KUOW: Seattle is rezoning neighborhoods, one by one. Next up: Downtown

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The construction cranes could eventually be raised up a little higher in downtown Seattle. That’s if Seattle lawmakers allow for taller building heights downtown and in South Lake Union.

The City Council started the process to rezone those neighborhoods in a meeting Tuesday.

City officials are working through multiple Seattle’s neighborhoods, rezoning each to make room for more housing. The recent rezone of the University District will allow for more high rises and thousands of new units.

Since high rises already dot downtown and South Lake Union, zoning changes there will be less obvious.

The proposal would allow high rise developers to add up to five more stories to their buildings. It will make way for 50-plus-story towers on some blocks, while other areas in South Lake Union will be capped at 100 feet or less.

With the rezone comes a requirement that builders pay for affordable housing. In residential buildings, 3 to 5 percent of new units would need to be affordable. The requirement for commercial buildings is 5 to 10 percent. Developers also have the option to pay into an affordable housing fund instead of including lower-rent units in their building.

The mandatory affordable housing requirements are lower in this proposal than in the University District. Council staff say that’s because the cost to build in downtown and South Lake Union is already high, and that there’s already density there.

City Council staff estimate the changes to downtown and South Lake Union would bring more than 20,000 new homes to the city, including 2,000 for lower income households.


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