Illustrative UW West Campus Green
Illustrative UW West Campus Green
On October 5th, the University of Washington released its draft Seattle Campus Master Plan (CMP) along with an accompanying Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The Plan governs the University’s future development on campus between 2018 and 2028. The document is particularly important because pursuant to the City-University Agreement signed between UW and the City of Seattle in 1998, “University development within the University’s [Major Institution Overlay (MIO)] boundary is governed by this Campus Master Plan, not the underlying zoning or land use code. This Campus Master Plan replaces the underlying zoning, development standards, and land use control ordinances for development within the MIO boundary.”

The last campus master plan, completed in 2003, laid out the development of 3.0 million gross square feet, of which all but 211,000 square feet currently remains to be built. The 2018 Plan calls for 6.0 million square feet of net new development which the plan describes as completing “full build-out” of the Seattle campus. 85 potential development sites are identified with a maximum buildable allowance of 12.9 million square feet altogether. The formation and refining of the CMP is especially timely considering the proposed U-District rezone which is directly adjacent to campus and is slated to create up to 5,000 new housing units. Both rezones are critical to accommodating the projected 8,675 additional students UW will enroll by 2028. The CMP may need to get more aggressive with growth with the news that the most recent tweaks to the U-District rezone have scaled back total developable capacity.


Still there are causes for urbanist concern. One of the core standards guiding all development on campus is to “provide adequate light, air, access, and open space [and] conserve the natural environments and historic resources.” Accordingly, many of the graphics in the CMP illustrate plans for buildings that use up much less space than the maximum buildable envelope through tower spacing rules and required setbacks in order to maintain “pedestrian scale daylight & views.” Encouragingly, though, new developments will aim to have “public-facing ground floor uses” to create active corridors. One of the main reasons given for restricting building heights, especially in East Campus, is to preserve waterfront views from Central Campus.

The plan divides campus into four main sectors: Central, West, East and South Campus. The 2018 CMP envisions intensive development in the three sectors outside Central Campus in order to preserve “historic assets,” existing open space and “campus character” in the core. This presents a mixed bag of opportunities and challenges unique to each sector which are explored below.

East Campus

East Campus is comprised of the area of campus east of Montlake Boulveard. The CMP concentrates development in the northern half of this area which is currently occupied by massive surface parking lots. The area gets a rezone for building heights up to 130’ in some areas promising greatly increased activity from current levels, but the stroad that is Montlake Boulevard presents an unnatural barrier between the new development and the rest of campus. To mitigate this issue, the CMP calls for a new land bridge, similar to the one leading from Rainier Vista to UW Station, to cross Montlake Boulevard just north of Wahkiakum Road. While this feature will help in combating the inherently anti-urban nature of Montlake Boulevard, the CMP does not address Montlake itself except to say that improvements “should be explored.” While the road is a WSDOT facility, the plan should at least call for working with that agency to humanize the street by accommodating non-SOV modes, however tall of an order that may be in practicality. An easy first-step, which is not mentioned in the CMP, would be to lobby Metro to add bus stops for the 65 and 78 as there are currently no stops between UW Station and University Village. Much of East Campus is within the walkshed of UW Station, but these stops will be necessary to facilitate quick connections to downtown from the northern end of this area as well as West Campus and the University District.


South Campus

South Campus, defined as the area west of the Montlake Bridge and south of Pacific Street, will be home to some of the tallest buildings and densest development in the future UW. The CMP contains a rezone that will allow for building heights up to 240’ for much of this area and lower heights closer to waterfront. Pacific Street presents another barrier for pedestrians and cyclists, but the CMP at least states that bus improvements “should be explored” here. Perhaps the biggest feature planned for South Campus is the creation of a large new open space which will create “major pedestrian connections between Central and South Campuses, and…a permanent view corridor to the water.” The current and planned amount of open space near this area is already considerable, so the necessity of more parkland in the face of dire need for more housing is debatable. Still, kudos to University for at least focusing the new open spaces near the waterfront where developable capacity is lower and connections to the rest of the campus more difficult.

