Lowrise Housing

On December 13, 2011, the City Council approved Ordinance 123495 revising the rule for multifamily lowrise zones. The changes:

  • Reduce the number of multifamily zones from five to three
  • Encourage a diversity of housing types including townhomes, rowhouses, cottages, apartments, and auto-court townhomes
  • Require new design features to make multifamily housing more attractive
  • Provide incentives for "green building" and hiding parking
  • Use the City's "Green Factor" to encourage tree preservation or planting
  • Adjust height limits to be consistent with height limits in single-family zones
  • Allow shared open space and larger usable common areas
  • Eliminate parking requirements for projects within targeted growth areas near frequent transit service
  • Waive density limits for certain housing types that are exceptionally well designed
  • Use a new flexible standard of measuring floor space called "Floor Area Ratio"
  • Require "Streamlined Design Review" for townhouses with three or more units
  • Created a new height measurement technique that applies to multifamily and other zones

Most of the new regulations for low rise housing were effective April 19, 2011.

Midrise and Highrise Housing

On December 21, 2009, the City Council approved Ordinance 123209 revising the rules for multifamily midrise and highrise zones. The changes:

  • Update the rezone criteria for midrise and highrise zones
  • Consolidate provisions for public facilities and schools in residential zones
  • Apply "Floor Area Ratio" as a standard of measuring floor space
  • Set new structure heights, in some cases, and new setbacks and separations between buildings
  • Set new width and depth limits, and average floor size limits on larger lots, in highrise zones
  • Apply development standards to lots over 9,000 square feet in midrise zones
  • Apply residential amenity standards, the Seattle Green Factor, and green building requirements
  • Establish incentive zoning to encourage affordable housing
  • Eliminate or reduce minimum parking requirements

The new regulations for midrise and highrise housing were effective on February 19, 2010

Key Milestones

Public Involvement

  • April 2011: DPD held a stakeholder workshop on multifamily lowrise code changes
  • October 2007: DPD hosted an open house on multifamily midrise and highrise code update
  • May 2006: DPD hosted a public meeting about the proposed changes
  • August 2005: Conducted 7 focus groups

Land Use Recommendations

  • October 2010: DPD transmitted the Final Executive Recommendations for changes to lowrise multifamily zoning to City Council
  • November 2009: DPD transmitted the Final Executive Recommendations for changes to highrise and midrise multifamily zoning to City Council
  • November 2006: DPD published a concept report, Working with the Community to Improve Multifamily Zoning

Environmental Determination

  • July 2008: DPD published the environmental determination for SEPA
  • December 2007: DPD published the environmental determination for SEPA

Project Purpose

For many Seattle residents, multifamily buildings provide affordable and convenient housing options. However, these developments must fit into our neighborhoods, be sensitive to the environment, and give back to our community. The Multifamily Zoning Update was the first major revision to our multifamily code since the late 1980s. The update:

  • Ensures better townhouse design. New standards, such as front-facing windows and doors, will make townhouses fit better with their communities.
  • Protects our single-family neighborhoods. Height restrictions will provide transitions between multifamily and single family zones.
  • Requires green construction and landscaping. Use improved landscaping requirements and green building standards where those incentive programs are allowed.
  • Encourages affordable housing. Allow developers to build higher in exchange for providing affordable housing.

Planning and Community Development

Rico Quirindongo, Director
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 94788, Seattle, WA, 98124-7088
Phone: (206) 386-1010

The Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) develops policies and plans for an equitable and sustainable future. We partner with neighborhoods, businesses, agencies and others to bring about positive change and coordinate investments for our Seattle communities.