Historic South Downtown Funds South Downtown Study

Back Alley Bike Repair, located in a historic brick building
Residents and small businesses located in historic buildings both in Pioneer Square and Chinatown-ID are vulnerable in the event of an earthquake. Recent city policies addressing this and other issues may impact both neighborhoods.

Historic South Downtown is pleased to announce a funding partnership with the City of Seattle in support of the Seattle Chinatown International District Public Development Authority’s (SCIDPDA) RRIO/URM study that we believe will be of great value to South Downtown neighborhoods.

The City of Seattle has adopted a Rental Registration Inspection Ordinance (RRIO) and an Unreinforced Masonry Retrofit (URM) ordinance to require seismic retrofit of URM buildings is anticipated later in the year.  Pioneer Square and the Chinatown/International District (CID) will be particularly impacted by these policies. Together, the neighborhoods contain approximately 15 percent of all unreinforced masonry buildings in the city and are particularly vulnerable in the event of a major earthquake. Both also contain significant affordable housing for low-income individuals and families with children, seniors, and recent immigrants, as well as affordable commercial space for small businesses.

Much of the neighborhoods’ historic building stock may be subject to at least one of the new policies, and many buildings will be affected by both. In the CID alone, at least 700 affordable housing units (half of which are occupied) need work to comply with URM retrofit requirements; 600 of those will also require upgrades to meet rental inspection standards. Dozens of small businesses—largely located in mixed-use URM buildings—will also be impacted and potentially displaced.

SCIDPDA will conduct outreach in both neighborhoods as a practical way for property owners and city agencies to anticipate the work required to comply with the new policies, estimate associated costs, and create a sustainable, targeted financing mechanism for improvements. The pilot will explore the work required to rehabilitate 5 to 7 case study buildings for URM compliance, including needs assessments and cost estimates by professional consultants, and exploration of potential funding mechanisms to fund retrofit work. Community engagement will be conducted throughout the process.  For more information, contact project manager Paul Mar at 206-838-8233 or PaulM[at]scidpda.org.