An exciting new feature in this area is a waterfront trail which would run along Portage Bay and the Ship Canal connecting the new West Campus open space, the new South Campus open space, and the backside of the UW Medical Center. IT would join up with the existing waterfront trail that currently begins at the Montlake Bridge and runs adjacent to the Waterfront Activity Center, Husky Stadium, the planned East Campus Land Bridge and the Union Bay Natural Area among other amenities.

West Campus

West Campus, which is the area west of 15th Ave NE and south of NE 41st St, will be the absorb most of the university’s growth over the next decade. This area, unlike the other peripheries of the campus, enjoys a human-scale street grid. Most of the area is within close walking distance to the retail and services contained within the University District, frequent bus service on 15th and Campus Parkway, and the future U-District Station. Consistent with the proposed U-District rezone by the City to the north, much of this area will also be rezoned for 240’ height limits dramatically increasing buildable capacity. In addition, Brooklyn Avenue is slated to become an “Active North-South Connector and Green Street” but it is unclear what this envisions beyond the introduction of a bike lane and an “activated pedestrian realm.”

Similar to South Campus, West Campus also gets a “multi-use, public open space that functions as the heart of the West Campus.” The seven acres of open space are necessary in order to provide “needed outdoor relief from the added density throughout the West Campus” as well as “a sense of privacy for the Fishery Sciences.” Fishery Sciences’ need for privacy is unclear, but more perhaps more perplexing is that the CMP declares that a central purpose of creating this open space is to encourage pedestrian activity, but the plan then cites that open space as necessary in providing much needed privacy in the area. One upside to a large new park in this area is that it will take some of the wind out of the sails of those still calling for a large plaza around the future U-District Station instead of transit-oriented development.


Currently, the number of parking stalls available within the MIO is capped at 12,300 which is unchanged since 1984. UW is 1,633 spaces under this cap and no substantial changes are planned for the new CMP. Considering that the large surface lots of East Campus are slated for redevelopment, the UW identified 14 potential new parking locations to replace some of this lost capacity. The campus of the future should strive not to replace lost car storage, but considering the U-PASS program continues to depend heavily on parking revenue, this is a mixed bag until the university steps up and identifies a more sustainable revenue source going forward.

Among other potential parking management improvement strategies, the CMP directs the University to “ to discourage the use of SOV’s,” institute a more dynamic pricing model based on demand, transition away from a parking permit model to a pay-per-use model, adding new wayfinding and real-time parking availability information to improve the efficiency and utilization of existing supply, try to coordinate and integrate with City of Seattle’s e-Park system and work with the City to manage unrestricted on-street parking adjacent to the University, most likely through expanding the Restricted Parking Zone Program.

Notably, the CMP retains minimum parking standards for student housing of “one space per unit for family housing and spaces for up to 4 percent of total residents for single student housing.” Students in university housing near campus are perhaps the segment of the population that can most easily live car-free in the entire region. Also, considering that Northgate Link will come online during the life of this iteration of the CMP,  the plan should strive for elimination of parking minimums to reduce the construction costs of new housing and keep rents more affordable.

Multi-Modal Access


The plan recognizes that long stretches of campus boundaries currently provide a poor pedestrian environment including the “continuous, blank building facades along NE Pacific Street near South Campus” and “the retaining wall along 15th Avenue NE.”  15th is re-imainged as more pedestrian oriented with the following improvements:

  • Enhanced planting, lighting, and furnishings, and removal of retaining walls improves the permeability of the campus, notably at Parrington Lawn, NE 43rd Street, and the development site south of the 40th Street Gateway;
  • The new Burke Museum activates the street edge, and locates an entrance at NE 43rd Street;
  • Introduction of a street level plaza at NE 42nd Street improves universal access to Parrington Lawn and welcomes visitors.
  • NE 42nd and 43rd are designated as “Green Streets”; and
  • Pedestrian bridge overpass across 15th Avenue NE is improved and integrated with new development or relocated to maintain and enhance universal access.

