Council Central Staff Recommends that Council Approve the Proposed Legislation

Legislative Department
Seattle City Council

Date: November 14, 2007

To: Councilmember Peter Steinbrueck, Chair
Councilmember Tom Rasmussen, Vice Chair
Councilmember Richard Conlin, Member
Urban Development and Planning (UDP) Committee

From: Michael Jenkins, Council Central Staff

Subject: Council Bill (CB) 116066, amending portions of the Land Use Code to add an additional exemption to the rezone criteria for single-family zones and to expand provisions allowing for contract rezones in the Northgate Overlay District

CB 116066 proposes changes to Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 23.34 that would modify criteria for rezoning of single family lots. The amendments would allow single family (SF) zoned lots in the Northgate Overlay District to be eligible for rezoning to a commercial zone, through the contract rezone process (also outlined in 23.34), under certain conditions. Eligible sites would need to be located on blocks where a minimum of 80% of the parcels are zoned neighborhood commercial (NC). The definition of block would, for this legislation only, be defined as ‘areas bounded by street lot lines’. This definition is most similar to the definition of block for Downtown zones. A block outside of Downtown zones are defined as ‘two (2) facing block fronts…bounded on two (2) sides by alleys or rear property lines and on two (2) sides by the centerline of platted streets’. Attachment A to this memorandum are graphics that illustrate the two current definitions.

The Director’s Report from the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) includes data on the likely number of locations that could be considered as a rezone under the legislation. It appears that only one block, as defined in this legislation, could qualify for review of a contract rezone to change the existing SF zone designation. The block in question is bounded by 15th Ave NE to the west, 16th Ave NE to the east, N.E. 123rd Street to the south and N.E. 125th Street to the north and contains 3 SF zoned lots. The remaining lots on the block are all zoned NC. The SF zoned parcels total approximately 14% of the block with the remaining 86% zoned NC3. Attachment B is from the Director’s Report and illustrates these conditions.

The proposed changes would revise existing language in SMC 23.34.010B, Designation of single-family zones. SMC 23.34.072B would also be amended to support the proposed language, as this code section provides general references for designating commercial zones.

The site has been the subject of potential redevelopment interest for several years, first in the neighborhood planning process and most recently as a subject of a potential contract rezone. Since 1965, the predominate use of the site has been as a grocery store. In August 1993, the site was rezoned (Ordinance 116794) from a General Commercial zone designation (C1) to its current Neighborhood Commercial (NC) designation. The rezone was part of a series of actions to implement provisions of the Northgate Area Comprehensive Plan (NACP). The existing 40 foot height limit for the zone was not altered in that legislation.


1. Comprehensive Plan goals and policies.

The City’s Comprehensive Plan includes a series of policies for the Northgate Planning Area. These areas are shown in Attachment C, with the area of interest highlighted. Policy NG P-7 and P-8 are of particular note, as they pertain to compatibility of development and retention of existing single family zoning.

NG-P7 states:

Reduce conflicts between activities and promote a compatible relationship between different scales of development by maintaining a transition between zones where significantly different intensities of development are allowed.

NG-P8 states:

Maintain the character and integrity of the existing single-family zones areas by maintaining current single family-zoning on properties meeting the locational criteria for SF zones.

As reflected in Attachment C, the block is within the larger planning area but not within the Urban Center. The subject block, as defined in this legislation, was also identified in the NACP as a location where transitions between zones are implemented through additional setbacks. Any potential contract rezone would shift this transition from its existing location to the right of way. The 40 foot right of way width would allow for separation of commercial uses and their related impacts from the adjacent SF zones. As the proposal would allow for rezoning of select lots within the block, it is unlikely that the character and integrity of the extensive SF zoned areas surrounding the site would be compromised.

2. Rezone and development history

In 1999, an application was submitted to DPD requesting approval of a contract rezone to change the SF zoned lots affected by this proposed legislation from their existing SF 5000 designation to a NC2 designation with a 30 foot height limit (Council File 303523). Both DPD and the Hearing Examiner (HE) recommended denial of that request. Following a review by Council committee, including requests to supplement the record with additional information, the request was withdrawn by Safeway. The current legislation addresses the issues raised in the DPD and HE recommendations to deny the project in two distinct ways. By changing the definition of the term ‘block’, it reduces the effect that the facing single family zoned sites across 16th Ave NE have in determining the appropriate zoning for the site, as that block face is all SF zoned property. As the legislation is also focused to blocks that are zoned at least 80% neighborhood commercial, its applicability to other locations is unlikely and relates to the block in question.

It is important to note that the proposed language would not allow for a contract rezone to be approved; it would only allow further consideration of a request to rezone. General and specific criteria applicable to both the designation and characteristics of single family zoned parcels would still be evaluated to determine whether the land in question better meets the criteria of commercially zoned property than its current designation.


Staff recommends approval of the proposed legislation with a minor revision. Recently adopted revisions to SMC Chapter 23.76 clarified the distinction between quasi-judicial and legislative rezones. To clearly define the scope of this legislation as well as to reinforce the distinctions between types of rezones, staff recommends the following amendment to SMC 23.34.010C, as shown below:

C. Areas zoned single-family within the Northgate Overlay District, established pursuant to Chapter 23.71, that consist of one or more lots and meet the criteria for single-family zoning contained in subsection B of Section 23.34.011 may be rezoned through a contract rezone to a neighborhood commercial zone if the rezone is limited to blocks (defined for the purpose of this subsection C as areas bounded by street lot lines) in which more than 80% of that (the) block is already designated as a neighborhood commercial zone.

Staff also recommends a minor amendment to 23.34.072B, to further narrow the scope of applicable sites to neighborhood commercial zones only, as follows:

B. Areas meeting the locational criteria for a single-family designation may be designated as certain neighborhood commercial zones ((NC1 30(/L1, NC2 30(/L1 or NC3 30(/L1 only)) as provided in Section 23.34.010 (B).

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