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Taller, denser downtown OK'd by committee
Seattle Times staff reporter
A Seattle City Council committee voted Wednesday to allow taller buildings and about 30 percent more development in the downtown area.
The unanimous vote by five council members signals a dramatic rewrite of the rules governing Seattle's skyline. On April 3, the full council is scheduled to take up the zoning changes proposed last year by Mayor Greg Nickels.
The 224-page package approved by the council's Urban Development and Planning Committee would let buildings rise hundreds of feet above limits imposed by voters through the 1989 CAP Initiative. How high would depend on where the buildings are located.
The package includes several features not in Nickels' plan. It requires developers to build energy-efficient high-rises. It mandates 8-foot-wide awnings on new buildings to keep pedestrians dry. And it requires large office towers to install showers for bicycle commuters who work there.
Developers also would have to build more underground parking, although less than committee Chairman Peter Steinbrueck wanted.
Council members also approved a resolution saying they want to create a new park in Belltown, although it's unclear where they would get money for it or where it would be. They also took steps to protect historic buildings and explore the possibility of constructing a public school downtown.
The goal of the taller building plan is to get more people living downtown near their jobs in hopes of reducing traffic and suburban sprawl. Steinbrueck called it "pitiful" that downtown has 10 times more workers than residents. Seattle should strive to be more like Vancouver, B.C., which has two workers for every downtown resident, he said.
A spokesman for the mayor hailed the council's vote. "These changes are vital to reshaping our downtown to handle growth and create vibrant urban neighborhoods in our center city," said spokesman Marty McOmber. Committee members did not settle the most hotly debated issue — a new fee for developers of condo and apartment towers that would help build apartments downtown for low- and moderate-income residents. They postponed a vote on that proposed fee in hopes of reaching a compromise.
Nickels had proposed a $10-per-square-foot fee, which would help finance construction of about 300 apartments over 20 years. Steinbrueck countered with a $19 fee. Several council members said Wednesday they wanted to consider a proposal that would charge between $17 and $19 a square foot.
McOmber added the council was "heading in the right direction" on an affordable-housing fee.
Those proposals should be ready for the council to consider in several weeks, he added.
Bob Young: 206-464-2174 or email@example.com
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