North Beacon Hill rezoning passed by City Council

Possible 65' development on Beacon Avenue, depicted in the Neighborhood Plan Update.
Monday, on an 8-0 vote, the Seattle City Council passed Council Bill 117375, an ordinance that rezones about 12 acres of land in the North Beacon Hill Residential Urban Village as well as expanding the boundaries of the North Beacon Hill Station Area Overlay District. The rezoned and expanded areas may be seen on this PDF. You can see video of the Council’s comments and their vote on this ordinance here.

Most notably, some areas immediately surrounding Beacon Hill Station have been rezoned to NC2P-65. This means Neighborhood Commercial 2 (“A moderately-sized pedestrian-oriented shopping area that provides a full range of retail sales and services to the surrounding neighborhood”), Pedestrian-Designated zone (“Preserves and encourages an intensely pedestrian-oriented, retail shopping district where non-auto modes of transportation, both to and within the district, are strongly favored”), 65 feet tall. (Information about the definition of the various commercial zones may be found here.) Previous zoning in much of this area was NC2-40 or NC2P-40, though the El Centro property which was also rezoned was previously zoned SF5000 (Single-family, 5000-square-foot lot size).

Some locations saw a change in their zoning from either LR2 (Low-Rise 2) or SF5000 to LR3. The definitions of the different low-rise zones may be seen in this chart.

This change means we could begin to see buildings up to 65′ tall in “downtown” Beacon Hill. Currently, we know of only two potential projects planned for the area; the 17th and McClellan apartment/retail building (which will be built to 65′ now that the zoning has changed) and the El Centro south lot project which is in the early planning stages.

7 thoughts on “North Beacon Hill rezoning passed by City Council”

  1. FWIW, if anyone is like me and was having a hard time conceptualizing what a 65 foot high building might look like (say on the corner of 17th and McClellan), here is a picture of a relatively small 65 foot high mixed use building on E. Union Street in Capitol Hill (just west of the new Restaurant Zoe, which used to be the La Panzanella Bakery).

    I’m not sure how the lot size of that building compares to the 17th and McClellan building, but seeing the building above helped me to at least get a better mental picture of the scale.

    I’ve been by the Union Street building many times (I think a friend of mine might have even lived there at one time), parked across from it, etc., and it doesn’t seem ridiculously tall for the street.

    Anyway, I’m a little embarrassed I didn’t explore this more carefully before now. I think when I read about heights being increased to 65 feet, I must have imagined more like 85 feet in my mind.

    Perhaps even a 5-6 story building is too high for some people’s taste, but that scale doesn’t seem at all unreasonable to me around the light rail station.

  2. j-lon, thank you for your post. I was utterly baffled by resistance to this upzoning, because to me 65 feet seems like exactly the right size for a neighborhood business district based around public transit. Maybe not everyone was visualizing the same thing.

    I haven’t been a fan of the pedestrian overlay because it doesn’t make sense with buildings capped at a couple stories — that’s a bad combination for small businesses and the property owners that rent to them. But with 5-6 story buildings, we could actually have the density to make the pedestrian overlay work even though it doesn’t change the fact that a lot of cars will continue to drive through from points south. To me the upzone justifies a lot of what people have been fighting for for a long time.

  3. Does anyone know when in the “process” the additonal zoning changes were added to the additional blocks since the prior plan was posted and shared with the neighborhood (the notice and comment was on the old plan).

    The j-lon linked building has 7 stories which will seem pretty giant for Beacon Hill.

  4. @Brook: Agree. That doesn’t seem like a ridiculous scale to me at all. It’s not cavernous by any means. Imagine the building north of the library maybe twice as high. That’s not really very high, especially in what is supposed to be a commercial center of an urban neighborhood.

    @Maura: I don’t know when the changes happened. All I know is that I have walked and driven by that building I linked to on E. Union countless times and never once thought, “Wow, that’s huge.”

    The building next door to it to the east is a single story warehouse (Zoe) and the building to the west looks like maybe an NC 40 building. The buildings across the street are also NC 40. Until recently, the building on the northeast corner of E. Union and 14th (where Skillet is now) was also a low rise building. Against this backdrop, 1310 East Union Street never seemed out of scale with its surroundings (which really weren’t any more high rise than the buildings in on Beacon Ave S).

    If you head south from E Union down 14th Ave, you head into a residential neighborhood and also parts of the SU campus that have until recently been pretty low rise.

    I guess my point is that it isn’t a particularly jarring transition in my opinion. Yes, Union does kind of delineate the more urban commercial part of Capitol Hill/Madison from the residential neighborhood to the south. But it mostly makes sense.

    It doesn’t seem like our neighborhood center would be harmed by the additional this sort of height and infill either. As Brook says, it’s what makes the pedestrian aspect work. It also means maybe enough people to sustain more restaurants, shops, etc.

  5. The building housing El Centro has been 65 ft for a few decades now. It seems to work.

  6. Is there a way to find out about planned development of properties and upcoming sales? I want to know in advance if my landlord is planning to sell the property I’m renting.

  7. I don’t know how it could be possible to know what people are thinking about doing until they do something concrete to make it happen. You could always check the DPD website and look at permits for your address, to see if someone has applied for permits to develop. You could also check on real estate sites that show current sales to see if he put the place up for sale without telling you. But other than that, I don’t think there’s anyway you can know what someone might do.

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