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Neighbors Successful in Effort to Keep Retail out of Residential and Commercial Business Districts Strong

This morning, Council Chambers were full of people attending the Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability (PLUS) committee to give testimony on Council Bill 117430, otherwise referred to by some as Regulatory Reform.

There are a number of controversial portions of the bill, but the one that garnered the most opposition at today’s meeting was an element that would have allowed small-scale, ground-floor commercial uses in certain multifamily zones that are located in Urban Centers or Station Area Overlay Districts.  

In a previous committee meeting on May 9th, Councilmembers were interested in supporting the proposal but there was a menu of amendments suggested with the hope that they’d minimize potential negative consequences of the bill.   The amendments ranged from a. limiting the square footage of the permitted ground floor commercial to 2,000 square feet, b. prohibiting restaurants and electric signage, c. applying nighttime disturbance and odor regulations used in other non-residential zones, and d. allowing ground floor commercial only on transit arterials in these residential multifamily zones located in Urban Centers or Station Area Overlay Districts.

The proponents of the proposal said that their hope was to make neighborhoods more walkable by increasing the number of small stores and services close to where people live.  But today we heard from many residents of what is arguably one of Seattle’s most walkable neighborhoods. Capitol Hill came out in force to say that they had the stores and services they need already and that they were worried that the proposal would not only detract from the livability of their neighborhoods, but it could very well threaten the economic vitality of the existing neighborhood commercial business districts – the places that have been designated for these commercial functions.

In the end, the Councilmembers at today’s committee meeting voted to eliminate entirely the part of the bill that would have allowed commercial uses in Low Rise 2 and 3 zones, but the bill would still allow new ground-floor commercial uses in the remaining Midrise zones where such uses are not currently permitted.   The picture in this post (the Thomas St. Bistro and local grocer in Capitol Hill) is one such example of what the bill would allow.  The bill was not voted out of committee because of additional unresolved policy changes that will be tabled until the next PLUS committee meeting on June 13.  You can watch the meeting here.

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