It’s been almost a year since the idea took shape, but yesterday the Seattle city council unanimously approved a smart package of regulatory reforms that Sightline has been supporting. The reforms give a boost to urban sustainability by making it easier to build walkable and affordable communities and by encouraging small-scale entrepreneurship.
Councilmember Richard Conlin deserves plaudits for ably guiding the rather complex (and occasionally controversial) legislation through committee and across the finish line with the full council.
So what does the new law do?
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- It relaxes some regulations that stifle very small home-based businesses;
- It clarifies and slightly expands allowances for rental units on single family properties;
- In a few targeted locations, it eases requirements for ground-floor commercial space in new developments;
- It exempts some major institutions like colleges from minimum parking requirements;
- It reduces the amount of government-mandated parking for new development in areas that are well-served by transit;
- For small and medium-size new buildings in dense urban areas, it reduces some redundant review and process.
It’s all good stuff. Even if it’s not exactly earth-shattering, it marks an important step toward making sustainability legal in Seattle. The city now forces less parking on its residents, makes it a little easier to start up a business, helps homeowners supplement their incomes by finding a renter, and encourages good development in urban centers. So, kudos to the mayor’s office and to the city council for supporting and endorsing the reforms.