Politicians take on ‘Ugly-Ass Buildings’ question

We heard what two developers thought about a possible solution to “Ugly-Ass Buildings,” now it’s the politicians’ turn — would ‘horizontal zoning’ work on Capitol Hill? Seattle City Council member Sally Clark, who is currently working on issues from neighborhood plans to scooter parking, weighed in with an e-mail response to our inquiry about the potential for new zoning to help create more varied development.

Clark’s response:

So, before I say whether I think it would work, let me ask what problem it’s supposed to solve.  I definitely think the more successful buildings are more human scaled.  However, if the front “reads” like smaller pieces, do I care if the interior is bigger spaces?  That gets to whether the buildings need to be skinnier or just look skinnier.

The dispersion idea (can’t go longer than 100 feet frontage w/in 3 or 6 blocks of another big project) is interesting. No doubt would lead to cries about unfairness and deprivation of development value.  We have a tower spacing rule in parts of downtown now that some fear will lead to a rush to vest so you aren’t the last piece of property on the block that at least has the option to build a tower.

This year we will look at possible restrictions on the widths of properties in the Pike/Pine area as part of a package of land use changes meant to preserve some of the existing buildings and shape new ones to be more compatible.  It looks like similar restrictions on width have happened in other cities who have wrestled with neighborhood character and trying to keep new development scaled appropriately.


We’ll find out much more about what the city has planned to help fix the development process on Capitol Hill when council member Tom Rasmussen’s office releases the proposed legislation on the Pike/Pine zoning changes. A spokesperson for Rasmussen said the proposals will be available later this week.

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