Downtown and South Lake Union MHA upzone up for final amendments and vote

This afternoon the Council will likely wrap up its work on the MHA-enabling upzone for the Downtown and South Lake Union areas of the city.

Here’s my previous write-up of the upzone bill as it was voted out of committee.

The bill is up for final approval in the Full Council meeting, but first there are four amendments scheduled to be considered, topics that were left unresolved at the last committee hearing. They are:

  • An addition, proposed by Council member Johnson, of Findings of Fact that explain the reasoning for the upzone and how it complies with the state law that authorizes affordable housing incentive programs. Proposed in coordination with the Law Department, it’s an attempt make the upzone more resilient to legal challenges.
  • A two-part amendment by Johnson, O’Brien and Herbold. First, it encourages developers to create family-size units with 3 or more bedrooms and accessible outdoor spaces in exchange for increasing the building’s height limit by an additional ten feet. Second, it requires a Transportation Management Program for developments (both commercial and residential) that are expected to generate an additional 50 or more vehicle trips during its peak PM hour or demand for 25 or more vehicles parking on the street overnight.
  • A requirement by Herbold, that the Office of Planning and Community Development report to the Council by July 31 on the use, advantages and disadvantages of applying the development standards and codes to a sub-area of a lot rather than the entire lot.
  • A change, offered by Herbold, to the MHA performance and payment-in-lieu requirements tied to the upzone. The Council and the city have been criticized for setting those requirements too low. They were originally set to be proportional to the additional development capacity granted by the upzone (which is what state law requires) and by a formula negotiated in the HALA “grand bargain.” Each zone in the Downtown and South Lake Union area has a customized requirement; the performance standard varies from 2.1% to 5.1% of units built, and the payment requirement goes from $7.50 to $13.00 per square foot. Herbold’s amendment standardizes the performance requirement at 5% and the payment alternative at $14.75. This is a compromise proposal that is likely to draw criticism from both sides: some will argue that it is higher than the value being delivered by the upzone, and others will argue that it’s still a give-away to developers.

The first three amendments should sail through; the fourth is harder to predict. It’s also possible that Council members might offer new amendments; if so, they will circulate them in the morning.

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