Yesterday, the Seattle City Council voted on a final package for the rezone. Below is a summary of what we voted to do in light of what we heard from constituents and stakeholders over the past few months.
This legislation represents a great step for Seattle. The land use changes will add capacity in the SLU neighborhood of 12,000 units of housing and 22,000 jobs. It will serve as a boost to Seattle’s already growing economy and allow us to retain employers like Amazon who are adding as many as 100 jobs a week in our city and expansion of the global health sector. The increased density is also good for our environment. As more people are able to live near work and transit, we are able to reduce vehicle miles traveled in our city. Finally, the rezone builds upon city investments in Lake Union Park, a new streetcar and sidewalks to create a vibrant neighborhood that will soon be a community and cultural destination for the region.
In considering this legislation, there were many details to get right. Here are highlights of some of the issues you raised, what I supported in the package and where we landed.
- Increased Affordable Housing: I worked hard to increase the provisions for affordable housing to provide more opportunities for people who work in the neighborhood to be able to live there too. With your support, we strengthened the incentive zoning program and secured a 43% increase in the residential pay-in-lieu price (to $21.68), effective immediately, and a 33% increase in the commercial price phased in over eighteen months (to $29.71). For those uninitiated in the ins-and-outs of land use policy, our analysis shows that these prices will create the right incentives for developers to produce that workforce housing onsite. Collectively, we estimate these strengthened provisions will produce more than 700 units of workforce housing in and near the neighborhood.
- Preserving Neighborhood Character and Access to the Lake: While much of our conversation focused on new construction in the neighborhood, I also heard many concerns for preserving this character of the neighborhood and I supported stronger provisions in the package to do just that. The final package also works to preserve the residential character of the Cascade neighborhood. I supported a ten foot increase in residential height for buildings in the Cascade neighborhood, in order to achieve optimal design (to 55’ for commercial buildings and 85’ for residential).Finally, the Council brought down the height of proposed towers on the Mercer blocks from 240 to 160’. While I supported the proposed heights in order to maximize density in the neighborhood, I recognize the lower heights will help create a “step down” to the lake and help transition the neighborhood to the beautiful Lake Union Park.
- Protecting the Environment: The legislation enables a first-in-the state Landscape Conservation and Local Infrastructure Program (TIF for TDR) that will preserve 25,000 acres of working, rural farm and forestland and provide tens of millions of dollars in revenue for urban neighborhood improvements. In addition, I supported an amendment for stronger green building standards. Buildings accessing additional height are required to meet LEED Gold or LEED Silver plus be “district energy ready.”
Collectively, these provisions represent an opportunity for great development and a fair deal for Seattle residents. We have provided the incentives to attract investment, guidelines to ensure great design and asked for robust public benefits in exchange.
As the rezone is implemented, we have more work to do—to develop a community center, neighborhood school and other civic spaces; to continue to support good transit connections to the neighborhood; and to ensure that our workforce development and job training programs are creating pipelines for those most in need to access the opportunity booming in South Lake Union.