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March 11, 2012 Mayor’s proposal to allow commercial uses in Lowrise multifamily zones on Capitol Hill Rebecca Herzfeld, rherzfeldzoning@gmail

.com, 206-324-4184 • In late February, 2012, Mayor McGinn submitted legislation entitled “Regulatory Reform Proposal” to the City Council. The proposal includes seven amendments to zoning and environmental regulations. One of the changes would allow commercial uses in Lowrise 2 (LR2) and Lowrise 3 (LR3) zones in urban centers and near light rail stations. Capitol Hill and the Pike/Pine neighborhood to the south are both in the “Capitol Hill/First Hill Urban Center”. Approximately 65 blocks of LR3 zoning in Capitol Hill and Pike/Pine would be affected by this proposed zoning amendment, as shown on the attached map (there are no LR2 zones in this area). This is more area by far than any other neighborhood in Seattle. The following types of commercial uses would be permitted on the ground floor: Retail stores, such as grocery stores, florists, pharmacies, and clothing stores; General services such as shoe repair, barber shops, pet daycare centers, and dry cleaning; Customer service offices, such as branch banks, brokerage firms, and real estate offices; General offices, such as legal, architectural, and data processing offices; Medical offices, including doctors, dentists, veterinarians, and mortuary services; “Business support services” that provide services for businesses, institutions, or government agencies rather than for households, such as medical laboratories. Food processing, including the production of candy, baked goods, seafood, sausage, tofu, or pasta, when the food is distributed to retailers or wholesalers*; Custom and craft work, such as production of artwork, candles, and orthopedic devices, motion picture studios, and printing*; and Restaurants in which the sale of alcoholic beverages is secondary to the service of food. Outdoor seating for restaurants would be permitted until 10 p.m.
*No mechanized assembly lines would be allowed for these uses.

• • • • • •

No special noise limits are proposed. The nightlife disturbance rule in the Noise Ordinance that prohibits amplified noise that is audible inside dwelling units after 10 p.m. would not apply. The venting of odors, smoke, vapors, gas, and fumes would be required to be located and directed away from residential uses “to the extent possible”. No parking would be required for the commercial uses; drive-in businesses would be prohibited. There are no proposed size limits for outdoor sales or for outdoor storage areas for commercial uses. Each commercial use in a building could be up to 2,500 square feet in size. Commercial uses could be located either on the ground floor of a building with housing above, or in a single-purpose commercial building up to 18 feet tall.

The Council’s Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability (PLUS) Committee is holding a public hearing on the proposal on Wednesday, March 28, at 9:30 a.m. This is the link to the hearing notice: http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/cms/groups/pan/@pan/@plan/@regulatoryreform/documents/ web_informational/dpdp021818.pdf , which also describes how to comment and to obtain copies of the

March 11, 2012 proposal.

