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'U District Upzone' Plan a Historic Move in Seattle

KIRO 7 on September 12, 2016

Mayor Ed Murray announced a plan that would make the U-District higher and denser in an effort to provide more affordable housing, calling it a first-of-its-kind move.

Key developments: 

  • Under the plan, all new development in the U-District will build or fund new affordable housing.
  • The “upzone” plan would allow buildings as high as 320 feet.
  • Some business owners believe it will make the area more vibrant.
  • Critics say the plan is pro-developer.

What leaders and supports say:

City leaders and affordable housing officials joined the mayor in a plan that they say will make investments in growth and livability. 

“We simply have to create more affordable housing in our urban villages,” Murray said. “For the first time in Seattle’s history, all new development in the U-District will build or fund new affordable housing as a result of our new housing affordability laws."

The University District will be the first rezoning since the council adopted the Mandatory Housing Affordability, or MHA-R, legislation last month. That legislation requires developers to either include affordable housing in their residential or mixed-use projects or pay into a fund.

Under his affordable housing plan, maximum building heights would jump from 65 feet to 320 feet. 
Height limits would rise only slightly on University Way, which is known as The Ave. The tallest buildings would surround the light rail station.

Murray said the city has worked on the plan for five years and has held 90 public meetings before moving it forward.

The zoning change is meant to create more density near the station, which will open in five years.

Some business owners believe a few new towers in the U-District would create a vibrant and livable neighborhood. 

The opposition:  

The plan is causing an uproar among people living in the U-District, with people saying they are against building higher and denser. 

In May, John Fox, of the Seattle Displacement Coalition, told KIRO 7 News that the plan will put 1,500 people at risk of paying higher rent, if they're not pushed out altogether.
 
The U-District is just one area slated for upzoning. The neighborhood of Lower Queen Anne also has plans that have riled people.
 
The city says in order to build more affordable housing and to allow more people to live here, they need to build up.