Above, a 1906-built house on Malden Ave E awaits the start of its move a few dozen yards to make space for a new townhouse project
Think Capitol Hill is a densely populated, bustling urban neighborhood? Just wait.
The Department of Planning and Development earlier this month released a revised Development Capacity Report as part of its every 10-year review of the city’s Comprehensive Plan. The full report is embedded at the bottom of this post.
According to the report’s estimates, under current zoning, Capitol Hill could add more than 19,000 residential units to its existing 26,600, an increase of about 71%. In the report, Capitol Hill includes the sub-areas of Capitol Hill, Pike/Pine, First Hill and 12th Ave.
The commercial side could see an increase of more than 950,000 square feet of space, in addition to the existing 11.9 million square feet. This would translate into enough space for about 3,200 more jobs, above the current 40,100, an increase of almost 8%.
The forecasts and estimates will play a big role as Seattle sets about updating its next 20-year plan by mid-2015. In the meantime, rents in Seattle are rising faster than in any other major U.S. city — and, as any renter was probably sad to read on CHS, they’re rising even faster on Capitol Hill.
The gains are all net gains, and on Capitol Hill would largely represent re-development pieces of land that might have something on it, but aren’t built up to the maximum allowed under their current zoning. So, if a pair of single-family homes comes down, and is replaced by a 30-unit apartment building, that’s considered adding 28 units.
These numbers refer to what could happen right now, today, under the existing zoning, but they come with a lot of asterisks.
First off, the report does not try to predict when the market conditions would be ripe for any new project. It might take 20 years, it might happen next week. Most likely is a situation similar to what we’ve seen in the past – boom and bust growth cycles.
Second, while the numbers for existing conditions are fairly spot-on, or were when the report was developed (residential numbers in January 2014, jobs in March 2013), future numbers are guesses. Educated guesses, to be sure, based on past development patterns.
But, patterns can change; mixed-use buildings could have a different ratio of commercial to residential going forward. The number of units in an apartment and or condo building could easily change depending on whether or not any given project has a larger number of small units or a smaller number of large units. And the zoning can change — right now, some in City Hall are pushing to roll back height limits in Seattle’s lowrise neighborhoods.
Also be clear, number of housing units is going to be lower than the number of people. A single family house, or a studio apartment or a two-bedroom condo are each considered one unit, no matter how many people live there. The report doesn’t try to estimate what the actual population will be.
One more big caveat on the hill – these numbers don’t include public institutions like the hospitals, Seattle Central or Seattle University; they each have their own planning process that they go through. Mostly, this would show up on the jobs side.
To put these in perspective, citywide, current zoning would allow for 224,000 housing units, so the Hill accounts for about 8% of the city’s total residential growth. On the commercial side, Seattle could add space for 232,000 jobs, giving Capitol Hill 1.4% of the jobs growth (again, not including hospitals and colleges).
The biggest share of the growth under the current zoning would go to downtown, Belltown, Denny Triangle, Pioneer Square and the ID, which are slated to absorb more than 33,000 housing units (14.7% of the city total) and almost 52,000 jobs (22.4%).
The next biggest goes to South Lake Union which would take more than 20,000 residential units (9%) and 25,000 jobs (10.7%).
Of course, by this time next year, all of this could change. The city is in the midst of its state-mandated review of the Comprehensive Plan. That document underlies all of these numbers, in addition to covering information about things like transportation, economic development, quality of life, the environment and more.
The Department of Planning and Development expects to release an Environmental Impact Statement analyzing possible changes to the Comprehensive Plan (grouped into four broader options) likely in January. A revised Comprehensive Plan must be approved by the City Council by June 2015.
For more information about the Comprehensive Plan review, visit Seattle 2035. The full development capacity report updated last month is below.