Murray proposes more pedestrian zones to strengthen local business districts

Photo courtesy of SDOT

Mayor Murray has sent to City Council a plan that will help foster vibrant business districts in neighborhoods throughout Seattle. Changes have been proposed to encourage more commercial businesses that support compact and walkable communities, while allowing flexibility in design to better meet the changing needs of our neighborhood business districts.

“These proposed changes will help ensure active storefronts in our neighborhoods and more design flexibility to accommodate a range of business types,” said Murray. “This helps minimize vacancies in some commercial areas but also helps to provide better access to the goods and services our local communities rely upon. Promoting pedestrian zones just make sense – a more walkable Seattle is good for the economy, good for the environment and good for public health.”

A key element of the proposal is an effort to identify, encourage and protect pedestrian-oriented commercial street fronts in neighborhood business districts by evaluating where additional pedestrian zoned areas are appropriate. The pedestrian zone designation serves to identify neighborhood business districts where active commercial use would be required at street-level. In neighborhood commercial zones outside of these areas, a wider range of uses is allowed at street level including a broad range of commercial, residential and live-work properties.

This proposal provides recommendations on those areas and includes modifications including:

  • Rezone 39 neighborhood commercial areas around the city to add or expand a pedestrian zone designation;
  • Expand the list of allowed active street-level uses;
  • Modify design review departures available in pedestrian zones for ceiling height, transparency requirements and residential uses at street level;
  • Clarify the transparency requirements to specify that transparent areas must allow views into and out of the structure at eye level;
  • Add a standard to require overhead weather protection along 60 percent of the building facade for new development along a Principal Pedestrian Street;
  • Eliminate waivers to minimum parking standards specific to pedestrian zones; and
  • Add standards for live-work units.