Councilmember Licata left office on January 1, 2016.
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Urban Politics #155: Live-Work Legislation Description

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By City Councilmember Nick Licata.

Assisted by Legislative Assistant Frank Video on this issue. 

Urban Politics (UP) blends my insights and information on current public policy developments and personal experiences with the intent of helping citizens shape Seattle’s future.


  • Live-Work Legislation Description
  • Public Hearing On “Live-Work” Legislation
  • Why Artists Should Attend This Hearing
  • Live-Work Brown Bag Alert
  • Live-Work Resources


Live-Work Legislation Description

Since being on the City Council I have taken an active interest in trying to get the city to promote more opportunities for Seattle’s artists to remain in the city and not be pushed out by higher housing costs. There are a number of different strategies to accomplish that goal. Aside from direct funding for low-income housing that is available for artists who need live/work space, there is also the strategy of changing our Land Use Code to better accommodate these opportunities.

To that end I have worked with a number of artists, developers and city staff to explore how the City’s laws could be changed. Following on these discussions the City is now considering legislation to allow new uses for street-level spaces in developments. The proposed change can offer artists new opportunities for live-work space by allowing live-work at street level in appropriate downtown and commercially zoned areas. Neighborhood business districts will also benefit since these uses will contribute to an increased number of pedestrians.

These new standards will also help maintain the limited supply of commercially zoned land by requiring that the spaces be designed for easy conversion to more traditional retail and commercial uses should demand for that space arise in the future.

The main elements of the proposal are to:

– define a “live-work unit”;

– distinguish live-work use from purely residential uses by requiring that the resident responsible for the work performed in the unit be engaged in a meaningful business pursuit with which a valid business license is associated;

– allow live-work units to meet street-level nonresidential use requirements for mixed use development in commercial zones, outside of pedestrian-designated zones or other streets where retail or entertainment uses are expressly required; and

– apply development standards appropriate to the underlying zone, which in some instances will determine ceiling heights, depth of the space, and facade transparency. 

Public Hearing On “Live-Work” Legislation

The Seattle City Council will hold a public hearing on this proposed legislation this Wednesday, May 28th, 2003 at 5 PM in Council Chambers on the 11th floor of the Municipal Building, 600 4th Ave, downtown Seattle.

The City Council’s Land Use Committee Chair and Councilmember Judy Nicastro has scheduled this hearing to take public testimony on the proposal as presented by the City’s Department of Design, Construction and Land Use (DCLU). The proposal would amend the Land Use Code (Title 23) to allow live-work units and establish development standards for live-work units in commercial, downtown and certain multifamily zones.
Why Artists Should Attend This Hearin

One of the purposes of this legislation is to return city streets to pedestrian activity that has lately been lost due to increasingly vacant retail spaces. Developers find it financially difficult to meet the City’s requirement of building retail or entertainment space into their mixed-use developments because these commercial spaces don’t make money in the current economy. In fact, developers complain that many banks will not lend money for those portions of their projects because such spaces have proven to be unreliable income producers.

Although this proposed legislation is silent on artists, it is obvious that artists would make ideal tenants for these live-work spaces. Many artists could benefit from the exposure of a Downtown location. Artists who actively promote their work would be able to display it in large street-front windows. And they would not need to restrict their studio tours to the City’s First Thursday events. They could organize their own whenever they like.

Interested artists should attend this hearing and demonstrate to Councilmembers, City staff and any developers in attendance how artists can bring a desirable character and level of activity to developments and adjacent sidewalks that is even more diverse than those of conventional live-work businesses. For such spaces to be built, developers need to be convinced to know that there is a market.

Recently, I approached one such developer, The Fortune Group, and asked if they might consider building street-level spaces specifically for artists for two new developments they have planned on Capitol Hill. They agreed to explore the possibility.
Live-Work Brown Bag Alert

Sometime after this new live-work legislation is adopted by the Council, I plan to host a public brown-bag lunch discussion focused on developers who are considering how to apply the legislation’s live-work provisions. It will consist of a panel discussion with one or more architects, developers, City housing experts, DCLU zoning experts, and artist space developers on the benefits of utilizing the live-work ordinance to build live-work spaces specifically for artists. URBAN POLITICS will provide scheduling information in the near future.
Live-Work Resources

To receive a copy of the proposed live-work legislation, contact Councilmember Judy Nicastro’s office at (206) 684-8806 or Frank Video in my office at 684-8849.
To view or download the City’s free “Space For Artists 2002” publication, which provides resources and information on making, renting, or buying artists spaces, go to the City’s Office of Housing web site: You can also have a hard copy of the booklet mailed to you by writing to: Seattle Office of Housing, Key Tower, 700 Fifth Avenue – 57th Floor, Seattle, WA 98104-5032, (206) 684-0721, or by calling my office at (206) 684-8849.

Keep in touch…

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