Seattles MultiFamily Zoning – Cliff Notes

Multi-Family Zoning

Here is a handy guide published by DPD with the “Cliff Notes” if you will for Multi-Family zoning in Seattle   multifamilyzoningdpds021571

Seattle changed the Multifamily Zoning regulation in early 2011. DPD added calculations based on Floor Area Ratio (FAR).  These ratios have been used for Commercial Zoning for years.  DPD also changed the building code encouraging environmentally friendly construction.

Bulk and Scale of a building

Or, what is FAR?

To determine bulk and scale of new construction in multifamily zones Seattle currently uses FAR (Floor Area Ratio). For instance to get an educated guess on how large of a building that can be built on a L1 zoned lot that is 5000 square feet apply the appropriate FAR, which is a different value for Cottage Houses, Row Houses, Town Houses, or Apartments.  The FAR varies between 0.9 to 1.2, or 4500 square feet of structure up to 6000 square feet – depending of the type of building and how “Green” or environmentally friendly it will be, how close to an Urban Village and Light Rail.  But in general here are the FAR ranges:

  • LR1 FAR varies between 1.0 to 1.3
  • LR2 FAR varies between 0.9 to 1.2
  • LR3 FAR varies between 1.1 all the way up to 2.0

Number of Units

To determine the number of units DPD still has a unit calculation based on lot square footage such as: 1 unit per 1600 sf of lot or even the ever prized “No Limit” to number of units.

  • LR1 varies between 1 unit per 2200 sqft feet of lot for townhouses to no limit for rowhouses
  • LR2 varies between 1/1600 for Cottage Houses to No Limit for rowhouses, townhouses and apartments, depending on the green building performance and other factors.
  • LR3 varies between 1/1600 square feet to No Limit.

Luckily all the information is on their “Cliff Note” pdf file: multifamilyzoningdpds021571

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2 thoughts on “Seattles MultiFamily Zoning – Cliff Notes

  1. Mike Kraft

    I have a lot in Seattle zoned LR 1. The lot is 5000 square feet. How many units can I put on it?

    1. alanneely Post author

      Hi Mike,

      I would love to know more information. DPD allows the most units for L1 zoning if you construct row houses (no limit to the number of units). You could build lot line to lot line, BUT you’ll need easements from your neighbors so workers can use their property to place ladders and scaffolding, future maintenance such as repainting, etc.

      As far has how big the building can be in LR 1 Zoning, Rowhouses has an FAR of 1.0 for non-green development. 5000 x 1.0 = 5,000 square foot building.

      If you plan on building “Green” you can use a 1.2 FAR x 5000 sqft = or a 6000 square foot building.

      If it is in a neighborhood with higher end homes, I would keep the units larger. Around 1400 to 2000 square feet in size per unit. If your lot is slopped it is easy to get “Bonus” area that does not count against the FAR. In this case it could be as much as 2000 more square feet of building. Maybe you could build an 8000 sqft building. BUT I need to see the lot, or at least get the address.
      Thanks for the question,


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