Upzone the Central District: 23rd Ave Action Plan calls for 65 feet at Union, 85 at Jackson

It’s not exactly a preview of what is coming when the Seattle City Council’s select committee on affordable housing meets for the first time on Monday to begin the road to implementing the mayor’s HALA plan. But the plan to upzone three key areas along 23rd Ave and require the inclusion of affordable housing in the Central District fits right into the Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda puzzle but with almost none of the buzz.

Monday is the deadline for public comment on the Department of Planning and Development’s approval of the early environmental review phase for three proposed upzones in the city’s 23rd Avenue Action Plan:

  • 23rd and Union: Increase height limits from 40 to 65 feet in the immediate blocks around 23rd and Union. Increase height limits from 30 to 65 feet on the block of Union between 21st and 22nd. Increase limit from 30 to 40 feet between 20th and 21st. InfoScreen Shot 2015-07-17 at 9.59.13 AM
  • 23rd and Cherry: Standardize on 40-foot heigh limits on blocks near Garfield Community Center and the high school. InfoScreen Shot 2015-07-17 at 9.59.33 AM
  • 23rd and Jackson: Increase height limits from 65 to 85 feet around 23rd and Jackson. InfoScreen Shot 2015-07-17 at 9.59.54 AM

You can learn more about the DPD process, Monday’s public comment deadline, and how to comment at the “Info” links above. And, remember, public comment doesn’t have to be a NIMBY-fest — you can comment with your support, vocal young urbanist.

To develop in the areas, the plans include a proposal to require the creation of affordable housing as part of the projects or at a separate site in the Central District:

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 10.59.06 AM

The City Council must still approve the changes.

One effort has already aligned to push back on the plans for the “Union node” —

We accept and support the NC2P-65 building zone around the 23rd and Union intersection. This is one of the busy commercial cores of the Central District, and the increase in density and scale of larger buildings can be supported by the energy of the intersection. However, we believe that such huge buildings would destroy the quirky, mellow feel of the hill from 22nd to 21st Avenues by the intensity of their mass and scale. The Floor Area Ratio (FAR) limitation and setback requirements will not compensate for the fact that buildings could be built that are drastically out of scale with the surrounding neighborhood.

You can learn more about the neighbor-driven petition here — Change.org: Integrate new development by limiting building heights on Union between 22nd and 21st to 40 feet

The mayor’s HALA plan calls for the city to create 20,000 new units of affordable housing by 2025. The 65 recommendations include requiring affordable housing in new development along with linkage fee taxes on commercial development that would fund affordable housing. Developers that choose not to include affordable housing in their multi-family developments would be required to pay a fee to the city’s Office of Housing, which will be used to create more affordable units. Single-family zoning close to transit and public resources — “within Urban Villages” — and along major arterials will be converted to low-rise residential zones.HALA_ZoningAreas_1 Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 1.00.39 PM

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 9.58.40 AM

23rd Ave’s section of the HALA zoning change map

While HALA looks forward, the 23rd Ave action plan process has played out over the past three years to create a community framework for developing core areas of the Central District. It is similar to the process that lead to the development plan for Broadway’s Capitol Hill Station. You can read more about it on the city’s 23rd Ave action plan site. Other planning processes like this pedestrian zone initiative at 23rd and Jackson will also help make sure the coming development meshes with community goals.

In the meantime, real estate and development investors are already making plans with acquisitions and preparations for the coming changes. The largest example is the Midtown Center block which stands poised to finally be in line for 65-foot height limits just as “one of the last remaining large developable sites” in Seattle hits market.

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9 thoughts on “Upzone the Central District: 23rd Ave Action Plan calls for 65 feet at Union, 85 at Jackson

  1. Where are all the commenters about density and affordable housing on this story? It seems like if it doesn’t happen within the tiny microcosm that is Capitol Hill, it might as well have never happened. 10 or 12 blocks away and you might as well have sailed off the edge of the known world.

  2. I live a few block away from 23rd & Union and I like this up-zoning, primarily, outward a block or so in each direction. This area already has large, non-residentail developments and frankly, the corner has never really been attractive. What I worry about is how a 6-story building addresses homes across a street like Spring. I’ll be interested in seeing what the developers/architects pitch….

    • Developers and architects will be pitching the same crap that they are putting up everywhere else in the city. It will be cheap Hardie board and corrugated metal with some lime green and orange plastic panels to give it that “edgy” flair. The apartments will have names like Luminix, Overture, and Tfaldi, and sleazy greaser marketers will be selling the $1,800 per month rent with stupid social media campaigns using #livebrilliantly. Anyone who thinks these new apartments will allow them to purchase an affordable home is going to be very disappointed.

      Single family homes don’t allow for explosive growth in every part of the city, but they are unfortunately make up the overwhelming majority of what is left of attractive structures in the city. A recycled, renovated, 100 year old house with upgraded energy efficiency is far better than the garbage being built today.

      • I welcome you to put up a building of your own if you think you can do better.

        As somebody that works in the building industry, I can guarantee that you would be hard pressed to afford the materials and workmanship of yesteryear. Thank strict work regulations, unions, zoning restrictions, building code, land values, and materials costs for that.

        If you think $1800 per month is bad, you cant imagine the rents if people were building with porcelain, brick, and timber.

        Stop #1 for your complaints should be the city. Stop #2 should be the renters themselves. If people paid more than 30% of their incomes for housing on a broad basis, we could more than afford expensive buildings. But that wouldn’t be too good either.

  3. Question: Is the “Incentive Zoning” described above the same for all other areas of the city where similar zoning changes are proposed?

  4. Single-family housing is out of scale with the city’s need to grow more dense and provide affordable housing. I live in the areas mapped for more density and I support the change wholeheartedly! SOme day I would like to buy a home. This will provide more options to stay in the neighborhood that I dearly love.

    • No, it won’t. The SF houses will be replaced by high-end condos, row houses, etc., that will be just as expensive, and the diminishing supply of SF houses will drive the prices of the remaining ones up. There’s no lack of demand for them, or for housing in neighborhoods with tree canopy and attractive architecture.

      • First off you’re assuming that most people in Seattle who have yet to purchase a house can afford to purchase a singe-family home (that will cost north of 600k in the CD). Secondly restricting supply will only boost the cost of existing houses.

        If only there were a similar west coast city constrained by geography with a huge tech sector and a a lack of affordable housing to look at as an example. Oh yeah, San Francisco! How is that model working for them? Restrict all new development in order to maintain the status quo and in a few decades Seattle will be just as expensive.

        I’m glad that buying a single family home is a possibility for you. The rest of us will just have to move to Tacoma I suppose.