Queen, Seattle Uptown Colliers International Office of Planning & Community Development Lower Qeen Anne Puget Sound rezoning planning
Elan Uptown Flats (Photo Courtesy of Weber Thompson)

By Kristin Bentley

Quite a bit of conversation has been stirred by the ongoing rezoning of Seattle’s neighborhoods. Much of this conversation is heated due to protests against the city’s plan to densify in order to accommodate its staggering population boom.

Before a decision to rezone a neighborhood is made, the city holds multiple open houses allowing for a public comment period in order to consider such opinions. As this process was followed before the decision to rezone the University District was made, it now continues for Seattle’s Uptown neighborhood, or as many call it, Lower Queen Anne.

We are looking at height alternatives, but our recommendation will be some kind of composite

“It’s part of the city’s way to increase density,” said Sam Wayne, a multifamily broker for Colliers International in Seattle. “It will be neighborhood by neighborhood, and how best to preserve the old while also planning for the future. Because the worst thing to do is not plan.”

Before a decision can be made by the city, there must first be a study completed on the potential impacts that a height increase can have, specifically pertaining to the three possible alternatives. These include a “no action” alternative, which would maintain the current zoning and building heights, a “mid-rise” alternative, which allows five to seven-story buildings, or a “high-rise” alternative, which allows 16-story buildings.

“We are looking at height alternatives, but our recommendation will be some kind of composite,” said Jim Holmes, a senior planner with the city’s office of planning and community development. “We will also look at ground level uses, open space and other development standards. Height is the one that most everybody is interested in.”

September 1 was the end of the public comment period for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement, says Holmes, “Now we’re organizing all of those comments in order to prepare a response, and that will all come out in the final EIS in January,” he added. “The process is well-defined, we’ll have to take each step as it goes,” Holmes said. “The mayor might want to add changes, and the city council may hold several meetings to further discuss it.”

Holmes continued on to say that a preliminary zoning recommendation will be made for the neighborhood in January 2017, however, it will be preceded by another 30-day public comment period. Once this second round of public comments is finalized and taken into consideration, the Office of Planning & Community Development will then revise its recommendation and send it to the city council for final approval. If everything goes well, Holmes says that the process will be complete by the second quarter of 2017.

Wayne believes that figuring about how to bring additional housing to the city is imperative for its future success. “It’s all inter-connected when you talk about population and job and growth, and the need for housing,” he said. “Figuring out how to solve the housing puzzle is really going to be key for our region to continue to grow, and to grow equitably.”