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City of Seattle
Mike McGinn (former Mayor)

SUBJECT: City announces zoning proposal for South Lake Union

6/25/2012  4:00:00 PM

City announces zoning proposal for South Lake Union
Proposal would help create thousands of jobs and homes, provide affordable housing, invest in street and park improvements

SEATTLE - The City of Seattle today announced recommendations to create jobs, build new housing, and bring new public benefits to the community through a rezone of the South Lake Union neighborhood. If adopted, this new zoning will help bring 12,000 new households and 22,000 jobs to South Lake Union. Public benefits of the proposal include up to $27.7 million to fund local street and park improvements, preservation of 25,000 acres of regional farms and forests through regional transfer of development rights, and up to $45 million for affordable housing and other community benefits.

"Seattle's economy is recovering faster than many other cities in large part because of growth in South Lake Union," said McGinn. "Many companies in our growing technology and public health sectors want to be in South Lake Union. This proposal will help that growth continue in ways that bring significant public benefits. Along with new jobs and new homes, we can build a mixed use community that leverages growth to create affordable housing and finance the improvements needed to streets and public spaces."

The recommendations are rooted in the vision behind Seattle's Comprehensive Plan and South Lake Union's Neighborhood Plan. Specific provisions of the zoning proposal include:

  • Linking increased building height and floor area to expanding the City's incentive zoning program, creating opportunities for new affordable housing and funding for infrastructure;
  • Preserving the established scale and character of the Cascade Neighborhood, one of Seattle's oldest, and creating a new residential community along Eighth Avenue just north of Denny Park;
  • Establishing new development standards to ensure towers are well-spaced and designed to preserve openness to the sky and public views through the neighborhood;
  • Strengthening incentives to preserve landmark properties and existing open spaces;
  • Creating an incentive to encourage locating a new public school to serve the Center City's growing population.

The City is also proposing several additional elements that increase public benefits from the rezone:

  • Financing local infrastructure and preserving regional farmlands. The proposal would establish a program for South Lake Union and Downtown to fund local improvements by establishing an incentive zoning program that supports conservation of farm and forest land. This would be funded from a portion of future county property tax revenue generated from new development under legislation recently adopted by the state.

    Under this program, a portion of extra floor area would be gained by purchasing development rights from regional farms and forests. In exchange, King County will give the City a portion of future property taxes generated on the value of new development to fund local infrastructure improvements.

    This program is anticipated to generate up to $27.7 million in additional infrastructure funding and support the preservation of 25,000 acres of regional farms and forests. The City will work with the South Lake Union and Downtown communities to determine the priorities for use of these new funds in the coming months.

    In addition, King County has tentatively agreed that the proceeds to their regional conservation program will be reinvested in preserving working farms that directly support Seattle's groceries and farmer's markets. This provides a critical new tool in preserving the farms that make up Seattle's "foodshed" and keep our region sustainable.

  • Linking public benefits to height. The City has reached a tentative agreement with Vulcan to make a large property in South Lake Union available to the City for affordable housing and public programming, as well as a direct cash investment, as part of an incentive zoning package for blocks near the park. This package in total would result in substantially more funding than the City would otherwise receive through incentive zoning, in addition to the provision of a large site upfront. Without this agreement, these public benefits would not be realized. Department of Planning and Development staff will present more details on this to the City Council in the coming weeks.

"Seattle and King County's leadership will demonstrate the great potential of the Landscape Conservation and Local Infrastructure Program," said Gene Duvernoy, Forterra president. "This unprecedented program provides the opportunity to create a more livable community in South Lake Union while also protecting tens of thousands of acres of resource lands across the region."

"As a nonprofit organization, it has been extremely difficult to purchase land to meet South Lake Union's affordable housing needs," said Sharon Lee, Executive Director of the Low Income Housing Institute. "We are thrilled at the opportunity the upzone package presents for low-income non-profit organizations like ours. It is a huge benefit to the citizens of Seattle."

Details of the zoning proposal will be shown to the public at a meeting hosted by DPD tonight from 5:30 to 7:30 pm at 415 Westlake Avenue North.


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