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New Legislation Encourages Seattle Developers To Create Space Between Towers

Escala Condominium, Seattle

After continuous lobbying by downtown residents with concerns about crowding, views and sunlight, the Seattle City Council approved legislation to provide a regulatory incentive for developers to build taller and thinner buildings in the Downtown Office Core 2 zone. Developers who volunteer to adhere to the standards will be allowed to construct buildings in the area north of Westlake park with a slightly greater total floor area.

The new legislation will also allow the city’s construction department director to increase maximum heights from 550 to 640 feet on blocks in the zone where buildings already exist, while reducing the maximum size of floor plates.

The lobbying began in 2015 when a 45-story tower planned for a property across the alley from a 271-unit condominium tower, Escala, prompted residents to start asking for tower spacing, the Seattle Times reports. Spacing regulations are already mandatory in many parts of downtown, but had not been approved for the Downtown Office Core 2 zone.

In June 2016, the Downtown Residents Alliance hired former council member Peter Steinbeck to file a legal challenge to Mayor Ed Murray’s plan to upzone downtown housing. In exchange for the upzone, developers would be required to contribute to the city’s affordable housing. Affordable housing advocates protested the legal challenge and the Downtown Residents Alliance dropped the case. The Alliance then took up its cause directly with the city council. Council member Sally Bagshaw championed the legislation and brought it to a vote at the end of July.