk
  • Encouraging substantial parking
  • Limiting development opportunities on sites near transit and services

Project Benefits

A minimum density standard in certain areas will help to ensure that new development supports the goals of the Comprehensive Plan to foster vibrant, pedestrian-oriented neighborhood centers that serve the needs of local residents.

The End Result

The City Council could consider our proposed code adjustments during the summer or fall of 2014.

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