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Published by: Chs Blog on May 09, 2012
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05/09/2012

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Legislative DepartmentSeattle City CouncilMemorandum
Date:
May 8, 2012
To:
Planning, Land Use and Sustainability (PLUS) Committee Members
From:
Sara Belz, Council Central Staff 
Subject: Council Bill (CB) 117430
 – 
Regulatory Reform
At its May 9, 2012, meeting, the PLUS Committee will continue its review of CB 117430, which
would amend several sections of the City’s Land Use Code (Seattle Municipal Code Title 23)
and Environmental Policies and Procedures (Seattle Municipal Code Chapter 25.05) in order to
encourage economic growth and job creation. The Committee’s previous deliberations on CB
117430 have occurred as follows:February 29, 2012
 – 
Department of Planning and Development (DPD) staff presented an
overview of the Executive’s proposed re
gulatory reform package, which was introducedon March 26 as CB 117430.March 28, 2012
 – 
the PLUS Committee hosted a public hearing on CB 117430 and heardcomments from about 30 constituents.March 29, 2012
 – 
the PLUS Committee reviewed the input received at the March 28public hearing and directed staff to provide additional information and analysis onspecific elements of CB 117430.April 11, 2012
 – 
the PLUS Committee discussed a decision agenda that covered some of the issues identified for additional analysis on March 29. The elements of CB 117430addressed in that decision agenda included the following proposals:Allow ground-floor commercial uses in certain multifamily zones.Extend the maximum length of most temporary use permits to 18 months and convertthe issuance of such permits from appealable Type 2 decisions to non-appealableType 1 decisions.Eliminate the existing requirement that a backyard cottage not exceed the height of aprincipal dwelling unit by more than 15 feet.Allow operators of home-based businesses to list their addresses in advertisementsand on business cards.The PLUS Committee ultimately chose to recommend approval of 
the Executive’s
proposals related to backyard cottage heights and the publication of addresses for home-
 
 
 2
based businesses. Discussion of the proposals to allow ground-floor commercial uses incertain multifamily zones and amend policies governing the issuance of temporary usepermits will continue at
the May 9 PLUS meeting, per the Committee’s request.
In addition to continuing its discussion of some of the issues raised on April 11, the Committeewill also discuss these other proposed elements of CB 117430 at its May 9 meeting:Extend no-minimum parking requirements to areas within a quarter-mile of frequently-served transit stops.Allow increased flexibility for street-level uses in several areas of the City where ground-floor commercial development is currently required.The proposed changes to State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) environmental review
thresholds and DPD’s authority to require transportation studies and mitigation for projects that
would become exempt from SEPA will be discussed at the May 23 PLUS Committee meeting.
Decision Agenda
The following decision agenda was developed to help guide the PLUS Committee’s discussion
of CB 117430 at its May 9 meeting.
Issue #1: Allow ground-floor commercial uses in certain multifamily zones.
CB 117430 would allow ground-floor commercial uses in all Midrise (MR) zones and in Lowrise2 and 3 (LR2 and LR3) zones that are located in Urban Centers and Station Area OverlayDistricts. Although such uses are already permitted on lots in MR zones that are within 800 feetof an existing Commercial or Neighborhood Commercial (C or NC) zone, they are not currentlyallowed in most LR zones. The only exceptions are LR zones with a Residential/Commercial(RC) suffix. However, the RC suffix is not widely applied to LR-zoned property and permitstypes of commercial development that DPD determined were not appropriate for all LR2 andLR3 zones located in Urban Centers and Station Area Overlay Districts.
Lists of Seattle’s Urban
Centers and Station Area Overlay Dis
tricts are provided below for Committee members’
reference.Urban CentersNorthgateUniversityCapitol Hill/First HillUptownSouth Lake Union*Downtown*Station Area Overlay DistrictsRooseveltUniversity**Capitol Hill**North Beacon HillMt. BakerColumbia CityOthelloRainier Beach
*No LR2 or LR3 zoning is located in these areas.**These Station Area Overlay Districts fit within the boundaries of their respective Urban Centers.
At its April 11 meeting, the PLUS Committee decided to support the
Executive’s proposal to
allow ground-floor commercial uses in the remaining MR zones where such uses are not
 
 3
currently permitted. The Committee also recommended reducing the size limit for commercialuses in eligible LR zones from 2,500 to 2,000 square feet and asked staff to prepare a companionordinance to clarify that the nightlife disturbance provisions in the Seattle Municipal Code applyto nonresidential uses located in any zone. An annual DPD report on the number, type andlocation of new commercial uses opened in eligible LR zones was also requested.On May 9, the PLUS Committee will discuss
whether to apply further controls to the Executive’s
proposal to allow ground-floor commercial uses in certain LR zones. Potential action options aredetailed in the following table. Options 1-3 are mutually exclusive. Options 4-6 could beselected individually, collectively or in combination with any of Options 1-3.
 
Options Considerations
1.
 
Consistent with CB 117430,allow small-scale, ground-floor commercial uses in allLR2 and LR3 zones that arelocated in Urban Centersand Station Area OverlayDistricts. Permitted useswould include businesssupport services, foodprocessing, craft work, retailshops, medical services,offices, restaurants, andlive-work spaces.This option would create opportunities for smallbusinesses that might not be able to afford space in anestablished business district to locate in walkable,densely developed, and transit-rich areas.Allowing limited commercial uses in LR2 and LR3zones that are located in Urban Centers and StationArea Overlay Districts could draw entrepreneurs andcustomers away from nearby business districts.Many ground-floor residential units are located in theaffected LR zones. The occupants of these units couldbe particularly, and negatively, impacted if foodservice businesses and other commercial uses withnighttime hours are permitted to operate onneighboring lots.This option could result in increased demand for on-street parking in areas where on-street spaces arealready highly utilized.2.
 
Allow small-scale, ground-floor commercial uses in allLR2 and LR3 zones that arelocated in Urban Centersand Station Area OverlayDistricts but restrictrestaurants to LR2- andLR3-zoned lots that arelocated on arterial streets.Arterial streets are often louder and more heavilytrafficked than side streets, which can make them amore appropriate location for restaurants and othercommercial uses that generate noise, odors, and/ornighttime customers.LR-zoned lots located on arterials are generally visibleto more potential customers than those located on sidestreets and, thus, may be more viable as potentiallocations for small restaurants.Applying varying commercial use standards todifferent street types in the affected LR zones wouldadd complexity to the Land Use Code.

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