Seattle Zoning Designations

The following rundown on designations is largely from information publicly available from the Department of Planning and Development (DPD). Where I’ve written on the topic I have added links, and I have also included links DPD’s website when they have relevant information. 

Single Family 

Find details about this zone in the Department of Planning and Development’s online Single Family Zoning Chart.

Single-family 9,600
SF 9600
Areas typified by detached single family structures on lots compatible with the character of single family neighborhoods. Building type is a single dwelling unit, or with one single-family structure and one accessory unit within the same structure. 9,600 square feet is the minimum lot size required for each detached structure.

Single-family 7,200
SF 7200
Areas typified by detached single family structures on lots compatible with the character of single family neighborhoods. Building type is a single dwelling unit, or with one single-family structure and one accessory unit within the same structure. 7,200 square feet is the minimum lot size. required for each detached structure.

Residential, Single-family 5,000
SF 5000
Areas typified by detached single family structures on lots compatible with the character of single family neighborhoods. Building type is a single dwelling unit, or with one single-family structure and one accessory unit within the same structure. 5,000 square feet is the minimum lot size required for each detached structure.

Residential Small Lot
RSL
An area within an urban village that allows for the development of smaller detached homes that may be more affordable than available housing in single family zones.

Multifamily

Residential, Multifamily, Lowrise (read about updates here

Find details about this zone in the Department of Planning and Development’s online Multifamily Zoning Chart

Duplex/Triplex
LDT
Two- or three-unit structure allowed (cottage housing is also an option), with a density limit of one unit per 2,000 square feet of lot area. Maximum lot coverage is 35%, or 45% for townhouses. 400 square-foot open space per unit is required, or one unit may have access to 600 square feet of common space.

Residential, Multifamily, Lowrise 1
L1
Townhouses and cottage housing with a density limit of one unit per 1,600 square feet of lot area and a maximum lot coverage of 40% (50% for townhouses). An average of 300 square feet of open space is required per unit at ground level.

Residential, Multifamily, Lowrise 2
L2
2 to 3-story lowrise apartment building or townhouses with a density limit of one unit per 1,200 square feet of lot area and a maximum of 40% lot coverage (50% for townhouses). An average of 30% of lot area is required for open space for apartments; or 300 square feet per unit for ground-related housing.

Residential, Multifamily, Lowrise 3
L3
3-story lowrise apartment building or townhouses with a density limit of one unit per 800 square feet of lot area and a maximum of 45% lot coverage (50% for townhouses). 25% of lot area is equired for open space for apartments, or 30% if up to a third is provided in balconies or decks (300 square feet of private space per unit is allowed for ground-related housing.)

Residential, Multifamily, Lowrise 4
L4
4-story lowrise apartment building or townhouses with a density limit of one unit per 600 square feet of lot area, with a maximum lot coverage of 50%. 25% of lot area is required for open space or apartments, or 30% if up to a third is provided in balconies or decks (200 square feet of provate space per unit for townhouses + 15% of lot area).

Residential, Multifamily, Midrise
MR
Midrise apartment building with no density limit. The number of units depends on their size and lot size and there is no limit on lot coverage (building envelope is controlled by setbacks and structure width and depth limits). 25% of lot area is required for open space for apartments, or 30% if up to a third is provided in balconies or decks.

Residential, Multifamily, Highrise HR
Highrise apartment building that steps back with height and has no density limit. The number of units depends on their size. There is no limit on lot coverage (building envelope is controlled by setbacks and structure width and depth limits). 50% of lot area is required, half of which may be provided in balconies or decks.

Residential-Commercial
RC
Allows certain types of commercial uses at the street-level, within structures that contain at least one dwelling unit.

Commercial

Find details about this zone in the Department of Planning and Development’s online guide to Commercial zoning.

Neighborhood Commercial 1
NC1
A small shopping area that provides primarily convenience retail sales and services to the surrounding residential neighborhood, such as small grocery stores, hair salons, and coffee shops. Building types are small commercial structures, multi-story mixed use and residential structures. Non-residential uses typically occupy the street front. 10,000 square feet is the maximum size for some commercial uses.

Neighborhood Commercial 2
NC2
A moderately-sized pedestrian-oriented shopping area that provides a full range of retail sales and services to the surrounding neighborhood, such as medium-sized grocery stores, drug stores, coffee shops, customer service offices, or medical/dental facilites. Building types are single-purpose commercial structures, multi-story mixed use and residential structures. Non-residential uses typically occupy the street front. 25,000 square feet is the maximum size for some commercial uses.

Neighborhood Commercial 3
NC3
A larger pedestrian-oriented shopping district serving the surrounding neighborhood and a larger community, citywide or regional clientele; allowing comparison shopping among a range of retail businesses. Land uses include supermarkets, restaurants, offices, hotels, clothing shops, business support services, and residences that are compatible with the area’s mixed-use character. Building types are single-purpose commercial structures, multi-story mixed use and residential structures. Non-residential uses typically occupy the street front. 25,000 square feet is the maximum size for some commercial uses.

Seattle Mixed
SM
A zone that provides for a wide range of uses, to encourage development of the area into a mixed-use neighborhood. See more details in the code, Chapter 23.48

Commercial 1
C1
An auto-oriented, primarily retail/service commercial area that serves surrounding neighborhoods as well as a citywide or regional clientele, such as large supermarkets, building supplies and household goods, and auto sales and repairs. Building types are a variety of commercial structures with extensive surface parking, and multi-story office or residential buildings. There is no size limit for most uses; 25,000-40,000 square feet for warehouse and wholesale showroom uses; 35,000 square feet or size of lot, whichever is greater, for offices uses.

