Proposed Updates to Design Review Program Are Now Available

Draft legislation to modify the design review program is available for public review and comment on our Design Review Program Improvements webpage and in the Land Use Information Bulletin. Comments will be open through Thursday, June 22.

Our proposed amendments to the Land Use Code (Title 23) are intended to improve the overall function of the program to enhance the efficiency and predictability of project reviews, improve dialogue among project stakeholders, and make the program more transparent and accessible to the public and project applicants. In addition, the changes would focus Design Review on the development projects most likely to influence the character of a neighborhood, and reduce the costs of building housing.  They build upon the recommendations in a report we released in March 2016.  This update is also a recommendation from the Mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda.

Key proposals in the legislation include:

  1. Simplify and raise the thresholds for projects subject to design review, switching from a variety of thresholds based on use, units, and zoning to simple square footage thresholds that respond to the complexity of a site and type of project.
  2. Create a new “hybrid” process that allows one phase of design review to be handled administratively and the remainder by the design review board.
  3. Require that all applicants for projects going through design review conduct outreach to the communities near their projects before they begin design review.

The legislation would also modify the composition of design review boards, eliminate the streamlined administrative design review process, modify the review process for exceptional trees in Title 25, and update and clarify other provisions related to design review.

We anticipate making final recommendations to the Mayor later in 2017.

An environmental (SEPA) decision on the draft legislation is also available.  This decision is subject to a comment and appeal period that runs until June 29.  Please submit comments on the proposal and the environmental decision to:

City of Seattle, SDCI
Attn: William Mills
P.O. Box 94788
Seattle, WA 98124-7088
william.mills@seattle.gov

If you have questions regarding the proposed code amendments please contact:

Christina Ghan
(206) 233-3749
christina.ghan@seattle.gov

Lisa Rutzick
(206) 386-9049
lisa.rutzick@seattle.gov