Creating a more pedestrian-friendly Seattle

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Today the Planning, Land Use and Sustainability (PLUS) Committee voted on a CB 118327 which establishes a new “pedestrian designation” in 40 neighborhoods throughout Seattle.

A pedestrian-designation is a tool to support the development of walkable business districts in the City. The local businesses that make up our business districts bring the people and create the sense of community that makes our neighborhood businesses districts great. This legislation helps create the physical conditions for businesses to establish and cluster together in a way that neighbors can walk between them on foot.

What is a p-designation?

A pedestrian or “p-zone” designation is a zoning designation for an area that the City is trying to foster pedestrian-oriented retail districts. The p-zone establishes rules about the use and form of buildings in that area.

We’ll start with use.  Buildings that front a principal pedestrian street must have commercial uses that activate the street on 80% of their ground floor. This is typically retail, coffee shops and restaurants. In this legislation the Council expands the allowed uses to including some additional services that people like to see in their neighborhood business district like small scale office (no more than 30 feet wide), schools and childcare centers. The regulations also prohibit some uses like surface parking lots and drive-through businesses in these areas.

The p-zone also requires some elements about form. These components require transparency (e.g., windows not obscured by product or signs) so that people can see in and out of the building, overhead weather protection for rainy days and limit driveways along principal pedestrian streets.

Where are these areas?

The City already has many neighborhoods with pedestrian designations – you can probably picture these neighborhood business Districts like the heart of Ballard, Capitol Hill, areas around all of our light rail stations in South Seattle and many more. In 2012, as part of the regulatory reform legislation, the Council adopted a map of 60 areas that they asked DPD to study to determine whether adding a pedestrian designation was appropriate. After their review, DPD recommended a designation for 37 of those areas.

Here is a link to the map of existing and proposed “p-zones.”

Council’s changes to the proposed ordinance

The PLUS Committee reviewed this legislation over the course of four committee meetings, including a Public Hearing. The Committee approved adoption of all 37 areas recommended by the Mayor, with a small modification to the proposed zone in Magnolia. In addition, the Committee made a few additions:

  • Added a pedestrian designation in Greenwood between 81st and 83rd Ave;
  • Added a pedestrian designation along 34th Ave S in Wallingford;
  • Added a pedestrian designation on Jackson between 23rd Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way;
  • Strengthen requirements for live-work units to require a business-license be on file with DPD for each unit (note: this applies outside of p-zones as live-work units are not allowed in p-zones).

More walkable, vibrant business districts

Collectively, these changes create a built environment that supports lively neighborhood business districts throughout Seattle. In some areas—like the four-corner nodes along 15th Ave NW at 65th, 70th, 75th and 80th—walkable retail districts are not yet realized. In others—like 32nd and McGraw in Magnolia—a great business district exists and the pedestrian designation will help it thrive as new or re-development occurs in the future.

No two neighborhoods are the same in Seattle, which is why we studied sixty areas in detail. This legislation is a step in the right direction to help our diverse neighborhood business districts grow and thrive while promoting more walkable neighborhoods.