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.  Our goal is to arrive 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 had its final meeting in September. The group served as a sounding board for recommendations to DPD. DPD’s final program improvements will be based on their guidance and from broader community feedback.  An online survey received over 400 responses last spring.  An online open house ran from June until August 21, 2015.

Fall Open Houses

This fall we will are holding two community open houses to share draft recommendations and hear other ideas directly from community members.  The first open house was held on September 29 in Columbia City.  We invite you to the final open house:

  • 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.

For more information, contact:

Lisa Rutzick
(206) 386-9049