On Dec. 21, Mayor Nickels signed into law new regulations for commercial areas. These comprehensive changes to land use rules for Seattle’s business districts, adopted by the City Council on Dec. 11, give final approval to a number of code revisions affecting commercially zoned property in the city. The new rules will go into effect on Jan. 20, 2007.
The changes affect all commercial zones in Seattle except downtown (see how current projects are affected on pg. 5), and include the city’s urban centers and villages, where transit and services can best support Seattle’s anticipated growth. By 2024 the city is projected to gain 100,000 new residents and 84,000 new jobs.
The new regulations include:
- added flexibility in building design to support wider sidewalks, plazas, ground-level open spaces, and view corridors
- revised street front rules to support vibrant pedestrian streets, such as prohibiting parking between sidewalks and storefronts and reducing driveways across busy sidewalks
- provisions to allow residential uses at street level along non-arterial streets in commercial zones
- increased landscaping requirements providing added flexibility through a new Seattle Green Factor that promotes tree planting, garden walls and green roofs
- reduced requirements for amenity spaces for housing in commercial areas
- lowered parking requirements in most commercial areas based on local demand and to support alternative transportation
- the elimination of parking requirements in urban centers and light rail station areas, letting market forces set the number of spaces
- more shared parking between different uses, with an emphasis on short-term parking
- an overall simplification of commercial land use regulations
- new or expanded pedestrian-oriented zoning for five business neighborhoods - narrowing allowed uses to such pedestrian-friendly businesses as restaurants and retail sales and services
No commercial zoning designations were changed, other than the new pedestrian designations, and removal of the Neighborhood Commercial/Residential designation. Minor changes were made to existing height and building size limits.
“This has been a long-time coming,” said Nickels. “Seattle’s neighborhood business districts are the heart of our great neighborhoods. Now, more than ever, we need to give them the tools to grow and thrive. These changes will make it easier for small businesses to move into existing spaces, create great community gathering spaces and add housing—all things necessary for a neighborhood to be a great place to live, work and enjoy life.”
A second phase of work now under way will review a number of Seattle business districts for possible designation as pedestrian-orientated areas.