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Planning Commission Recommends Greener, Denser Development

By Erica C. Barnett September 10, 2009

The city's Planning Commission—which just last week urged the city council to expand cottage housing throughout the city (a controversial proposition whose opponents claim it will end single-family housing in Seattle)—wrote another letter to the council today, this one urging council members to go greener and denser when it revises to multi-family zoning in Seattle. Essentially, the commission is proposing a more liberal interpretation of the code that would simplify the convoluted rules governing height restrictions, allowing buildings on hills to be somewhat taller on the sloping side. The current code requires developers to measure the grade at every point on the site, and "is widely regarded as one of the most complicated aspects of using the land-use code," the letter says.

The commission also made some interesting green recommendations. One would require the city to look at how "green" a building is systemically, rather than just checking to see if it uses green building materials, for example. That change would encourage denser, more urban development, because, in the commission's words, "Multifamily homes that lie within the urban boundary are inherently more sustainable than single family homes constructed on formerly vacant land in suburban or rural areas." They also urged the city to get rid of minimum parking requirements in urban centers and reduce parking requirements in other areas, and to bar low-density townhouses in mid-rise zones, restricting them to low-rise residential areas.

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