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Chinatown-International District MHA rezone heads to full council—slowly

The full council vote will be delayed for more community input

These International District storefronts are in the National Historic Register district, which is exempted from the rezone.
Invisible Hour/Flickr

On Tuesday, a Seattle City Council committee passed rezones to Chinatown-International District (CID)—but city councilors acknowledged the legislation needs more time before it’s ready for a full council vote.

Like with similar rezones, extra height for buildings would come in exchange for either using floor space for affordable housing (performance) or paying into an affordable housing fund (in-lieu).

In the current draft of the legislation, in most cases, performance is at 7 percent—or $20.75 per square foot in-lieu. For shorter commercial buildings, that drops to 5 percent and $8 per square foot.

Residential buildings would gain one to three stories, depending on the zone. Commercial buildings would gain an increase to floor-area ratio that city spokespeople said would equal a couple of stories in most cases.

An amendment added to the ordinance would exempt projects that are already 40 percent affordable to those at 60 percent area median income from the incentive zoning program, a voluntary program that exchanges height for other public benefits.

Some testified at public meetings and comment periods that they want the amount of affordable housing to be higher. Others, especially from the CID Coalition, called for an all-out moratorium on non-affordable new development.

CID is at a particular displacement risk, said both city officials and multiple community members.

Testifying at both a public meeting earlier this month and the committee meeting on Tuesday, Joseph Shoji Lachman of the Japanese American Citizens League said the committee should delay a vote until there’s more engagement with the CID community—especially with those with limited English proficiency.

"The people who are most affected by this legislation are the ones who cannot be here right now: It’s the ones whose first language is not English,” said Lachman on Tuesday. “And we want more time to be able to have this meaningful engagement with them.”

Others echoed similar sentiments at both meetings.

The committee met that request halfway: While the ordinance passed out of committee on Tuesday, it was with the understanding that a full council vote would be delayed until July 17th, giving them time to take more feedback and add amendments.

In addition to the ordinance that would rezone CID, the committee passed a separate resolution that would address issues that can’t be covered with the rezone—for example, the city “will act in a timely manner to partner with local businesses, community organizations, and customers to promote economic development and commercial stability.”