Seattle pilot program would allow 'green' buildings to be taller

SEATTLE -- The city of Seattle may soon make it easier for environmentally-friendly developers to build taller structures, and that idea isn't sitting well with some residents.

Under a new pilot program called the Living Building Challenge, the city would have the ability to change the current maximum height of buildings in certain neighborhoods as long as they're environmentally friendly. Nobody's opposed to "green" technology, but some residents say sustainability isn't a good enough reason to make enormous changes to their backyards.

"There is no guarantee of greenness to this building, but the building will still be there and it will still impact my neighborhood," said a woman who opposes the program.

Gracie Kim and her husband, Mike, own Schemata Workshop, an architectural firm on Capitol Hill. They want to replace their current building with a safer, sustainable one. It would house 12 families and be six-stories tall, but they'd need the city to allow an extra 10 feet of height.

"Yeah we might be blocking somebody," Gracie Kim said. "Other people will be blocking us in the future. We're well aware of that because we didn't buy those air rights."

The biggest complaints about the plan come from residents worried they'll lose their views and gain long shadows in the winter months, when sunshine is already scarce.

"This is the wrong building in the wrong spot," one woman said of the Schemata building.

Applications for the pilot program aren't due until the end of January 2013. Applicants can ask for leeway on various standards, including height limits and downtown view corridor requirements.