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City Council set to upgrade Pike/Pine preservation rules — Here are 8 projects already underway

It is legislation that has inspired some of the most awkward headlines in the history of Seattle journalism.

Why aren’t developers incentivized to save entire Pike/Pine buildings?, CHS asked, thus burning this decade’s allotment for using “incentivized” in a headline.

Meanwhile, City Council tells developers told to keep old city character, a TV station sputtered while also failing to note the preservation rules apply only to these blocks of Pike/Pine:


Monday afternoon, the Seattle City Council is expected to approve updated legislation creating the fourth phase of the Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District.

CHS has reported on the many years of legislative wrangling led by council member Tom Rasmussen to create the developer incentive program designed to protect the character of Pike/Pine, if not the actual historic structures that are mostly leveled and recreated as part of the new, multi-story apartment buildings that are being built up and down Pike and Pine.

“For the past six years, I have been working with Capitol Hill’s Pike/Pine community to amend land use regulations and design guidelines in order to,” Rasmussen’s statement on the fourth phase of the process reads. His goals?

  • Promote mixed-use development;
  • Keep new development compatible and in scale with the neighborhood;
  • Encourage small, diverse local businesses;
  • Preserve pre-1940 buildings (“character structures”) that contribute to the character of the neighborhood; and
  • Retain and attract arts and cultural uses.

The goals for the latest update?

  • Require that all character structures on a lot be retained, either partially or fully, if zoning incentives are used. The Design Review Board would be able to grant departures from this requirement, with guidance from criteria in the code;
  • Reduce the bulk of new buildings on larger lots by further limiting the amount of floor area allowed on upper level floors;
  • Remove the current 2.0 floor area ratio (FAR) limit on commercial structures, if all character structures are retained as defined in the Code;
  • Remove regulatory barriers that make it difficult to retain character structures;
  • Provide clearer standards for retaining character structures and for the limited circumstances in which the Design Review Board may allow demolition of a character structure if an zoning incentive is used; and
  • Make technical corrections and clarifications.

In December of 2011, the third phase of creating a preservation district in Pike/Pine was completed as the City Council approved a transfer of development rights program for the neighborhood. The first phase in creating the Conservation District moved into place way back in June 2009 creating incentives for developers to integrate historical and character building components into their designs. CHS also covered the Council’s Phase Two update to the rule set in summer 2010 here.

The vote on the latest phase comes after a challenge from local developers concerned about the new direction for the legislation requiring all character buildings involved in a project to be preserved. In some projects, developers opted to pick and choose which historic structures would be included in their new buildings — and which would be scraped off Capitol Hill. The new “preservation-for-size” rules finally began moving forward again this year following negotiations to drop an appeal of the proposals brought by developers and land owners Avalon Bay Communities, Inc. and Richmark Co. owner Bill Donner.

The new rules are designed to “address ‘oversized’ or ‘out of scale’ development that can occur on exceptionally large lots” and “make incentives more effective by requiring all character structures on a lot to be retained in a new project if incentives are used.” Poster child for the update is Alliance Communities’ seven-story project underway at 10th and Union that will utilize the incentives on a massive scale unpredicted by city planners when the conservation incentives were first conceived years ago. The new legislation would also reduce slightly the potential development space for apartment units in the new buildings but increase significantly how much of the space in the new buildings can be used for commercial purposes.

While it’s difficult to say what would have happened had the developer incentives never been put in place, there are today several projects under construction or being planned around Pike/Pine that will utilize the bonuses to retain the character of the Hill’s oldest buildings even as the neighborhood adds more housing and commercial opportunities to its streets.

Here are some of the projects underway as part of the Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District:

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