Johnson drops controversial amendment to Uptown MHA rezone (UPDATED)

(updated below)

After a long and contentious public hearing last week. Council member Rob Johnson has decided to withdraw one of two controversial amendments to the proposed MHA upzone of the Uptown Urban Center.

Johnson has proposed two amendments that had drawn strong yet mixed response:

  • Increasing the height limit in the “heart of Uptown” around the intersection of Mercer and Queen Anne. The Mayor had proposed increasing it from the current 40′ limit up to 65′; Johnson’s amendment would have pushed it to 85′.
  • Increasing the height limit for the strip of properties adjacent to Seattle Center between Roy and Mercer. The Mayor’s proposal would increase it from 40′ to 85′, but Johnson had proposed taking it up to 125′.

In response to the lengthy public hearing at the SIFF Theater in Uptown last week, Johnson has withdrawn his amendment to increase the properties in the Roy-Mercer corridor to 125′.  Residents have complained that it would create an “urban canyon effect” along those two streets, and it would block views in Lower Queen Anne.

However, the amendment to increase the height in the “heart of Uptown” to 85′ is still in play.

Two other amendments were also withdrawn:

  • removing a rule that allows up to three feet of additional height if the top floor of the building is set back at least six feet from the abutting streets;
  • providing a bonus floor area ration (FAR) for projects that take the “performance” option for meeting MHA affordable-housing requirements instead of making a payment in-lieu of performance.

There are several other amendments still under consideration, two with minor adjustments. You can read about them here. The Planning, Land Use and Zoning Committee will take up these amendments, and probably vote on them, on Tuesday.

I’ve reached out to Council member Johnson for comment. UPDATED:  I just spoke with Johnson. He said that he withdrew it based upon the strong negative feedback from the community at last week’s public hearing. He also said that he had asked the city staff to verify the comments that increasing the heights from 85′ to 125′ would not appreciably add to the number of affordable housing units created through the MHA program, and they concurred — in part because many of the parcels along that strip are owned by the city.