Planning, Land Use & Zoning

Design Review Program Improvements

The Seattle City Council is considering proposed legislation to Seattle’s land use code to modify the design review process. The proposed legislation would make the following broad changes to the program:

  1. Require early community engagement by applicants with the community;
  2. Modify the thresholds that determine if design review is required to apply uniformly based on the total square footage in a building instead of dwelling unit counts, use and zone;
  3. Establish new thresholds to determine the type of design review required based on site and project characteristics;
  4. Make changes to the composition of design review boards (DRBs) to replace the general community interest seat with a second local residential/community interest seat and allow more than one Get Engaged members to participate on the boards; and
  5. Modify and update other provisions related to design review.

The public hearing is scheduled for September 11th at 7:00pm SIFF Cinema Uptown, Auditorium 3, 511 Queen Anne Avenue North, Seattle, WA 98109. For more information on the hearing, please check the Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee agenda a few days prior to the meeting at

Downtown Rezone Correction Bill

This legislation makes a typographical correction related to Exhibit A to Ordinance 125291. Ordinance 125291 rezoned parts of the Downtown and South Lake Union Urban Centers to implement the Mandatory Housing Affordability Program. The corrections affect pages 100 and 108 of the Official Land Use Map, which shows areas zoned Downtown Mixed Residential/Commercial (DMR/C). The DMR/C 125/75 was erroneously labelled as DMR/C 125/65 in Ordinance 125291. The legislation also corrects a technical mistake on Map A for Section 23.58B.050 to accurately reflect the change from the IC 85-160 to IC 85-175.

Project Documents

Downtown Office Core 2 – Voluntary Separation from Residential Towers

The Council will consider a bill to authorize the SDCI Director to grant additional height and density beyond zone maximums for new development in the zone in exchange for voluntary setback from existing residential towers.

The proposal is intended to provide a regulatory incentive for developers of new towers, which are proposed for blocks in the DOC2 zone where there is an existing residential tower, to provide a voluntary separation from existing towers. The voluntary separation could increase penetration of light and air to existing residential towers and reduce conflicts between uses in adjacent towers. Proposed separation distances exceed separations that might otherwise be required to comply with Seattle Building Code fire separation standards.

The proposed voluntary separation distances would require that a developer relocate floor area that could otherwise be developed. The proposed additional height or commercial density would allow a developer to achieve the same floor area that might otherwise be available without the voluntary setback plus a small floor area incentive to encourage developers to provide the separation. That incentive represents additional height or commercial density above zoned maximums equal to approximately 1.22 square feet of additional floor area for every one square foot of separation area.

The Council established its intent to consider the proposal through Section 46 of Ordinance 125291. Consideration of the proposal by the Council will occur after the SEPA review period. Preliminarily, a decision by the Full Council is anticipated in July.

The proposed amendments would:

  • Where new residential towers are proposed adjacent to existing residential towers, authorize the SDCI Director to increase the maximum height of residential uses from 550 feet to 640 feet;
  • Where new commercial towers are proposed adjacent to existing residential towers, authorize the SDCI Director to increase the maximum commercial Floor Area Ratio (FAR) from 15 to 15.33;
  • Above a height of 85 feet, require new residential or commercial towers to set back from existing residential towers by at least 15 feet, if a lot with an existing residential tower is across an alley from the new residential or commercial tower, or at least 30 feet if a lot with an existing residential tower abuts a lot with the new residential or commercial tower;
  • Establish that the decision by the SDCI director to grant additional height is a Type I decision, meaning that it is a non-discretionary decision by the SDCI Director that is not subject to appeal to the City Hearing Examiner.

Project Documents

University Community Urban Center (U District) Land Use and Zoning

As one of Seattle’s six designated Urban Centers and with the coming light rail station, the University District will continue to be a highly sought after location for new homes and jobs. The Office of Planning and Community Development (formerly Department of Planning and Development) has been working with the U District community for several years to create a vision for the area as well as create a long-term strategy to help guide growth and change. Council is currently considering land use and zoning changes for the area that will increase zoning capacity, institute new design standards, create incentives for open space, childcare, social services and historic preservation. The zoning changes will also allow implementation of the new Mandatory Housing Affordability program so that all new development will result in new affordable homes. For more information, see the project website here.

Public hearing is scheduled for November 16th at 5:30pm at Hotel Deca.

Project Documents

Director’s Report. A detailed description of the zoning changes. This proposal would allow greater height and density in the core of the neighborhood, apply new affordable housing requirements, and new design standards for buildings.

Rezone ordinance. Draft bill to amend the Seattle Municipal Code and zoning map, consistent with the report above.

Summary and fiscal note. A summary of the bill, and analysis of impacts to the City budget.

Environmentally Critical Areas Update

The Environmentally Critical Areas code designates and protects our most vulnerable environmental areas, including wetlands, habitats and steep slopes. Updating the Environmentally Critical Areas code includes a review of the Best Available Science and updates to comply with State’s Growth Management Act. For more information, see the project website here.

For the most up to date legislation, amendments and supporting materials, see Council Bill 118853 at the website for the Office of the City Clerk.

Public hearing is scheduled for December 6th at 9:30am in Council Chambers.

Mandatory Housing Affordability – Commercial Update

Adopted by City Council in 2015, the Mandatory Housing Affordability – Commercial (MHA-C) framework legislation (Council Bill 118498) established the guidance for the program that will require all new commercial development to contribute to the creation of new affordable homes in Seattle. This legislation updates the MHA-C framework to be consistent with Mandatory Housing Affordability – Residential program, clarifies regulatory requirements, adds new standards for performance and makes technical edits. The zoning changes needed to implement the program will be considered in 2017. For more information, see the project website here.

Public hearing is scheduled for November 29th at 9:30am in Council Chambers.

For the most up to date legislation, amendments and supporting materials, see Council Bill 118854 at the website for the Office of the City Clerk.

Mandatory Housing Affordability Implementation

City Council has now adopted the Commercial and Residential framework legislation for Mandatory Housing Affordability program, which will require new development to contribute to building affordable homes in Seattle. The zoning changes needed to implement the program will be considered by City Council in 2017. For more information, see the project website here. To learn more about potential zoning changes and to provide feedback about those changes, check out Hala.Consider.It.

August 2017 Update: Read the comment letter from the PLUZ Committee about the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Citywide MHA implementation.

Comprehensive Plan Update

According to Washington State law, the City may generally consider amendments to Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan only once a year. In the spring, the City Council invites the public and City departments to propose amendments to Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan. In the summer, the Council chooses which of those amendments it will consider for further study and possible adoption the next year, a process called the policy docket. Following Council’s setting of the docket, the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) reviews the amendments and conducts environmental analysis, and recommends to the Council which amendments should be made. Finally, the Council receives recommendations from the Seattle Planning Commission, considers the merits of proposed amendments, and acts on a bill amending the Comprehensive Plan.

2016-17 Amendments

In 2016, the City Council adopted Resolution 31682 identifying potential amendments to be considered for adoption in 2017. The Director of the OPCD has studied the amendments, conducted environmental review, and made recommendations regarding the amendments. The Mayor has proposed changes to the Comprehensive Plan.

Public hearing is scheduled for August 15th at 9:30 AM in Council Chambers

2017-18 Amendments

Council has received proposals for the 2017-18 docket. In July 2017, PLUZ will begin to consider which proposed amendments to include in the policy docket for possible adoption in 2018.

Public hearing on the 2017-18 Docket is scheduled for July 24th at 5:30 PM in Council Chambers

Committee regular meeting days and time:
1st and 3rd Tuesdays, 9:30 a.m.

Committee Members