On August 16, 2021 the City Council adopted Ordinance 126421 to add more flexibility for the types of uses allowed to occupy storefronts in downtown, including the Pioneer Square Preservation District, and in South Lake Union. This flexibility will apply on certain streets where the allowed uses are limited. This legislation is part of the City’s overall downtown revitalization efforts. The legislation will complement the revitalization efforts by changing the code to make it easier to fill vacant storefronts. The legislation will become effective in mid-September 2021, 30 days after the Mayor signs it.
Separately, OPCD and SDCI are working with other City departments on ways to help Black, Indigenous, and People of Color business owners and other business owners to navigate the permit process for street-level businesses.
Highlights of the legislation include:
- New types of uses at the street level. The legislation would allow more types of uses, including art installations, co-working spaces, community centers, and medical offices, among others. The new uses would provide more options to fill empty spaces. To help these new uses be visually interesting, we would also require the tenant’s most visual activities in the storefront.
- Temporary flexibility to support recovery. The ordinance would be in place for 12 months from the effective date.
- Duration of permit. Permits issued under this legislation, like any other would allow the use to remain in the storefronts after the temporary rules expire. The permitted uses would become nonconforming, meaning they could stay in perpetuity but not expand at street-level. This would allow a tenant to recuperate over time the costs of obtaining permits and making improvements.
- Where the temporary flexibility would apply. The legislation would apply to areas downtown and in South Lake Union with street-level use restrictions, including the retail core (between Virginia and University) and in Belltown (along 1st/2nd/3rd Ave).
The legislation can be found by searching for Ordinance 126421 on the Seattle City Clerk’s website.