March 11, 2012

March 11, 2012 Problems with permitting commercial uses in Lowrise multifamily zones on Capitol Hill • Allowing commercial uses in nearby multifamily zones could draw customers away from existing districts, which would harm current businesses and make it even more difficult to fill vacancies. The business districts on Broadway and 15th Avenue East have had high turnover and vacant store fronts, some of which have stood empty for years. The Mayor does not present any analysis that shows that more land is necessary to accommodate commercial growth in urban centers and station areas. Allowing commercial uses in residential zones would not fill a proven need and may hurt local businesses. One justification for the proposal is that it would “facilitate improved access to goods and services without the need to drive”. However, the proposal would allow many types of commercial uses that would not serve local residents, such as wholesale food processing and medical laboratories. The proposal assumes that in order to achieve a walkable, mixed use neighborhood, there must be commercial uses on every block. As shown on Capitol Hill, grocery stores, restaurants, and many other services can be within easy walking distance of housing without being located within a residential area. The proposal does not address the potential impacts of commercial uses on residential areas, such as noise, odors, commercial deliveries, and increased traffic. For example, restaurants could disturb residents late into the night, due to amplified music, employees and patrons smoking outside the building, and outdoor food service. There are actually stronger protections for housing in neighborhood commercial (NC) zones than the proposal would provide for the affected multifamily areas. For example: Outdoor seating for restaurants would be permitted until 10 p.m. In NC zones, outdoor seating is prohibited within 50 feet of a residential zone. There are no limits on outdoor sales or storage. In NC zones, outdoor storage for commercial uses is prohibited, and outdoor sales areas are limited in size. No special noise limits are proposed. The NC zone requirement that all “fabricating uses, repairing, and refuse compacting activities” be conducted in an enclosed structure would not apply, and neither would the Noise Ordinance rule that amplified noise cannot be audible to nearby housing after 10 p.m. The proposal would require venting of odors to be directed away from residential uses “to the extent possible”. In NC zones, vents must be located at least 10 feet above the sidewalk. Lowrise multifamily residential areas on Capitol Hill already provide a sustainable alternative to low-density housing, and should be afforded the same protections that the Land Use Code provides to residents of single-family areas. In the past two years, the City Council has adopted sweeping changes to the lowrise zoning regulations that increased height and density, provided flexible regulations, and removed parking requirements. Council should wait to make further major changes to lowrise zoning until the results of these major amendments can be evaluated. The recent multifamily zoning changes were made after careful evaluation, development of prototypes, and robust public review. There is no evidence that the proposal to allow commercial uses was subject to this type of careful analysis of potential impacts. Sample comment letter about the proposal to allow commercial uses in Lowrise multifamily

March 11, 2012 zones on Capitol Hill
Councilmember Richard Conlin (richard.conlin@seattle.gov ) Chair, Planning, Land Use, and Sustainability Committee Dear Councilmember Conlin, As a resident of Capitol Hill, I am requesting that you vote against one of the Land Use Code changes proposed by the Mayor in the “regulatory reform” package that was recently submitted to the City Council. I strongly oppose the amendment that would allow commercial uses on the ground floor of buildings in Lowrise 2 (LR2) and LR3 zones in urban centers and areas within a quarter mile of light rail stations. According to the Department of Planning and Development Director’s Report, the amendment package is intended to promote sustainability and economic development and enhance the quality of life in Seattle. However, permitting widespread commercial uses would actually hurt business districts and make our neighborhood less livable. The proposal would permit commercial uses almost everywhere in the Capitol Hill Urban Center. Our local business districts on 15th Avenue East and Broadway Avenue East have had high turnaover and vacant store fronts, some of which have stood empty for years. Allowing commercial uses in nearby multifamily zones would draw customers away from existing districts, which would harm current businesses and make it even more difficult to fill vacancies. The proposal would also have long-term negative impacts on the affected multifamily zones. On Capitol Hill, these zones include a rich mix of housing types, from single family homes and duplexes to townhouses and apartment buildings of all sizes. The variety of units, residential character, quiet streets, excellent transit service, and convenient neighborhood retail within walking distance make these areas attractive places to live for a range of households, including families with children, even though they are much denser than single-family zones. I am very concerned about the impacts that could be caused by permitting businesses in our residential areas, including noise, odors, commercial deliveries, and increased traffic. For example, restaurants could disturb residents late into the night, due to amplified music, employees and patrons smoking outside the building, and outdoor food service. Even Neighborhood Commercial zones have more limits on noise and outdoor uses than this proposal. Our neighborhood already provides a sustainable alternative to low-density housing, and should be afforded the same protections that are provided to other residential areas. The proposal assumes that commercial uses must be located on every block in order to achieve a walkable mixed use neighborhood. This is not the case. We live within a 5 to 7 minute walk of four grocery stores, over 12 ethnic restaurants, and many other services. This proposal would damage both business districts and residential areas, and is not needed to make the Capitol Hill neighborhood sustainable. Please remove this harmful amendment from the legislation. Thank you. Sincerely,

cc: City Councilmembers (council@seattle.gov) Mayor Mike McGinn (mike.mcginn@seattle.gov) sara.belz@seattle.gov, Council Central Staff

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