Photo: Ian Maddox/Wikimedia Commons

The Seattle City Council approved legislation this week to create a voluntary tower-spacing program in the Downtown Office Core 2 zone, north of Westlake Park. According to the Seattle Times, developers who construct taller and thinner buildings will be granted slightly more total floor area.

The new regulations seek to address concerns by downtown residents that increasing density and new construction will block views, sunlight and create crowding. Councilmember Sally Bagshaw championed the legislation in response to lobbying by the Downtown Residents Alliance.

In 2015, downtown residents objected to a new tower proposal on Fifth and Virginia. Residents of the Escala building, where the fictional Christian Grey lived in Fifty Shades of Grey, is situated on Fourth and Virginia west of the alley. A developer sought to locate a tower structure less than 25 feet away from Escala. Concerned residents voiced their opinions about losing views and privacy.

Their voices were heard. Additionally, the new tower-spacing legislation will allow the city’s construction department director to increase maximum heights from 550 to 640 feet, while reducing the maximum size of floor plates on blocks in the zone where towers already exist.

An “existing tower” is considered to be a structure that physically exists, or where an applicant has filed a complete Master Permit Application that is still valid, or has submitted a complete application for Early Design Guidance under Design Review. According to the Urbanist, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections will determine the additional floor area and building height allowed by the incentive. If companies would like to appeal, they will not go to the Hearing examiner. Instead, most appeals would go to Superior Court under the Land Use Petition Act.

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