Design Review Program Improvements

Last spring, DPD started working on the Design Review Program Improvements project. The purpose of the project is to identify, evaluate, and implement organizational, structural, and procedural changes to revamp and refresh our Design Review Program. This study builds on several past evaluations of the program, with the goal of arriving at specific program improvement recommendations by the end of 2015. The program improvements will be ready for implementation in 2016, after review by the Mayor and City Council.

A 16-member advisory group consisting of design professionals, design review board members, community residents, and development professionals have met regularly and will have its final meeting in September. The group is a sounding board for making recommendations and giving feedback to DPD. DPD’s final program improvements will be based substantially on their guidance. DPD also got feedback from an online survey that received over 400 responses last spring, and from an online open house that ran from June until August 21, 2015.

Fall Open Houses

This fall we will be holding two community open houses to share draft recommendations and hear other ideas directly from community members.  The meetings are:

  • September 29
    Columbia City Library
    4721 Rainier Ave. S.
    6:00 – 7:30 p.m.
  • October 14
    University Heights Community Center
    5031 University Way NE
    6:00 – 7:30 p.m.

Goals for this project are to:

  1. Cultivate the program’s purpose of encouraging better design.
  2. Improve the consistency, efficiency, and predictability of how the City administers the program.
  3. Increase accessibility to encourage better dialogue between the boards, applicant, and community.
  4. Use communication strategies and tools (both traditional and digital) to improve how information is presented, shared, and reviewed throughout the entire design review process.

Key ideas for specific improvements include:

  • Allowing for more dialogue between applicants and design review boards at meetings.
  • Encouraging dialogue directly between communities and development applicants very early in the design process.
  • Restructuring thresholds so that the projects with the most challenging design issues receive the most thorough review by boards.
  • Allowing a greater number of administrative reviews for developments that are likely to have fewer design challenges.

We hope you can join us for at one of the fall open houses to discuss these and other ideas with City staff.

For more information, contact:

Lisa Rutzick
(206) 386-9049