From Councilmember Sally Clark:
The lowrise portion of the “multifamily code” (MFC) is the part of our Seattle Municipal Code that defines how development can occur in zones focused on higher density residential uses – the rules that apply to building duplexes, townhouses, or apartment buildings. We last comprehensively reviewed the code in the 1980’s before Seattleites created neighborhood plans, before the state created the Growth Management Act, and before we adopted Seattle’s Comprehensive Plan. It’s time for an update.
In February 2009, former Mayor Nickels delivered a proposal to the City Council to suggest how we might go about updating the code, which included updating standards for the midrise and highrise zones in Seattle. The Council’s committee that handles land use issues, which I chair, chose to break the legislation into two pieces. Last December, the Council amended and adopted updated changes to the midrise and highrise zones, which left standards in the lowrise zones to be addressed in 2010. The City Council’s Committee on the Built Environment (COBE) took a pretty sizable chunk of the first half of this year to analyze lowrise, break it open, and put it back together again.
Over the past few years I’ve heard strong concerns about townhouse designs, livability and neighborhood character (particularly at June 2008 ‘s PLUNC workshop, “Townhouses: Can the Patient be saved?” at the Capitol Hill Arts Center). As we look for ways to stop the bad and encourage the good, the comments and feedback I’ve heard from you has been invaluable.
As we update the MFC I intend do more than just stop the bad. I hope we can use this as an opportunity to appeal to our better angels of architecture and planning and try to craft a code that helps us achieve really great outcomes. I’ve seen inspiring examples from some talented architects and heard great ideas from regular citizens. I think we’ve worked together to develop a code update that results in great homes and great neighborhoods.
Many issues, concerns, and suggestions were raised during the Council committee’s review of the Department of Planning and Development’s (DPD’s) proposed multifamily code update. In addition to Councilmembers’ concerns and suggestions about the initial proposal, valuable input was provided by the Planning Commission, architects and design professionals, and the public. In August 2009, the Council commissioned three teams of experts to perform an analysis of the effects of the proposed changes on lowrise zones, which was also very informative. Following that feedback, COBE evaluated the original proposal and shaped a new piece of legislation to review in an effort to more proactively encourage better housing design.
More details here: http://seattle.gov/council/clark/2009townhomes.htm