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Contentious U-District plan under edit by Seattle Council

This month Seattle lawmakers will start taking steps to rezone the University District. In a sign that City Council members want to get it right the first time, they plan to amend their proposal even before they introduce it.

The City Council announced a list of possible amendments to the U-District plan Friday.

The existing University District zoning proposal would allow for many more high-rise style buildings at about the height of the UW Tower. The plan would make the University District more dense, especially around the future light-rail station.

As part of the legislation, developers will need to build or pay for affordable housing units. That’s part of the "grand bargain" between the city of Seattle and developers.

Based on the new amendments, the City Council wants to require slightly more affordable units than they originally would have. For example, it would require 10 percent of units to be affordably priced, instead of 9 percent, as originally proposed.

Also in the amendments, commercial buildings would be able to have a larger floor plan by about 4,000 square feet.

In addition taller buildings would be allowed around the University District YMCA, which the City Council says YMCA requested.

Councilmember Rob Johnson, who is leading the zoning process, thinks the changes could bring even more affordable housing units to the neighborhood than anticipated.

Opponents of the rezone say it will change the neighborhood's character and question whether there will be as many affordable units as there are now.

The City Council will need to vote on the amendments first, then will vote on the entire University District zoning package. They will start discussions at the end of January.

After that, the City Council will rezone South Lake Union/downtown, Chinatown-International District, 23rd Avenue in the Central District, and lower Queen Anne.

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