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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

March 5, 2013 at 10:14 AM

City Council green lights 40-story towers in South Lake Union

The Seattle City Council signaled their intention Monday to allow new buildings up to 240 feet tall through most of South Lake Union, and towers up to 400 feet tall, or roughly 40 stories, near Denny Way.

While no formal votes were taken by the council Monday, its nine members identified issues for coming debate as they try to wrap-up a sweeping zoning proposal by Mayor Mike McGinn for the fast-growing neighborhood.

Several items were flagged for future debate, including fees for affordable housing, 240-foot towers near Lake Union on the so-called Mercer Blocks, and preserving public views of the Space Needle.

But the council didn’t see some other issues as warranting change. Forty-story towers near Denny Way, the southern edge of the South Lake Union neighborhood, and 24-story towers through much of the neighborhood, were not controversial enough to debate, council members indicated Monday.

The zoning package is “just about ready to move forward,” said Richard Conlin, chair of the council’s South Lake Union Committee. “The substantive issues that remain are heights on the Mercer blocks and affordable housing.”

City officials hope a more vertical community will attract thousands of additional workers and residents over the next 20 years than would materialize under current zoning,

But developers and property owners, including the Seattle Times Company, contend that plan could be undone by council proposals to extract higher fees for public benefits in return for allowing taller buildings, which create wealth for their owners.

Councilmembers Nick Licata, Mike O’Brien and Tom Rasmussen have said they want to increase fees as part of the zoning changes the council hopes to vote on this month. Other council members are leaning that way.

But Conlin and McGinn want a more thorough process on fee-setting after the vote on building heights. Developers and property owners are pushing that position as well.

Comments | More in Politics Northwest | Topics: seattle city council, South Lake Union


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