Chapter 23.50: Industrial Zoning

I’ve already written about where I think we ought to take industrial lands. But I did that before a rundown of the designation itself. So here is my quick take on industrial lands. For my way of thinking, the most fascinating zone is the Industrial Commercial Zone, which in today’s Seattle is functioning as a kind of grey area. It’s interesting enough I will probably write about post just about IC.

In general 23.50 is like most other designation section of the code, outlining what can be done and what can’t, and outlining specifics about height, lot coverage, and FAR. But I feel like what stands out about the industrial section of the code is the emphasis on use over form. There is much more worry about what’s going on in and around the buildings than how big they are or how much FAR is at stake.

As I mentioned before, a lot of battles have been fought over what exactly constitutes industrial use. Often, over time, uses in an industrial space can start to change as technology improves production techniques. Also some industrial operations start to add more office space to manage other aspects of the work of the factory.

But there are other uses that can start to appear embedded within zones designated for industrial use, creating a kind of encroachment by non-industrial uses that, in the view of industrial preservationists, can spread like cancer on the whole manufacturing and industrial district. The chart above illustrates the codes efforts to get a handle on these other uses based on the space they use.

In a way, the obsession with use is a refreshing break from all the sweat and tears over Heightbulkenscale. The hardscrabble industrial zone is closer to what we want for the rest of the city in this one sense. Because of the obsession on use, a lot less time is spent arguing over rooflines, fenestration, balconies, and whatnot. That doesn’t mean factories can’t be sexy too.

I think that factory is checking you out!

Industrial zoning in Seattle tends to follow a continuum based on intensity rather than density. The zones go from heaviest, dirtiest, and loudest to a transitional zone that presumably can function well adjacent to commercially or multifamily zones.

I am going to include the zoning charts from the DPD because the language is quite interesting. The words indicated a zone under assault from other uses and focused on an economic development outcome. Again, I like industrial zoning because there is much more means to end language used. Here’s the language from IG 2:

The purpose of the IG1 zone is to pro- tect marine and rail-related industrial areas from an inappropriate level of unrelated retail and commercial uses by limiting these uses to a density or size limit lower than that allowed for industrial uses.

And from IC:

The intent of the Industrial Commercial zone is to promote development of businesses which incorporate a mix of industrial and commercial activities, including light manufacturing and research and development, while accom- modating a wide range of other employment activities.

I’d love to see this kind of language elsewhere in the code. Say in a broad residential designation:

The intent of the Residential zone is to promote housing choices that incorporate a mix of residential and commercial activities, including light single family houses, cottages, multifamily housing, retail uses, and transit while accommodating a wide range of other employment, entertainment, arts and cultural activities, and pedestrian friendly uses.

Here are the zones. You’ll see that, to some degree, what’s out there kind of all looks the same to the untrained eye.

And actual piece of IG 1 doesn’t look all that intense from the outside.

IG 1 8th and Lander

And the IG 2 across the street doesn’t look too loud or smelly.

IG 2 8th and Lander, across the street from IG 1

This IC looks like a roller rink or arena football stadium.

IC Holgate and Occidental

And across the street is a bar-b-q joint and parking.

IC Holgate and Occidental, across the street from above

This IB in Ballard could work almost anywhere and maybe uses like this ought to be more prevalent adjacent to residential.

IB NW Market and 26th

My take away from the industrial zones, is that we don’t need to hold them sacrosanct. And I think we can learn from the means to end language in the industrial zoning section of the code. I think we’re well on our way, but mixing industrial uses into neighborhood commercial and residential, and neighborhood residential into industrial, is going to take some getting used to–and probably some practice.

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