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SEATTLE-The City Council on Monday unanimously approved legislation that has been in the works for about a year that will permit small business owners to live in ground floor commercially zoned space so long as the occupant also utilizes the space as a work space.

The legislation establishes development standards by which so-called “live-work” units are acceptable in commercial and neighborhood-commercial zones. Under the legislation, a live-work space is defined as combining residential and nonresidential uses in one space, if the occupant has a valid business license for the business operated in that unit. The business must be in the front of the unit with the residential space in back.

“This is a concept that has worked well in other cities,” says Councilmember Judy Nicastro, chair of the Land Use Committee and sponsor of the legislation. “We hope that this will allow more freedom for small business owners, like artists and craftsmen who can greatly benefit from not having to pay rent for a business office and rent for a home. Also, I am hopeful that this will help fill up commercial buildings that have a high vacancy rate right now.”

The live-work units, which are ideal for small business owners such as barbers, architects, artists and small retail stores, will be allowed in all commercial zones within the city, as well as in some neighborhood business districts.

“Everyone wants to see job growth right now. In neighborhoods where there are small business districts, we are trying to increase housing, so we’re looking at mixed-use type developments,” says Martin Munguia, Communications Specialist for the Council.

Nicastro believes that live-work units could accompany development in such targeted areas as South Lake Union, Northgate, or the University District to help facilitate live, work and play communities, a goal of those areas’ neighborhood plans.

“Several of our City’s goals are to increase the number of housing units available, encourage residents to work in their neighborhoods, and increase business opportunities by locating housing near commercial development. This strategy accomplishes all three goals,” Nicastro says.

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