Chapter 23.45 Multi-Family: Part 5 Standards for Other Principal Uses Permitted Outright and Accessory Uses in All Multifamily Zones

The title for the next section of the code is convoluted and follows Parts 3 and 4 which are empty. But this is where we’ll find the Midrise and Highrise designations. Let’s start at the beginning with the chart I referenced earlier, 23.45.504: Permitted and Prohibited Uses.

Permitted and Prohibited Uses by Zone
Uses LDT, L1, L2, L3 and L4 MR and HR
A. Residential use P P
B. Institutions P/CU1 P/CU1
C. Public Facilities
C.1. Uses in public facilities that are similar to uses permitted
outright in this Section 23.45.504 P2 P2
C.2. Police precinct stations; fire stations; public boat moorages;utility service uses; and other similar public facilities that meet the development standards for institutions in 23.45.570 P P
C.3. Police precinct stations; fire stations; public boat moorages;utility service uses; and other similar public facilities not meeting the development standards for institutions in 23.45.570 Type IV or Type V decision3 Type IV or Type V decision3
C.4. New public facilities not listed in subsections C.1 and C.2 of this Table A 23.45.504, and major expansions of such public facilities Type IV or Type V decision3 Type IV or Type V decision3
D. Park and pool and park and ride lots X/CU4 X/CU4
E. Parks and playgrounds including customary uses P P
F. Ground floor commercial uses5 RC P
G. Medical Service Uses other than permitted ground floor commercial uses P/X6 P/CU/X6
H. Uses not otherwise permitted in landmark structures CU CU
I. Cemeteries P/X7 P/X7
J. Community Gardens P P
K. All other uses X X

I was probably too harsh on the chart before. It’s not that bad. But how’s this for a circular reference: if you follow one of the footnotes it leads to SMC 23.51A.004. That section says:

A. Public facilities in multifamily zones are regulated by Section 23.45.504 [the chart!]
in addition to the provisions in this Section 23.51A.004

All I can say again is that all this referring doesn’t help.

The midrise and highrise have a lot of the same kind of language to guide the location of other kinds of uses like institutions and schools in those zones. There are also provisions, like those in the single family zones, for conditional and accessory use, and many of these tend to be about the kinds of office space or other uses that can be used in the zone rather than other residential uses. And there are provisions here that are absent elsewhere, at least so far, in the code about garbage collection. Garbage and recycling become bigger issues when there are 300 people living in one spot.

But let’s look at midrise and highrise.

Base FAR 3.2
Maximum FAR 4.25
Height Limit 60-85 Feet
With Incentive Zoning 75-85 Feet

MR Capitol Hill, Belmont and Howell

And here is highrise:

Base FAR 8.0 on lots 15,000 square feet or less in size; 7.0 on lots larger than 15,000 square feet
Maximum FAR 13 for structures 240′ or less in height; 14 for structures over 240′
Height Limit 160 Feet
with Incentive zoning 240 or 300 Feet

HR Minor and University -- Sutton Place

There isn’t much that separates the MR and HR other than height. Both can have commercial on the ground floor, both can access incentive zoning for more height, both can benefit from transfer of development rights from owners that sell their development rights in exchange for keeping their historic buildings in tact. I may be missing some subtle distinctions, but I think mostly the issues these developments face are not too dissimilar from any other designation: making things pencil within the envelope.

And the envelope once again is the issue. The City’s attention is primarily on height, bulk, and scale and some trading of FAR. These buildings can, like everything else, have great design or look terrible. They can function well or not. I think Sutton Place is a really great building. It has a swingin’ sixties look to it and the colors and materials stand out in a neighborhood of mediocre buildings.

From what I gather, there isn’t a lot of MR or HR building going on right now and if there is it’s mostly downtown. I have no problem with this type of development further out from the downtown core. Part of what might help that is expanding TDR for landmark buildings so that it is citywide. That way there would be more receiving sites to put the additional height.

Also, I think this designation should be the most affordable in town. But I don’t think there is enough of it. When I was a freshman in college I lived with one other person in a room with a bathroom down the hall. I would have probably gladly lived in something similar, especially if I had my own bathroom, when I first moved back to Seattle.

Some of this is starting to happen, but building more midrise and highrise rental housing could be a really great thing for affordability and transitional housing for young people, or people who don’t need or want much space. There is, as I mentioned in my last post on this topic, an aversion to this level of density. But properly organized and implemented it could provide a lot of good housing for people in Seattle.

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