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Seattle issues final environmental review of updated Industrial and Maritime Strategy 

Final Environmental Impact Statement evaluates a strategy that strengthens protections for existing industrial and maritime lands, protects freight corridors, supports transit-oriented job growth in innovation centers near future light rail stations, and supports smaller-scale industrial businesses and opportunities for maker spaces near residential areas.  

The Seattle Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) has completed its environmental study of land use changes to industrial lands that will create an estimated 35,000 new jobs over the next 20 years. The city’s proposal creates new pathways to careers in industrial and maritime businesses, strengthens land-use protections for existing industries and freight corridors, and supports improved environmental quality for area residents.  

“Seattle only grew to flourish and become one of the nation’s most forward-looking cities because of our industrial and maritime sectors – a legacy we are continuing to embrace and celebrate,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell. “Working with a wide array of stakeholders and our Office of Planning and Community Development, this strategy will help us continue to foster an innovative economy, protect freight corridors and industrial lands, and promote new jobs and opportunities for residents across the city.” 

The strategy includes new industrial land use concepts that seek to provide stronger protections for core industrial and maritime areas while also encouraging modern, innovative high-density industrial development in walkable areas near light rail stations. The proposal also seeks to create affordable opportunities for small-scale light-industrial businesses, makers, and creative arts, and improve the environmental health of communities through improved transitions between industrial areas and residential or mixed-use areas.    

The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) is an environmental review and analysis of new policies. It includes a preferred alternative for zoning regulations that would update the land use approach for industrial areas with three new industrial zones: 

  • Maritime, Manufacturing and Logistics (MML) – This zone would focus on strengthening land use protections for core and legacy industrial and maritime areas to better prevent the encroachment of other developments, such as mini-storage and big box stores, that are incompatible with industrial and maritime uses. This zone is particularly applicable near the shoreline or deep-water port, rail and freight infrastructure, and around existing clusters of industrial or maritime suppliers and services. 
  • Industry and Innovation (II) – This zone would encourage new development in multi-story buildings that accommodate industrial businesses mixed with other dense employment uses such as research, design, offices, and technology through a system of density bonuses. Modern industrial development would support high-density employment near Sound Transit light rail stations and commercial areas. 
  • Urban Industrial (UI) – This zone would aim to increase employment and entrepreneurship opportunities with a vibrant mix of affordable, small-scale places for light industry, makers, and creative arts, as well as industry-supporting ancillary retail or housing spaces to create better, integrated, and healthier transitions along the edges between industrial areas and neighboring urban villages, residential, and mixed-use areas. 

The city’s preferred alternative would result in about 3,000 additional homes. Nearly half of these new homes would be in mixed-use development in neighborhood areas outside of the city’s Manufacturing Industrial Centers (MIC) in Georgetown, Judkins Park, South Park, and Ballard. The remaining 1,500 would be industry-supportive housing inside MICs in the form of caretakers’ quarters, maker studios, or conditional-use apartment buildings in which at least half of the homes would be affordable to households with incomes at 90% of Area Median Income or below.     

For more information, see this Executive Summary

“Seattle’s industrial maritime stakeholders and nearby neighborhood residents have spent countless hours working with our staff to develop this meaningful update to our City’s industrial policy,” said Rico Quirindongo, acting director of OPCD. “We are laying the groundwork for more diverse employment opportunities in our city, and a stronger future for advanced manufacturing, applied technology, trade, and maritime businesses in Seattle. I look forward to implementing these strategies in 2023.”  

In 2023, the city will continue to work with stakeholders to implement these concepts by:  

  • Amending the city’s comprehensive plan to add new policies describing the intent and vision for how these concepts would be applied. 
  • Amending the industrial zoning section of the city’s land use code to create new zone designations and corresponding development standards. 
  • Continuing to work with stakeholders to identify transportation improvements.  
  • Adopting new subarea plans for the Ballard-Interbay-Northend and Greater Duwamish Maritime Industrial Centers.  

“On behalf of the members of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association (PMSA), I want to applaud Mayor Harrell and the city staff for working collaboratively with stakeholders to develop this EIS protecting Seattle’s industrial lands,” Jordan Royer, Vice President for External Affairs, PMSA. “While nobody got everything they wanted, the process was fair and provides the opportunity for stronger protections for industrial lands adjacent to Port of Seattle facilities, ensuring that good-paying, family-wage jobs will continue to grow in Seattle.” 

“The breweries in Ballard are truly a unique destination, not only for Seattle, but anywhere across the country,” Andy Gundel, Owner, Urban Family Brewing Co. “We are surrounded by an exceptional group of small business owners that are passionate about making this place home and doing what they love. We look forward to being here for years to come.” 

“Live and work districts are a delicate ecosystem, but when harnessed the right way, are the future of modern cities, and Ballard is a great example of what can be achieved,” said Adam Robbings, Co-founder, Reuben’s Brews. “It’s been exciting to see the brewery district grow and evolve over the years, and we firmly believe that its concentration of creativity, knowledge, hospitality, and economic productivity is a tremendous asset to Seattle at large. We fully support all efforts to keep such a rich ecosystem in balance, for the benefit of all our community.”  

Washington’s State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) requires environmental review when a city changes land use policies or zoning. The FEIS provides policymakers with a detailed analysis of how the proposed changes could affect the built and natural environment in industrial areas and adjacent communities, and opportunities to mitigate any adverse impacts.   

The FEIS seeks to advance the City’s Equity and Environment Agenda and the City’s Duwamish Valley Program by advancing policies and identifying mitigation to: 

  • Reduce residents’ and workers’ exposures to environmental hazards   
  • Support safe, connected, and accessible neighborhoods   
  • Reduce displacement risk for Equity and Environmental Initiative (EEI) populations 
  • Increase access to education or pathways out of poverty through jobs and careers   

In November 2019, the Industrial and Maritime Strategy Council of more than 60 stakeholders began its work to update industrial land use policy for the first time in decades. The council was comprised of representatives from traditional and emerging industrial and maritime businesses, labor, developers, workforce development professionals, and community representatives from neighborhoods near industrial areas, to consider the future of Seattle’s Manufacturing Industrial Centers. The Industrial and Maritime Strategy Council released 11 strategies to support the next generation of industrial and maritime jobs in June 2021. 

Maritime and manufacturing activities have long benefitted Seattle by contributing to the city’s identity, supporting living-wage jobs, and promoting economic diversity. Seattle contains approximately 7,000 acres of industrial lands (11% of the city’s total area) that generate nearly 100,000 critical living-wage jobs, of which two-thirds are accessible without a traditional four-year college degree. Seattle’s maritime industrial economy is supported by the Port of Seattle’s cargo terminals and connecting infrastructure; manufacturing facilities in the Duwamish Valley, Elliott Bay, Lake Union, and Ballard; and the nation’s largest fishing fleet, which is sewn into the fabric of Seattle culture.