The CMP notes that Red Square is, not surprisingly, the area of highest intensity pedestrian use on campus which makes the fact that the north and west entrances lack ADA-accessibility a significant current problem. The plan calls for “accessibility and environmental improvements in a few key locations” but there are no further details.

Bicycle improvements

The CMP calls for a comprehensive campus bike network that contains “desirable bicycle facilities” while reducing conflicts with pedestrians. Among specific improvements, the plan notes that sharrows on Stevens Way are inadequate and calls for “consideration of bike improvements” on this road. The plan also envisions re-routing bike traffic off the Burke-Gilman Trail down 11th Avenue along NE Pacific Street and connecting back at the corner of 15th Avenue “to ensure safer Burke-Gilman Trail connections.” Improving the facilities that connect with key inter-neighborhood and regional routes are emphasized as well as improving the capacity of the Burke-Gilman Trail through campus. Investments in “high-security” bicycle parking and providing adequate bike parking supply to serve demand are also considered.

Transit Network

The CMP makes a number of recommendations for improving the transit network in and near campus. The plan recognizes light rail stations as “major destinations for all modes of movement” and accordingly directs that sidewalks leading to and from stations should be designed to meet capacity needs and to visually and aesthetically connect to campus. Also on the list are possible bus lanes and/or signal priority improvements along multiple corridors including Roosevelt/11th Avenue, University Way NE, 15th Avenue NE, NE Pacific Street, NE 45th Street and Montlake Boulevard NE. The University also calls on the various agencies that serve it “to improve early morning service (before 5 AM) and increase off-peak service to provide greater user flexibility.”

The ongoing financial saga of U-PASS is briefly addressed. The CMP recommends the following three strategies for the program:

  • Review pricing structure of the U-PASS.
  • Review University subsidy methods for U-PASS program.
  • Explore the possibility of expanding the U-PASS to be an integrated, multimodal transportation payment method.

It is a relief to see the university exploring how not only to make U-PASS more financially sustainable, but also how to expand it to be more useful.The possibility of integrating U-PASS with Pronto is specifically mentioned.


The 2018 CMP final plan and EIS will be published in early 2017. Next, the CMP will go before a hearing examiner and the Seattle City Council in Summer 2017 with final approval from the City Council and UW Board of Regents expected in late 2017 or early 2018. Comments on the CMP should be submitted to Theresa Doherty, Senior Project Director, at and Leslie Stark, CMP Outreach Coordinator, at

A public hearing on the draft EIS will take place on October 26th from 6:30-9:00pm at the UW Tower Auditorium at 4333 Brooklyn Ave NE. Comments on the EIS can also be submitted to or November 21st is the deadline for submitting comments for both the CMP and EIS.

24 Replies to “UW Releases Draft of 2018 Campus Master Plan”

  1. “””
    The plan also envisions re-routing bike traffic off the Burke-Gilman Trail down 11th Avenue along NE Pacific Street and connecting back at the corner of 15th Avenue “to ensure safer Burke-Gilman Trail connections”.

    Is there a map of that idea? It seems like that could be a major detour. Bicyclists should riot about that if so.

    Students in university housing near campus are perhaps the segment of the population that can most easily live car-free in the entire region.

    +1. All those student parking spots should be car-share or for people with disabilities.

    1. Here’s the bike plan pulled out from the CMP:

      Pacific Street is pretty close to the BGT between 11th and 15th so it doesn’t look like a huge detour on the map, but I do question the wisdom of routing bikes off a separated trail and shuttling them into unprotected bike lanes as the map suggests.

    2. Rerouting all bike traffic or just from the areas in between? If it’s rerouting all bike traffic that’s not “rerouting them off the trail” but “moving the trail”.

