After months of debate, the Seattle City Council approved a meticulously detailed reform package regulating everything from home-based businesses to parking requirements for a multitude of development projects this afternoon. Council member Richard Conlin should get a hearty pat on the back here for getting all his cats in a row—the vote was 8-0 to approve the measure (Council president Sally Clark was absent).
Conlin says in an email that the new land-use rules provides "more flexibility and less rigidity" for property owners and developers.
The full reform package is 51 eye-numbing pages long. Here are a few highlights, starting by far with the most controversial:
· In a nod to transit advocates, the council reduced minimum parking requirements in multifamily and commercial zones by 50 percent for buildings located within a quarter mile of frequent transit service (where bus service that comes every 15 minutes or less) in specific areas. For instance, a new residential development project located near a light rail station might have to include one parking space per unit, instead of two. And for new/expanding office or manufacturing sites, parking requirements can be reduced by 40 percent if the business provides covered bike parking or participates in a vanpool, carpool, or similar program. (We've written more about the issue here.)
· The measure extends the maximum time frame for temporary use permits from 6 to 18 months.
· It encourages home-based businesses—like day cares—by allowing up to two non-resident employees to work in a home. The measure also permits small structural alterations and discreet advertising to make homes more business-y.
· In that vein, the measure allows more developers to calculate parking stalls based on market demand (instead of an arbitrary city minimum requirement) in urban centers, station overlays, and urban villages (developers already had that flexibility in urban village areas with frequent transit service; this measure simply expands upon it).
· The reform package also adopts state environmental review standards for urban centers and station area overlays, while exempting select small and medium size projects from SEPA analysis.
Sadly, one of the most exciting proposals in this package—a kickass proposal that would've allowed for small commercial businesses—like neighborhood corner stores—in dense, residential urban areas and near light rail stations (ahem: Capitol Hill) was killed awhile ago thanks to excessive public frothing.
Conlin says, "My goal is to focus on outcomes and standards that are clearly necessary, and to encourage developers to be able to use creativity in project design and development in order to meet those standards."