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South Lake Union Changes: Good? Bad? Your Call

March 26, 2011 by  
Filed under Land Use


What do the words “height”, “density”, “commercial” and “residential” all have in common?  They’re all a major part of the plans to reshape the South Lake Union neighborhood.  Changes of all kinds are coming to this area–  and you can hear all about it on Monday evening.

Draft EIS note: "Source: South Lake Union Urban Center Neighborhood Plan, 2007"

Draft EIS note: "Source: South Lake Union Urban Center Neighborhood Plan, 2007"

First, let’s look at the definition of the South Lake Union Urban Center as determined by the City:  SLU covers nearly 340 acres and is located in the center of the City of Seattle.  Geographical boundaries are the Lake Union Shoreline to the north, Denny Way to the south, Interstate 5 to the east and Aurora Avenue to the west.  Adjoining neighborhoods place SLU north of Downtown, with Capitol Hill to the east and Uptown to the west.  The City went deeper into its SLU definition by identifying six “neighborhoods”, referred to as Dexter, Denny Park, Waterfront, Westlake, Fairview and Cascade.  The map to the right roughly outlines these areas.

A Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the South Lake Union Height Alternatives was written by the City of Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development.  You can find the plan on this link.  Review it in the sections they have outlined instead of all at once… the full Draft EIS is 659 pages long.  It’s a pretty dense report, as you can imagine, so if you’d rather cut to the chase, here’s some highlights.  The Draft EIS addresses:

  • A more diverse and attractive community by providing a mix of housing types and  land uses, plus defined building types and heights.
  • Using height and density increases to help meet other neighborhood goals such as increased affordable housing and open space, plus other public benefits through incentive zoning.
  • Enhancing street-level pedestrian quality with public view corridors and retail activities .
  • Accommodating growth while maintaining a transportation system of street networks, transit and non-motorized travel. 
  • Maintaining utility systems including electrical, water, sewer and storm drain systems.
  • Ensuring adequate zoned development capacity for long-term growth.

draft eis 2There is no master plan for South Lake Union – yet.  Monday’s meeting will cover four initial ideas called Alternatives.  They’re defined as follows:

Alternative 1 – outlines the greatest potential for height and density increases for commercial and residential development

Alternative 2 – mid-point between Alternatives 1 and 3, it contains lesser height and density increases for commercial and residential development

Alternative 3 – provides the least potential for height and density increases, and only deals with  residential  development

Alternative 4—“no action”, retaining existing zoning, and no height increase incentives

We pulled an attachment out of the Draft EIS which better outlines how the Alternatives stack up the various areas of planning.  You can open it here:  slu draft eis alternatives

draft eis 3To learn more about the City’s plans for South Lake Union, come to a public meeting exploring the Draft EIS on Monday, March 28th, at Unity Church, 200 Eighth Avenue N in downtown Seattle.  The meeting will start around 5:30 p.m.  with an Open House, where City staff and the consultants will be available for questions. The public comment portion of the meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m.  Can’t make it?  Don’t worry.  We’ll be there, and we’ll follow up with a report on the evening’s events.

Another date to keep in mind is April 11th.  This will be the last day you’ll be able to provide comments to the City.  From there, they’ll review all the input and start work on the Final South Lake Union EIS.

We’ll keep in touch as the South Lake Union plans progress.