Shaping Seattle's Future: Creating Livability for All


Robbing Peter to pay Paul never solved anything. Mayor Murray has said that we must act now to preserve our city’s affordability and livability…and we heartily agree. But the devil is in the details. And the early reviews on the details for the Mayor’s HALA are not encouraging. Simply building bigger, fatter buildings downtown may raise the affordability housing funds in the short run, but if you destroy the livability of downtown in the process, what have you accomplished?

Light, air, privacy, and safety are the essential elements of good livability. Right now, in downtown Seattle, when you look at current residential towers in the planning stages, many would degrade their neighbors’ livability by depriving them of air, light, privacy and safety.  There are no open spaces in many of these proposals and the 21st Century demands on our 19th Century alleys simply will not work.

For example, the proposed 500’ tower at 5th & Virginia would have the following adverse impacts on its closest neighbors:

1.   Severe loss of Privacy, through imposing tower bulk and inadequate building façade setbacks, with no façade modulation, and no angling of windows and/or façade.

2.   Severe loss of daylight and air through a lack of adequate tower separation with its immediate neighbor across the alley, as is required in most of Belltown, South Lake Union, and other downtown areas.

3.   Severe bottlenecking of vehicles and potential blocked access in the alley due to failure to restudy the very limited level of service (LOS) capacity the 19th century alley way can provide, along with the likelihood of cumulative LOS impacts.

4.   Failure to provide meaningful, attractive, and useful public open space on the site—per Belltown Guidelines, especially at street level, due to bulky, oversized and maxed out development, and near zero property line setbacks.

When you already have these serious livability issues downtown, you shouldn’t make it worse by allowing bigger, fatter towers on these sites. The solution is establishing residential development standards in all of the downtown zones to allow taller, not fatter buildings; and requiring alley setbacks on all new construction.

With this solution, Density, Affordability, and Livability can be compatible and set the stage for a great future for Seattle.