Form revised: December 6, 2011







Contact Person/Phone:

CBO Analyst/Phone:

Planning and Development

Gordon Clowers/4-8375

Joe Regis/6-1307


Legislation Title: An ordinance related to land use, zoning and environmental review, amending Sections 23.40.006, 23.42.040, 23.42.050, 23.44.014, 23.44.041, 23.45.504, 23.45.510, 23.45.512, 23.45.514, 23.45.518, 23.45.526, 23.45.527, 23.45.529, 23.45.532, 23.45.545, 23.47A.005, 23.47A.008, 23.54.015, 23.54.016, 23.54.020, 23.55.022, 23.76.004, 23.76.006, 23.84A.032, 23.91.002, 25.05.800 and Chapter 23.52 of the Seattle Municipal Code, and adding new Sections 23.40.035 and 23.52.008 to carry out proposals for regulatory reform.


Summary of the Legislation:  The legislation is intended to encourage economic growth by providing expanded opportunities for entrepreneurship and new development, encouraging growth in Urban Centers and transit station areas consistent with the City’s Comprehensive Plan. The following is a summary of key proposals:


·         Increase eligible sites for detached accessory dwelling unit construction;

·         Simplify the renewal process for temporary use permits;

·         Increase flexibility to accommodate home-based businesses;

·         Allow a greater presence of residential uses at the ground floor of buildings along arterials in commercial zones that are outside of pedestrian-designated (P) zones and potential future P zones identified and mapped by the Department of Planning and Development (DPD);

·         Clarify the capability to include accessory dwelling units in townhouses and rowhouses; 

·         Raise State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) threshold levels for environmental review within Urban Centers and Urban Villages that contain a Station Area Overlay District while continuing to require transportation impact analysis for exempted developments and possible mitigation through a new section in Title 23;

·         Eliminate minimum parking requirements for uses in Urban Villages, Urban Centers, and the Station Area Overlay District;

·         Reduce minimum parking requirements within ¼ mile of transit routes with frequent transit service;

·         Eliminate minimum parking requirements for new development in Major Institution uses, except for hospitals, in Urban Centers or the Station Area Overlay District;



Background:  The legislation is an important part of the Mayor’s Jobs Initiative, and it also addresses the City Council’s adopted Resolution 31282 from March 2011. The reforms are intended to update the City’s codes in order to reinforce economic development objectives and stimulate economic recovery by encouraging new development, entrepreneurship and encouraging investments in Seattle. Proposed amendments would increase flexibility and reduce restrictions for a variety of land uses, encourage home-based and small startup businesses, and shorten regulatory review where it would unnecessarily delay or discourage new development. The amendments are aligned with the Comprehensive Plan’s objectives to encourage infill development in urban centers and station areas.  




Please check one of the following:


____    This legislation does not have any financial implications.


_X_     This legislation has financial implications.



Other Implications: 


a)      Does the legislation have indirect financial implications, or long-term implications? 

The Proposal’s Intended Stimulus to the Economy

The legislation is likely to induce new entrepreneurial activity and growth of small businesses as it provides expanded flexibility in codes to accommodate home-based business activities across the City.


By providing added regulatory flexibility in minimum parking requirements, accessory dwelling unit construction, and the ability to better mix uses in certain multifamily and commercial zones, the legislation would enhance the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of new development by the private and public sectors, and induce new construction with related job growth and economic benefits. The probable effects would include increased wages, new employment opportunities, added value in terms of affordable housing opportunities, and reinforcement of economic vitality in the City.


The proposal to eliminate minimum parking requirements in Urban Villages and reduce minimum parking requirements in other locations served by frequent transit could result in lower provision of off-street parking spaces over time as new development occurs. This may result in some greater demand for on-street parking.  The indirect financial implications of this increased demand might be added parking revenues from on-street parking and parking enforcement activities. 


Implications for DPD Permit Review

The legislation raises environmental review thresholds to eliminate reviews where significant adverse environmental impacts are deemed unlikely to occur or where the impact of new development is adequately addressed by City codes. Some proposed development would forego this environmental review, but would continue to undergo other required review processes including but not limited to zoning and design review.


Review of permit data indicates that the reduced volume of environmental reviews (roughly 35-40 fewer reviews per year) would not have substantial financial implications.  The average time devoted to SEPA as part of development reviews is approximately 15-20 hours.  Compared to typical permit volumes (roughly 700 permits per year), this reduction in one specific type of review would be relatively minor. 


Reduced chargeable SEPA review activity would be mitigated, in part, by increases in zoning and building permit review attributable to new development activity spurred by the proposed legislation including: new commercial or mixed-use development, accessory dwelling units, and temporary use permits.  Also, a portion of time allocated to SEPA review, perhaps up to 20-25% of typical SEPA review time, would be maintained in future DPD billings by planners’ review and coordination of decision-making materials preparation such as traffic studies or managing public input.


b) What is the financial cost of not implementing the legislation?  

Given the unstable footing of the economy at this time, not implementing this proposal may subject the City to increased loss of business and jobs, due to lost opportunities to stimulate new economic activity.


c)      Does this legislation affect any departments besides the originating department? 

No.  DPD consulted with staff from the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT). No effects upon SDOT are anticipated.


d)     What are the possible alternatives to the legislation that could achieve the same or similar objectives?

No alternatives to Land Use Code regulatory reform are identified, because the proposed amendments would directly implement regulatory relief that will reduce impediments and costs associated with new investment, entrepreneurship and housing construction in the City.


e)      Is a public hearing required for this legislation? 

Yes.  A public hearing was held on March 28, 2012, in City Council Chambers.


f)       Is publication of notice with The Daily Journal of Commerce and/or The Seattle Times required for this legislation?

A “notice of environmental determination and right to appeal” was published in the Daily Journal of Commerce and the Land Use Information Bulletin on July 11, 2011.


g)      Does this legislation affect a piece of property?

The legislation has broad applicability across the City, including in commercial, multifamily and single-family zones.


h)      Other Issues:

None anticipated.


List attachments to the fiscal note below:  None