The Pike/Pine Urban Neighborhood Council has teamed up with Capitol Hill Housing, and expects to add more community partners, to create a land use review committee that would provide feedback on real estate projects and land use policy.

It’s first effort is developing a response letter to the Seattle office of Planning and Community Development’s rezone map that would complement Mandatory Housing Affordability requirements being put in place by the city.

Part of the city’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda is Mandatory Housing Affordability, where developers in certain areas of the city will have to either provide affordable housing units in their developments or make a payment in lieu of units that would be used for future affordable housing. An incentive for developers are rezones across the city that would increase allowable building heights — many at 10 feet or roughly another floor.

PPUNC first addressed the First Hill/Capitol Hill Urban Center rezone map at its Oct. 17 meeting, where it was introduced by Janet Shull with OPCD.

Capitol Hill Housing senior planner Alex Brennan accepted the task of drafting a recommendation letter, which he shared during Monday’s PPUNC meeting.

There is concern in the Pike/Pine corridor, where a conservation overlay exists, that developers won’t have an incentive to preserve historic structures if there is an upzone there. The Pike/Pine Conservation Overlay District allows developers to increase the height of a project by one story — from six to seven stories — if it preserves the facade of an original structure.

If the MHA allows buildings in the overlay district to go up to seven stories, the incentive might not be an effective tool, Brennan said, because the current building code requires anything above seven stories to use more costly concrete or steel. If there is no incentive, the concern is that older character structures won’t be worth saving to developers.

“I think you’re flagging the exact right problem,” said developer Maria Barrientos, who agreed clarification is needed.

The Capitol Hill Land Use Review Committee draft letter — which could be amended as a PPUNC statement only — encourages the city to change the building code to allow mixed wood frame and concrete construction above eight stories, which is already being considered.

On Broadway, north of East Pine, rules allow for building heights of 65 feet, but only if residential use occurs above 40 feet. The draft MHA rezone map would increase the maximum building height to 75 feet and remove the residential requirement of up to 40 feet.

The draft letter identifies this change as a benefit to Broadway retailers, because it would allow more office buildings to be constructed, and with it workers that become customers.

“It’s something that businesses on Broadway have been asking for for a long time,” Brennan said.

The review committee letter supports increasing zoning form Low-rise 3 to mid-rise around the Capitol Hill light rail station, encouraging expanding the mid-rise zoning further north and east of the Capitol Hill Station Area Overlay District boundaries.

Capitol Hill Housing Board chair Cathy Hillenbrand, who had chaired the Capitol Hill Champion volunteer group that represented community interests during light rail development, said expanding mid-rise zoning would require sufficient community outreach. Many neighbors to the light rail station, which will soon enough include 400 housing units across four transit-oriented development sites, were bothered by the station overlay decision.

PPUNC/CHLURC also recommends in its draft letter that upzoning take place in current LR3 areas along the future Madison Bus Rapid Transit line. Mid-rise zoning would encourage more residential density near transit, Brennan said.

The draft letter notes added incentive programs often come with upzones, in the past and also with a new University District plan. Such programs would be of interest in Capitol Hill, the letter states.

Brennan said the letter will require further revisions before being submitted to the Office of Planning and Community Development.

The city is holding a HALA meeting to discuss affordable housing and zoning changes across Seattle through January. A central neighborhoods meeting is slated for 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 10, at Optimism Brewing, 909 E. Union St. That will include First Hill/Capitol Hill, 23rd and Union-Jackson, Eastlake, Madison/Miller and Upper Queen Anne urban village maps.

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