Peter’s Big Plan
This morning, after a months-long battle with Mayor Greg Nickels over the details of Nickels’s plan to increase density and building heights downtown, City Council member Peter Steinbrueck rolled out his compromise proposal, which would require more affordable housing downtown, mandate higher green-building standards, and place stricter limits on above-ground parking than the mayor’s initial downtown zoning plan.
Specifically, Steinbrueck’s proposal would:
• Require developers who build housing taller than current height limits to pay an average of $18.94 per square foot into a fund that would pay for affordable housing downtown. (Nickels proposed a $10-per square-foot affordable-housing bonus);
• Require new developments to meet US green building standards (which Nickels’s plan did not require);
• Require eight-foot awnings on all new downtown developments; and
• Restrict above-ground parking on larger lots to three stories and require developers to build an equal amount of parking underground . (Nickels’s proposal placed no limits on the height of parking garages). Although “the single highest construction cost to developers is parking,” Steinbrueck notes, Seattle doesn’t require developers to build any parking at all.
As of Friday, Steinbrueck and the mayor had not yet agreed to a compromise, although Steinbreuck was optimistic that Nickels would sign off on his proposal. If not, Steinbrueck said, he was prepared to move forward without the mayor’s backing, although that could jeopardize his support among more skeptical council members, such as Jan Drago. “Overall, the whole downtown is getting upzoned by about a third,” Steinbreuck says. Even with the affordable-housing requirement, “this it a huge windfall for developers.”