A number of vacant and underused lots are currently sprinkled around the city. The economic recession has introduced uncertainty into the development process and limited prospects for new development in the near-term. Many development proposals are now awaiting the return of the capital markets and local demand. When project planning and construction is halted on a site for economic and financial reasons, the result can be a vacant lot or an unfinished hole in the ground. These may pose a safety hazard as well as create an unsightly condition. Vacant or underused property can be particularly troublesome in business districts or otherwise high-activity areas such as downtown and Center City neighborhoods.
DPD is proposing legislation to establish a pilot program to promote more active use of vacant and underused lots. The pilot would accomplish the following:
- Make it easier to allow active uses, such as food vendors and retail kiosks, on lots in commercial and mixed-use areas such as downtown and neighborhood business districts
- Require accompanying active uses when allowing short-term parking (parking for business customers) on lots where construction projects are stalled in areas where principal use parking (parking for commuters) is currently restricted (i.e. downtown, South Lake Union and other business districts)
Highlights of the pilot program include:
- Permits for active uses would have a term of one year, and would not be renewable, but a new permit could be applied for each year to extend the use.
- Active uses would be required adjacent to the street lot lines of any parking permitted under the pilot.
- Customer parking would be permitted for a term of three years without renewal (the longer term would recognize the higher cost of improvements including lighting, landscaping and screening).
- The DPD director would have discretionary authority to adjust certain standards and to approve active uses not listed in the code that are similar and meet the intent to provide for interesting and active streetscapes.
- Lots within a special review district or landmark district would not be eligible, in order to protect the sensitive nature of these areas.
- The results of the pilot program would be evaluated to inform future possible code amendments.
In addition, the Seattle Design Commission’s Holding Patterns may provide ideas for reactivating lots that could be considered as part of the pilot program.
For more information, please visit DPD’s website, www.seattle.gov/dpd/planning/VacantUnderusedLot/, or contact:
Mike Podowski, Planner