Monday, July 6, 2015

A More Vibrant 35th Ave NE - Understanding the City's Proposed Changes for 35th Ave NE

REMINDER: The City is collecting feedback through July 2015 on their proposed changes. We strongly encouarge you to provide feedback (both pro or con), although we also highly recommend you understand what is being proposed rather than commenting on misinformation. For this reason, please read on before providing your comments by mail or email to Ryan Moore, Senior Planner, PO Box 34019, Seattle, WA 98124-4019 or There's also a very brief survey you can fill out HERE.

By now, you hopefully are aware of the grassroots, proactive 'neighborhood planning' effor that neighbors surrounding 35th Ave NE have been undertaking since the start of 2012.  If not, you can find a summary on the About page or find answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) from the linked tabs above. However, here's a very brief history.

In January 2015, the 35th Ave Committee published our final report titled the Future of 35th Ave NE Plan. This plan is the culmination of an enormous amount of data and opinions collected from the community over 3 years. All voices and opinions were invited to the process and those who participated had their opinions presented in the Future 35th Ave NE Plan. By no means was there uninaminity, but that was not achievable. However, both the Wedgwood Community Council and the Ravenna-Bryant Community Association endorsed the plan and based on this support and the extensive and forthright community feedback we collected, the City council approved funding at our request for the City's Department of Planning and Development (DPD) to review the zoning recommendations included in the final plan and present their revised proposal. The zoning recommendations were only 1 of 3 important land use elements included in the final report which work together to provide the neighbohrood planning the 35th Ave Committee set out to achieve.

On Wednesday evening, June 24th, DPD unveiled their proposed changes for 35th Ave NE to a packed and sweltering room at Congregation Beth Shalom. More than 100 people attended the meeting which started off with attendees milling around and looking at images of the proposed changes. A brief presentation followed where we provided some background to the planning process with DPD highliting their proposed changes. There was a short amount of time for general questions while the remaining time of the meeting was spent around the images of the proposed changes with DPD staff on hand to ask specific questions.

Following the meeting, we heard some concerns about the format of the meeting. Undoubtedly in a meeting that well attended, there will be questions that go unanswered. However, we are very grateful for DPD to be undertaking this review and developing this proposal as it represents the first real proactive urban planning for the business district!

This post explains some of the key features to the City's proposal recommendations. While we have included a link to the City's presentation for those who couldn't attend, we're also providing a summary of what the City proposed which can be broken into 3 main changes.
The City's Proposed Plans for 35th Ave NE.
(Click to download PDF)
  • 1. Additional Pedestrian Zones

    The City recently adopted new legislation that expanded pedestrian zones to more neighborhood commercial areas throughout the city, including the commercial nodes along 35th Ave NE at NE 75th St and NE 85th St. This legislation requires any new development to include specific design features that prioritizes the safety and comfort of the pedestrian environment. In fact, many of these design recommendations were included in the Future 35th Ave NE Plan so that future developements at the NE 65th St and NE 95th St nodes were more likely to include these pedestrian-focused design elements into their design too.

    You may recall us writing about this legislation HERE and us presenting the data showing that nearly 70% of the respondents to the City's survey thought the NE 75th St and NE 85th St nodes should be designated as pedestrian zones. Got questions on what P-zones are or are not? HERE is a handy cheat sheet.

    Under the City's plans (Pages 1 and 4), parts of the NE 65th St and all of the NE 95th St nodes would be officially designated as P-zones ensuring this prioritization for the pedestrian occurs at these locations too.  This strengthen many of the pedestrian-focused designs at these commercial nodes included in the Future 35th Ave NE Plan as it would codify several of the design standards included in the Future 35th Ave NE Plan.
  • 2. More Neighborhood Commercial (NC) Zones
    Under the zoning recommendations within the Future 35th Ave NE Plan, the Seattle Audubon property was recommended to be rezoned from lowrise residential (LR2) to neighborhood commercial (NC-30) to better suit their current and future operations. Meanwhile, the remaining LR2 parcels from the USPS property to the Seattle Audubon property was recommended to remain as lowrise residential while allowng for commercial on the groundfloor (LR2-C).

    As shown on the City's plans (Pages 3), the City proposes to change all of those parcels between NE 82nd St to NE 80th St to NC-30 while leaving those parcels south of NE 80th St as LR2.  Both the LR2 zones and NC-30 are allowed to build up to 30 feet in height, which is the same height allowed for single-family residences. So the allowed height of future development on those parcels would not change, just the potential use of those parcels (e.g., more commercial on ground floor).

    Additionally, the City is also proposing to change some LR2 parcels between NE 70th St (north of Grafeful Bread) and NE 73rd St (south of Starbucks) to NC30 as shown on Page 2 of the City's plans. Two single-family houses were recently demolished in this area to make way for four townhomes, which is allowed under the exisitng LR2 zone. Under the proposed zoning, these townhomes would not be allowed. It also now appears, based on a recent and pending permit application, that another lot may be redeveloped into 3 new townhomes.
  • 3. Increased Height at NE 75th St
    The zoning recommendations included in the Future 35th Ave NE plan included height increases to nearly all commercial lots at NE 65th St, NE 75th St, NE 85th St, and NE 95th St nodes. The height increases were recommended based on community feedback and data collected during our public workshops. The proposed height increase for the NE 75th St node was from 30 feet (existing) to 40-65 feet. The 65 foot height recommended in the Future 35th Ave NE Plan was only recommeded on the Safeway parcel to encourage very expensive below-grade parking when/if that lot is ever redeveloped. Otherwise, the allowed height at NE 75th St would only increase to 40 feet, which is the same height allowed currently at NE 85th St.

    After reviewing the Future 35th Ave NE plan, however, the City scaled back the height increases throughout the Future 35th Ave NE Plan significnatly.  Instead of height increases at all nodes, the City is only proposing a 10 foot height increase at NE 75th St, from NC-30 to NC-40 as shown on Page 2 of the City's plans.  As mentioned above, the proposed 40 foot height is the same height currently allowed at NE 85th St.
Hopefully, the expanation above and the images linked to this post provide you with a better understanding of what currently exists, what was proposed by the community, and what the City has proposed.  With this in mind, we again encourage you to provide your feedback through July 2015 to the City using the methods described above. Don't forget to take the survey!


  1. The link to the presentation does not work.

    1. Hi Maria, The link to the presentation has been fixed. I'm sorry it took so long to reply to you.

  2. Informative writing , Incidentally , if anyone needs a SSA-3373-BK , I found a template version here

  3. The link doesn't work for the City's proposed plans

    1. Sorry for the late response, but the website that we were hosting the documents on was being revised. All links should be repaired now.

  4. Replies
    1. The City Council is still waiting to consider the legislative zoning request. It was initially scheduled to be heard by council in May 2016. It's been pushed back now to 2017, potentially 2018, given other contentious legislative issues they're facing.

    2. An unsolicited email to your councilmember wouldn't hurt to encourage them to take it up sooner than later.