      1. The plan just says “Reroutes bicycle traffic off the Burke-Gilman Trail down 11th Avenue along NE Pacific Street and connects back at the corner of 15th Avenue” and provides no other details. Infer what you will from that.

      2. The map doesn’t seem to indicate any rerouting or closure of any section of the Burke-Gilman trail, nor should there be. The existing trail routing is good the way it is.

      3. It’s not on the map. It’s a bullet point for the West Campus Green on page 92, with no further details how they’d accomplish this reroute or enforce prohibiting bikes from the trail.

    3. The drop between the Burk and Pacific along 11th is kinda steep. The current setup isn’t great. There’s a lot of pedestrian cross traffic. The trail drops right before a stop sign onto a street that probably has less cars than the Burk has bikes. But dropping all the way down to pacific isn’t in keeping with the safe all ages and abilities that the Burk is known for

  2. It’s a real pity that, as far as I can tell, there’s no mention of the 43rd St – Stevens Way connection past the Burke which Metro has been planning to reroute buses down when U-District Station is opened. How can we get them to provide for this vital piece of transportation infrastructure?

    1. Put it in feedback to the CMP. Removing the retaining wall may help its cause, but designating 42nd as a “Green Street” may preclude it. If the interpretation of Green Street is “no buses” and the part between 15th and 16th as “important pedestrian/open space”, then that could disallow buses.

      But first we need more discussion on whether we think the reroute is a good idea. It would remove buses from the lower Stevens Way stops and Campus Parkway. It would require a longer walk for those going from lower Stevens Way to Fremont or U Village. On the other hand, the reroute appears to be faster through campus. Is it a net benefit?

    2. Do you mean that routes like the 75 and 372 would go up Pend-Oreille Road, then turn right on Stevens and exit campus just south of the Burke Museum?

      My (former) sub-neighborhood in Ravenna had a neighborhood meeting about route 372 and Link. We were pretty divided about it. The majority thought route 372 did a lousy job of connecting to Link at UW Station and we shout petition Metro to consider routing it down Montlake. The minority, which I was part of, thought that even though the 372 doesn’t connect well to UW Station, since most 372 riders were going to campus, not Link, we thought the 372 should continue to serve campus.

      Routing the 75/372 up Stevens would make it easier to get to Link, via U District station. But it would really hinder those trying to get to campus. Anyone trying to get from NE Seattle to Red Square or the fountain would have a long walk, and heaven help anyone trying to get to UWMC. I personally think campus is a big enough destination – both in ridership and physical size – that buses should continue to travel through it.

      Of course the flip side of the argument is that the northern edge of campus isn’t well served right now. Someone trying to get from U Village to the Burke Museum either has a steep walk up 45th, or has to take a bus the long way around which still only goes as far north as Campus Parkway. So there’s an argument to be made in favor of the reroute. But if the 44 is extended down the 45th St viaduct, then I’d strongly support leaving the current Stevens Way routing in place.

      1. Not necessarily the 372, but at least some of the 372/75/65. The Metro Long-Range Plan (check the 2025 or 2040 box) shows the 65 and 75 taking the route you describe, while the 372 continues south on Montlake. Long-range, I think as many people will be taking them to Link as to campus, so I think taking the faster way to serve north campus is better than taking the slower way via south campus.

  3. I’m really disappointed — even offended — at how this plan seems to act as if Link stations aren’t very important. Link appears to have already fundamentally changed the way that UW circulation works, and yet this major change doesn’t seem to be carried through with this plan. We the public have given UW two stations at either end of campus and they don’t seem to want to appreciate and build upon our investment!

    1. There is no new direct pedestrian link between the medical buildings and the UW Station. Not only is there no pedestrian tunnel to connect the buildings with UW station at the mezzanine, but there isn’t even a new safe, direct pedestrian overpass at the station! These buildings probably get many more daily non-student trips than any other part of campus. Given the parking hell around these buildings, UW should be designing to safely and directly serve as many trips as possible to this part of campus coming to and from Link.

