The Seattle City Council passed legislation to make it easier to build downtown - creating housing and jobs - by streamlining the environmental review process. The bill, championed by Councilmember Dan Strauss, will help the city keep pace with the unforeseen, fast pace of growth in the city.
SEATTLE – Councilmember Dan Strauss (District 6 – Northwest Seattle) Chair of the Land Use Committee, is happy to announce that Council Bill 120587 passed unanimously today in Full Council. This legislation modifies the thresholds for environmental review of development projects in Downtown Seattle under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). The passage of this legislation marks a significant step towards streamlining the environmental review process so that developers have fewer lengthy and expensive hurdles when building downtown.
Under this ordinance, residential buildings with up to 200 units and buildings with up to 30,000 square feet of non-residential space will be exempted from environmental review. These adjustments are in accordance with the Washington Administrative Code. This legislation works in conjunction with the Mayor’s Downtown Activation Plan to build more housing and create more jobs in Downtown Seattle.
These changes are necessary due to the unforeseen levels of growth that Downtown Seattle has experienced recently, as the downtown population has surpassed the original estimates included in Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan. Prior to this legislative change, SEPA review exemptions were granted to projects featuring 250 residential units or 30,000 square feet of residential space.
“Downtown Seattle is not just the heartbeat of our city, but the entire Puget Sound region and state as a whole. Our region depends on downtown Seattle’s success,” said Councilmember Strauss. “This bill is one step to reinvigorate downtown’s heartbeat. Downtown is bigger than any one of us, and it takes all of us to make it the gem we know it can be. Passing this legislation reduces time and cost to transform our downtown core.”
“Making it easier and faster to build in the heart of the city encourages more development, more housing and more jobs in downtown,” said Downtown Seattle Association President & CEO Jon Scholes. “Fewer barriers to developing in the center city should spur exciting and creative projects. This bill addresses a concern we’ve heard from DSA members for years and it comes at a pivotal time during downtown’s continued revitalization.”
“There is no silver bullet when it comes to addressing our regional housing crisis, or revitalizing downtown,” said Rachel Smith, President and CEO of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. “We need to pull a bunch of levers, simultaneously – and Council Bill 120587 is an important one of those levers. Having fewer lengthy and expensive hurdles when trying to build downtown is the right thing to do as we work relentlessly to reactivate our city’s core, and we thank Councilmember Strauss for his leadership and for approaching solutions with urgency.”
Prior to submitting this legislation, Councilmember Strauss’ office solicited feedback from multiple levels of government and stakeholders, such as all 29 federally recognized Tribes located in Washington State, the Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT), the Port of Seattle, and multiple regional agencies.
These adjustments will help streamline the development process in Downtown Seattle, allowing for more efficient and timely completion of projects while still maintaining environmental considerations. The legislation represents a collaborative effort to adapt to the evolving needs of the city and strike a balance between growth and sustainable development.