Rainier Valley height rezoning bill advances in Council
at 5:14pm by Joe Copeland
A Seattle City Council committee on Tuesday passed a land rezoning bill, which would loosen height restrictions for buildings near the Mount Baker light rail station in the North Rainier Valley. The thorny piece of legislation has elicited strong views from both backers and opponents. If approved by the full council, the maximum allowable height would go from 65 feet to 125 feet — approximately 11 stories — on a parcel of land along Rainier Avenue South, where a Lowe's Home Improvement store is currently located. In areas to the south and west of that site, height restrictions would change from 65 to 85 feet.The bill passed 4-1 and is scheduled for a full Council vote on June 23. Council members Mike O'Brien, Sally Clark, Nick Licata and Tim Burgess voted for the bill. The no-vote came from Bruce Harrell, who introduced two motions during the committee meeting. One would have indefinitely delayed a vote on the so-called "up-zone," the other would have dropped the height restriction at the Lowe's land parcel to 85 feet from 125 feet. Both of Harrell's motions flopped.Opponents of the zoning changes said that easing height restrictions would allow for tall buildings that do not fit in with nearby single family homes, while also exacerbating parking problems in the neighborhood. They also argue that the rezone would open the door for new, low-income residential structures in an area that, they say, already has more than its fair share of subsidized and Section 8 housing.Supporters say that the rezone is needed to increase residential density along the light rail line, and to make the neighborhood more pedestrian friendly. The bill would also classify most of the rezoned land as "Seattle mixed," a designation that allows for a variety of residential, commercial and light industrial uses. Crosscut published an in-depth look at some of the issues surrounding the rezone back in December. You can find it here. — B.L.