Commercial 2
C2
An auto-oriented, primarily non-retail/service commercial area, characterized by larger lots, parking, and a wide range of commercial uses serving community, citywide or regional markets, such as warehouses, wholesale, research and development, and manufacturing uses. Residential use generally not allowed, but exceptions meeting specific criteria may be considered through a conditional use process. Building types are a variety of types and layouts, including single-story warehouse or manufacturing structures with extensive surface parking and loading areas, and multi-story buildings containing office or other non-retail uses. No size limits for must uses; 35,000 square feet or size of lot, which ever is greater, for office uses.

Downtown Zones

The following zones have complex standards that cannot be easily summarized. Please check the Seattle Municipal Code, Chapter 23.49  to find the information appropriate for each region.

Downtown Office Core 1 — DOC1
Downtown Office Core 2 — DOC2
Downtown Retail Core — DRC
Downtown Mixed Commercial– DMC
Downtown Mixed Residential — DMR
Pioneer Square Mixed — PSM
International District Mixed — IDM
International District Residential — IDR
Downtown Harborfront 1 — DH1
Downtown Harborfront 2 — DH2
Pike Market Mixed — PMM

Industrial

Find details about this zone in the Department of Planning and Development’s online Industrial Zoning Chart

General Industrial 1
IG1
General and heavy manufacturing, commercial uses, subject to some limits, high impact uses as a conditional use, institutional uses in existing buildings, entertainment uses other than adult, transportation and utility services, and salvage and recycling uses. No maximum height limit; except retail, office, entertainment, research and development, and institution uses which are limited to 30’, 45’, 65’, 85’ as designated on the Official Land Use Map. Maximum size of use is 30,000 square feet for retail sales and services and entertainment uses except spectator sports facilities; 50,000 square feet for office uses.

General Industrial 2
IG2
General and heavy manufacturing, commercial uses, subject to some limits, high impact uses as a conditional use, institutional uses in existing buildings, entertainment uses other than adult, transportation and utility services, and salvage and recycling uses. No maximum height limit; except retail, office, entertainment, research and development, and institution uses which are limited to 30’, 45’, 65’, 85’ as designated on the Official Land Use Map. Maximum size of use is 75,000 square feet for retail sales and services and entertainment uses except spectator sports facilities; 100,000 square feet for office uses.

Industrial Buffer
IB
Light and general manufacturing, commercial use subject to some limits, some transportation services, entertainment uses other than adult, institutions generally in existing buildings, salvage and recycling uses. No maximum height limit; except retail, office, entertainment, research and development, and institution uses which are limited to 30’, 45’, 65’, 85’ as designated on the Official Land Use Map. For lots across a street from single-family or lowrise zones, see Seattle’s Industrial Zoning Chart for limits. Maximum size of use is 75,000 square feet for retail sales and services and entertainment uses except spectator sports facilities; 100,000 square feet for office uses.

Industrial Commercial
IC
Light and general manufacturing, commercial use subject to some limits, some transportation services, entertainment uses other than adult, institutions generally in existing buildings, salvage and recycling uses. The maximum structure height is 30’, 45’, 65’, 85’ as designated on the Official Land Use Map. Maximum size of use is 75,000 square feet for retail sales and services and entertainment uses except spectator sports facilities; 100,000 square feet for office uses.

8 Responses to Seattle Zoning Designations

  1. Pingback: Your wish is our command: Seattle Zoning Designation page is live! | Seattle's Land Use Code

  2. Bill Batt says:

    Yes, I’m a proponent of land value taxation and site on the boards of the Schalkenbach Foundation — schalkenbach.org, the Center for the Study of Economics — urbantools.org, and the INternational Union for Land value taxation – theIU.org. Would love to be in closer touch and work with you on a common agenda if you’re interested.

  3. Jim Robinson says:

    I see documents dated in 2004 that reference residential density limits for the NC and C zones. I don’t see density in the current SMC for these zones, only FARs for varying heights. Do you know when this changed? Also, which zone is a better for multi-family development, NC1 or C1, in your opinion?

    I’ve enjoyed your blog very much!

  4. Hi Jim,

    I’ve had this message on my ‘to do’ list for awhile.

    The challenge with the code is that it is amended in a weird way. Imagine geologic time, with layer upon layer building up over the centuries. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact time that something changed.

    Now there is an answer, but I haven’t been around long enough to know.

    Part of it is that we’ve also chosen to focus on FAR as a compromise. It allows a set level of density and a flexibility on how to fill the number of units allowed on a site. I don’t like FAR, although I like its pragmatism.

    As far as multifamily development, my favorite is L3, it provides a lot of density with minimal height, bulk and scale. In the end the answer lies in diversity of use, not FAR or worrying about density.

    Anyway, it’s a long way of saying “I’m flummoxed” by a lot of this even after having read it all.

  5. Pingback: Development Potential in Tukwila - Seattle Transit Blog

  6. MarkSJohnson says:

    Density limits have not been part of the NC zones since at least the ealry 1990s, and I am not even sure they ever were. When NC was created in the late 1980s, the idea was to allow residential development in commercial zones only in limited circumstances, when the demand for commercial use was determined to be low. The development standards were essentially concerned with the bulk and scale only. A mixed use building was barely considered a possibility, and in those days, I understand the banks could hardly figure out how to structure the financing for one, they were so rare. But the lack of density limits was very tempting and developers all but abandoned the L-3 zones (after rules were tightened adding density limits and additional bulk limits were added) and turned to the NC zones as the place to build apartments. It was a good lesson in how much density limits really affect the marketplace.

  7. Lonnie says:

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