    2. There seems to be a general lack of recognition of the predominant flows coming to and from the two stations and the campus. Why aren’t new buildings with high activity at the base of Rainier Vista, for example? Why are West Campus height limits shorter as one is closer to the station than the proposed taller West Campus buildings (which are at least a half-mile away)?

    Link stations are more than a “gateway” design feature; they are the major ways that students, faculty and staff will access the station in 2028. The entire plan should be better designed around this obvious fact. Otherwise, the numerical pledge to encourage transit rings pretty hollow.

    1. You’re right on this one, Al S. Lack of any crossing from the station to the hospital is a major “howler” that should never have been allowed to happen.

      So considering the amount of money about to be spent, the cost of another ramp to should cost less than the dumpster area of the average new building. I’m surprised ADA allowed a lapse like this in the first place, but now seems like a good time to put it in. Though during station construction would have been better.


    2. The Montlake crosswalk is right near the station, the hospital is closer than the 372 transfer stop, and extending the bridge would be a curved walk that would take longer. ADA doesn’t require bridges, it just requires an accessible path.

      1. There is a difference between meeting minimum ADA requirements and serving the needs of large number of pedestrians crossing busy, wide streets to get to a light rail station. ADA is mainly about accessibility minimums.

        If UW is spending the hundreds of millions proposed here including building other overpasses and lids, accommodating better flow with pedestrian separation between the medical center and the UW station makes a ton of sense. More users will probably use a UW Station-Medical Center connection more than the other grade separations in this plan.

      2. Remember we are talking about the same group that won’t allow Link access to the existing walkway from the underground parking structure to the medical center.

        So, they provide abbot have some similar security reason for not allowing easy Link access on a second walkway.

      3. I would hope that UW opinions would shift now that UW Station is open and well-used. They began this plan update before the station opened, but it would seem that enough interested parties should now speak up and say something. This is the place and time in the process to speak up!

        If UW built and controlled the access point, they could lock and unlock it when they chose. If ST provided it, that kind of security issue may be more significant.

      4. It’s the UW’s decision more than anybody’s whether the medical center needs a bridge connection, so I defer to it. Did anybody bring this up when the bridge was being designed? Or is this one of those things like “Link should have had a 520 station” that nobody including activists thought was important at the time.

        The underground walkway is a different issue: the UW didn’t want non-UW people in the underground tunnel where they’re harder to monitor than on the surface. As for locking the west end of the bridge, it all depends on whether it just goes down to the sidewalk or goes into the building. I assume it would just go down to the sidewalk like the east end does.

  4. “…, but considering the U-PASS program continues to depend heavily on parking revenue, …” Are you sure? My understanding is the U-PASS program is subsidized by requiring all students to pay for one irrespective of whether they need it (something that so far faculty and staff escaped) with parking fees funding new parking structures. A simple solution would be to require all U-PASS holders to pay a non-subsidized rate since with limited and very expensive parking, this would still be the best option for most employees.

    1. From the first sentence of the linked article: “The U-Pass transit program for UW Faculty and Staff has been on an unsustainable financial trajectory for years, with a perverse reliance on parking revenue that cannibalizes funding as it succeeds in reducing driving.”

  5. All in all a good plan. As this state’s premier University it is great to see them expanding their main campus and not just expanding their satellites. 20 to 30 percent more emps and students will be good for the UW, good for the local region, and good for transit and Link.

    Per the plan specifics, I like what they are doing in SW camps, and I like the various parks. The one on Portage Bay will be particularly nice. And it is nice to see them beginning to think about developing the old landfill site. Now if they can just do that without impacting tailgate space (I think they can).

    I would still like to see a led overpass to the hospital though. But that is a small detail that can always be added.

    Btw: word on the street is that the post game rush wasn’t as bad after the OSU game as it was after the Stanford game. Go figure.

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