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PI: Upzoning South Lake Union Would Have "Significant Impacts" on Traffic

By Erica C. Barnett March 1, 2011

The PI.com reports on an environmental study of proposals to increase building heights in South Lake Union, which concludes that upzoning the neighborhood would have "significant impacts" on traffic in the area, particularly on Dexter Ave. N, but would have only minimal additional environmental impacts, including shadows, view blockage, and glare. And the city can mitigate the effects of increased traffic by promoting things like car-sharing, incentives for biking or walking, and setting maximum parking levels for new developments.
[E]xisting zoning already allows development that would cause many streets and intersections in the area to fail standards. But the increased development would exacerbate problems and cause more streets and intersections to fail, planners wrote.

The planned Mercer West Corridor Project would reduce the impact on Mercer Street corridor and improve pedestrian and bicycle circulation, planners wrote.

“Since no other roadway capacity expansion projects are planned or considered feasible,” they added, the city could mitigate other impacts by improving facilities for bicycling, walking and use of public transportation, adding car-sharing incentives, capping the number of parking spaces that could be built and separating parking costs from total property costs, “allowing buyers or tenants to forego buying or leasing parking spaces.” These measures would reduce afternoon vehicle trips by about 21 percent, planners said.

The city's proposals (they're considering three, plus a mandatory do-nothing alternative) would increase maximuma heights in the neighborhood to between 160 feet and 400 feet, enough extra height to create space for between 23,000 and 31,500 new jobs and between 11,500 and 21,000 new homes.
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