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City of Seattle
Gregory J. Nickels (former Mayor)

SUBJECT: Mayor's new sidewalk program keeping pace with development

8/23/2007  12:00:00 PM

Mayor’s new sidewalk program
keeping pace with development

Legislation amends land use code to
require sidewalks throughout city

SEATTLE - Mayor Greg Nickels announced today his new sidewalk program - Keeping Pace - will increase the number of sidewalks in Seattle. This week Nickels sent legislation to the Council requiring the inclusion of sidewalks in new residential projects within areas of the city where most development is happening, and in all commercial developments, regardless of size.

“Sidewalks are an important part of Seattle’s transportation agenda and one of my goals is to make Seattle the most walkable city in the nation. But many parts of our city have no sidewalks. With this legislation, we can begin building Seattle’s next transportation system one foot at a time,” said Nickels.

Current regulations exempt developments of a certain size or type from including sidewalks, resulting in an inconsistent and incomplete network of sidewalks in the city. Developers of smaller multifamily projects have been able to develop properties without installing sidewalks, often in “piecemeal” fashion. This has resulted in expanses of new development with no accompanying sidewalks. Under current land use code, a developer could theoretically develop project after project, all in a row, without providing sidewalks if the projects were kept under the threshold for sidewalks (under six to 10 units, depending on the zone). Under the mayor’s proposal, developers will now be required to provide sidewalks, particularly in those parts of the city where most of the growth is expected to occur.

The mayor’s proposal requires sidewalks where new projects are proposed along arterials, and within many of the neighborhood commercial and multifamily zones. Single-family additions and remodels in these areas will be required to provide sidewalks unless the addition/remodel is less than 500 square feet. Exceptions will be made for projects proposed within environmentally sensitive areas and other locations where it would be infeasible to build a sidewalk.

In particular neighborhoods currently experiencing a wave of small-scale residential growth will benefit from the new regulations.

City officials estimate roughly 500 miles of city streets are currently without full sidewalks.

Nickels had proposed money for sidewalks in three previous budgets. This new proposal helps supplement the approximately 117 blocks of new sidewalks that will be built under the 2006 Bridging the Gap levy. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) is currently on target to construct 13 blocks of new sidewalk this year under the levy.

Between 2002 and 2006, SDOT constructed about 61 blocks of new sidewalks. Seattle Public Utilities and the Seattle Housing Authority funded construction of 34 additional new sidewalk blocks as part of housing or natural drainage programs. In addition, SDOT crews and contractors rehabilitated about 100 blocks or 6.25 miles of existing sidewalks over the past five years.

Visit the mayor’s web site at Get the mayor’s inside view on efforts to promote transportation, public safety, economic opportunity and healthy communities by signing up for The Nickels Newsletter at

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