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Council Member testifies in Olympia on behalf of renters
Council Member Tom Rasmussen spoke to State Senate leaders about Seattle's condominium conversion problems. Read more about the issue and his testimony to lawmakers.

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LOCAL HEADLINES

Local Headlines:
5 Things You Should Know about Seattle’s Pay by Phone Parking   11/12/2013 KPLU
Amazon: Stay tuned Seattle, Sunday package deliveries coming soon   11/12/2013 KIRO
City Council wants to add $1M to speed building of downtown protected bike lanes   11/12/2013 Seattle Bike Blog
Seattle’s $1M waterfront art budget stirs controversy  11/1/2013 KOMO
Council—and their Advisors—Question McGinn’s Downtown Spending Request  10/28/2013 Publicola
Read more local headlines...


WATCH VIDEOS

Watch Videos:
The Future of Industrial Lands  9/24/2007
C.R. Douglas moderates a forum on industrial land use. Planel members include Dave Freiboth, Executive Secretary, King County Labor Council Lise Kenworthy, Marine Attorney, past President, Seattle MarineBusiness Coalition, John Odland, Vice President, MacMillan-Piper, Bill Oseran, Owner, Seattle Textile Company and Tony To, Chair, Seattle Planning Commission. Forum hosted by Hosted by Seattle City Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck, also of the Seattle Planning Commission.
Watch Video
Downtown Seattle Association: State of Downtown 2007 Downtown Seattle Association: State of Downtown 2007  2/26/2007
The Downtown Seattle Association and The Mayor’s Office of Economic Development hold their third annual State of Downtown Economic Forum.
Watch Video
Matthew Stadler: What Has Become of Cities? Matthew Stadler: What Has Become of Cities?  1/30/2007
Matthew Stadler is a Portland-based novelist and journalist. His novels examine the tension between imagination and reality. A regular contributor to The Stranger and 2006 winner of a United States Artists fellowship, he has recently examined the changing American city and the misunderstandings that divide citizens in the center from those in the suburbs. He suggests that we can no longer locate urbanity in the center, nor declare its absence from the periphery. Instead, urbanity permeates the whole. Stadler examines new research about the origins of cities and the "Zwischenstadt" or "in-between city" of western North America.
Watch Video
Watch additional videos...

ISSUE IN-DEPTH

Background
In the spring of 1989 Seattle voters passed Initiative 31, Citizens' Alternative Plan (CAP), which set density and height limits on new construction in downtown Seattle. The measure limited office building height to 450 feet, new building height to 85 feet, and 500,000 square feet of additional development per a year until 1994. After 1994, the limit was raised to 1 million square feet.

On January 6th, 2005, Mayor Greg Nickels revealed a proposal to change land use requirements for Downtown's commercial core, the Denny Triangle, and portions of Belltown. "Seattle is expected to grow by 100,000 people over the next 20 years. We’re working to build great new neighborhoods in the Center City to help absorb that growth and help protect our great single-family neighborhoods," said Nickels. Proposed changes would not affect the retail core, the International District, or Pioneer Square neighborhoods.

A final environmental impact statement (FEIS) was also released in January 2005 by the Department of Planning and Development. The FEIS emphasizes "a denser office core, complemented by an active retail core, surrounded by mixed use areas that transition to lower densities at the periphery is retained by the proposed zoning system". Additionally, planned changes to increase the height of downtown buildings will include the following:

  • Office buildings in the city's core would raise from 450 to 700 feet. This would place them just under the city's second-tallest building, the Washington Mutual Tower.
  • Building heights would increase from 360 to 600 feet in a expanded commercial office core in the Denny Triangle.
  • In mixed downtown commercial areas residential high-rises would increase from 240 to 400 feet.
  • Buildings closest to Pike Place Market would remain capped at 125 feet.

In August 2005, the City Council released a report, Downtown Height and Density Review (pdf), from Vancouver B.C. planning consultants that reviewed the Mayor's proposal. In addition, A Future of Downtown Seattle Public Forum was held on August 15, 2005 where the consultants' recommendations were shared and community feedback was taken.

On December 8th, 2005, Council memberPeter Steinbrueck unveiled a plan designed to augment the Mayor’s land use proposal to create a downtown that will attract residents and reduce sprawl. A few highlights from the plan, A Plan for a More Livable Downtown (pdf), include:

  • $20 per square foot be designated for affordable housing instead of the Mayor's proposed $10 per square foot
  • A downtown historic resources survey to identify our historic buildings and avoid their demolishment
  • Downtown developments should adhere to the “Silver” LEED standard.
  • Creation of a Belltown Park and Community Center
  • Decrease proposed building height limits in the Denny Triangle, at the same time, allow increased building heights in the Central Business District
  • Conduct an assessment of how to make it safer to bicycle downtown
  • Review a map of Council member Steinbrueck's Preliminary Recommendations (pdf)

The latest news:

Council Member supports Senate bill for tenants' rights

The increasing number of apartments being converted into condominiums has caught the attention of state and local lawmakers.

Council Member Tom Rasmussen recently testified before the Senate Consumer Protection and Housing Committee in Olympia. In his January 25 testimony, Rasmussen spoke in favor of the proposed Condo Conversion bill which would strengthen tenants' rights who may be forced out of their apartments if owners opted to convert to condos.

Rasmussen, who is Chair of the Housing, Human Services and Health Committee, testified that last year in Seattle, 2,352 apartments were converted into condos. That's up from 1,551 conversions in 2005 and 430 in 2004. While these tenants are offered the chance to buy these condos, many can't afford the high asking price. For those who have lived in the same apartment for decades, the move can be very devastating both emotionally and financially, Rasmussen stated.

Currently, the bill is expected to improve tenants' rights by offering a $500 maximum moving reimbursement for low-income individuals, increasing the required moving notice from 90 to 120 days, asking landlords to offer helpful moving information, and delaying conversion construction until tenants have fully moved out. Rasmussen also proposed a few changes to the bill including adding more relocation assistance and earlier notification.

Read more about Council Member Rasmussen's testimony to the lawmakers.

Learn more about Senate Bill 5031.

Resources and Contacts

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What are your thoughts about Downtown's Growth, changing height and density limits, and the City's involvement? Ideas for improving this webpage? Share your thoughts with the Seattle Channel at contact@seattlechannel.org

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