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A U-District resident and advocate for the blind testifies at previous “up-zoning” hearing. (GeekWire Photo / Monica Nickelsburg)

The Seattle City Council unanimously voted today to “up-zone” the University District, giving developers the green light to build taller buildings in the neighborhood surrounding the University of Washington.

The up-zone is designed to accommodate Seattle’s rapid population growth, driven in part by the booming tech industry. It requires developers to include affordable units in new buildings. The proposal, first introduced in 2011, has been years in the making.

The U-District is often discussed, by members of the tech community, as a possible new startup hub because of its walkability, proximity to the UW’s startup resources, and light rail access. The additional office space and housing that will result from rezoning is a possible step in that direction.

The up-zone amends Seattle Municipal Code and zoning map, changing height limits on various 65-foot and 85-foot zoned properties to between 85 and 320 feet. Some single-family parcels will become low-rise multifamily designations and a limited number of low-rise multifamily properties will be zoned as midrises.

Areas zoned for increased height and density will be clustered around the Light Rail station, UW Campus, and existing high-rise buildings, according to the proposal. Buildings will be kept lower around University Way, a.k.a. “The Ave,” to maintain its scale and character.

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