The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) is now offering dedicated permit services for future tenants of downtown vacant storefronts and small businesses citywide. Downtown tenants and small businesses have been disproportionally impacted during this pandemic. The goal of this new service is to provide early coaching to tenants in advance of signing a lease, to minimize costly requirements, and set businesses up for success by reducing the time it takes to obtain a permit.
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.
Vacant buildings have become a familiar part of the Seattle landscape in the last few years. These structures can devastate the neighborhood, undermine quality of life, and diminish property values. Trespassing, vandalism, and other criminal activities occur with some frequency. Fires, such as the one that burnt the former Seven Gables Theater, are all too common.
New processes for inspection of vacant buildings took effect on June 1, 2019. The changes add a wider range of properties to the City’s Vacant Building Monitoring program, including all properties with active development proposals containing a vacant building. The frequency of inspections increased from once a quarter to once a month. We estimate that this will add approximately 1,200 new properties to the program this year and can reduce the risk of vacant buildings becoming a blight on the community. In the past, SDCI monitored around 100 properties each year with consistent vacant building violations.
New rules for vacant building monitoring take effect on June 1, 2019. The goal of the revised monitoring program is to help prevent the neighborhood blight commonly associated with vacant buildings.
One of the best ways to avoid problems with vacant buildings is to keep them from becoming vacant. At SDCI we’ve seen an increasing number of homes and other structures go vacant while applicants wait for their development permits to be issued. We’ve also seen an increasing number of these structures broken into by trespassers, and frequently squatters occupy the buildings. Boarding up the doors and windows and fencing the site can become a huge expense, and frequently the break-ins continue, which requires you to board the structure again. We see frequent evidence of drug use in these structures, with used syringes and other hazards left behind. It paints a costly picture.
On July 18th, the City Council’s Planning, Land Use, and Zoning Committee will discuss and potentially vote on proposed legislation that would update provisions for the maintenance and demolition of vacant buildings.