Seattle Relaxes Development Standards to Spur Growth

A mixed bag of land-use changes, including relaxed parking standards and an increased threshold for environmental review, were passed by the Seattle City Council this week. Critics complain the legislation favors developers over residents.

In a scene playing out in cities across the country seeking to crawl out of the recession by "streamlining" land use regulations to stoke development and the creation of new jobs, Seattle passed "complex legislation" that "eases parking requirements for new development, raises the threshold for environmental review to 200 residential units from 30, and eliminates a requirement for ground-floor retail space outside of busy shopping districts," reports Lynn Thompson.

"As we move Seattle in the direction of becoming more welcoming to denser development around transit facilities, we should promote good development, rather than trying to stop development because some of it is problematic," Councilmember Richard Conlin said before the vote.

According to Thompson, neighborhood activists were particularly incensed by the relaxation of the environmental review threshold, "saying it eliminated an important avenue for communities to weigh in on new buildings."

"It takes a tool away from neighborhoods willing to sit down with developers and talk about their projects," said David Miller, president of the Maple Leaf Community Council.



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