Cultural Space Incentive Zoning Update

The Seattle Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) is continuing to solicit feedback on the initial proposal to update Incentive Zoning. One of the options that they are hoping to solicit feedback on is adding a new option for developers to earn extra floor area by providing Cultural Space. This first round of public engagement is scheduled to continue until the end of September, so please share your thoughts and ideas with them around this exciting and important work.

As part of this work, draft standards for all public amenities are now available on OPCD’s website. The Proposed Amenity Standards document contains proposed requirements for location, access, layout, landscaping, furnishings, and other areas for 10 public amenities, such as urban plazas, hillclimb assists, and public bathrooms, that can be used to achieve extra floor area.

If you have any questions or comments on the Amenity Standards or the Incentive Zone Update, please contact Brennon Staley at or (206) 684-4625.

New Arts Permit Liaison

Last year the Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI), the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD), and others collaborated with the Office of Arts & Culture (ARTS) on the creation of The CAP Report: 30 Ideas for the Creation, Activation, and Preservation of Cultural Space.

One of those “30 Ideas” was the creation of an Arts Permit Liaison at SDCI, a new role designed to help shepherd cultural space projects through the permitting process. Our own Jeff McHegg has for the past two months been filling that role, working with artists exploring home studio options, theater companies hoping to mount shows in warehouses, and even a beloved neighborhood cinema hoping to launch a new screening room… on their roof.

If you have a cultural space project, no matter how well formed or how speculative, you should reach out to Jeff. From identifying alternative paths to compliance for projects stuck at seemingly insurmountable code hurdles, to strategizing solutions to land use, building code, or other issues, Jeff brings decades of experience, and the resources of both SDCI, ARTS, and OPCD, to bear on your project.

We look forward to building connections between the cultural community and the world of code compliance, and to demystifying the experience of working with SDCI as a non-building professional. A thriving arts and cultural scene in Seattle is part of what makes this one of the country’s most livable cities. We’d like to keep it that way.

CAP Report: Implementation Update

This summer the Office of Arts & Culture published its long-anticipated CAP Report: 30 Ideas for the Creation, Activation, and Preservation of Cultural Space. The report sourced its ideas from the cultural community, the development community, from electeds, from departmental staff, and from consultants.

In the short four months since its publication, the Arts Office, City Council, and the Mayor’s Office have already acted on four of its 30 recommendations, and continue to explore the remaining 26.

The first of the 30 to see the light of day is Idea #3: Brand Cultural Space. Piloted in Capitol Hill, Seattle’s first of three Arts & Cultural Districts, this Cultural Space Brand is a medallion that officially recognizes cultural spaces in these arts-rich neighborhoods. The Brand is conceived as part of a wayfinding system, and designed to highlight the presence of cultural space, to aim people towards the arts, and to center cultural issues in neighborhood planning. The medallions themselves were designed by Kristen Ramirez, artists and Art & Enhancements Project Manager at Seattle Department of Transportation following a year of public community input, and created by a small local company.


The second of the 30 ideas to be operationalized is Idea #23: Increase City Capital Funding for Cultural Spaces. For the past five years, the City has awarded small capital grants to cultural space projects through the Cultural Facilities Fund. While the total amount has varied year to year, the largest that fund has been in any year was $250,000. In 2018, we are proud to debut a newly reconceived and greatly expanded Cultural Facilities Fund with $1 million total assets to award. ARTS is in the process of running a Racial Equity Toolkit on the fund expansion, to ensure that the added resources equitably benefit communities of color, in recognition of the fact that these communities have been largely underinvested in the history of this country. That new fund will debut in early 2018.


We are also proud to have worked closely with the Seattle Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD) to activate Idea #4: Create an FAR (floor-to-area-ratio) Exemption and Bonus for Cultural Space. Piloted in the newly designated Uptown Arts & Cultural District, this mechanism will create an incentive for developers (without increasing heights) to embed cultural uses into their new projects. For every cultural square foot created, developers will be able to build additional market-rate square feet, helping subsidize the cultural uses in the building. Floor-to-Area Ratio incentives have long been used to encourage uses such as affordable housing, and are being leveraged here to meet another civic priority.

Finally, to implement Idea #9, we partnered with the Code Review team at the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) to update Seattle’s Building Code. Art galleries in Seattle are designated as Assembly uses in the code, but their operations are far better aligned with other retail uses, officially called Mercantile uses. The difference, while technical and specialized, is that it is impossible to put an Assembly use into an older building without triggering a prohibitively complicated set of reviews for the whole structure. This change will make it possible to open an art gallery in an older building without, for example, re-wiring every space in the building, or re-insulating every wall (whether in the gallery or not). Most exciting about this particular change is Seattle’s opportunity, at the next biennial meeting, to pitch this to the International Building Code review panel, and potentially share this change internationally.


ARTS continues to work on implementing the remaining recommendations from the CAP Report. Have you got a favorite idea? Reach out to us at and let us know what you think we should be working on.

Capitol Hill Design Guidelines Update Open House

Capitol Hill is experiencing a phase of rapid growth. Since the neighborhood design guidelines were adopted in 2005, nearly 50 new building designs have gone through the Design Review program and received development permits. As the neighborhood continues to grow, the City of Seattle is teaming up with Capitol Hill Housing, the Capitol Hill EcoDistrict and local community members to update the existing Capitol Hill Neighborhood Design Guidelines, which will serve as a guide for future development throughout all areas within the Capitol Hill Urban Center. This is a joint effort we are working on with the Office of Planning and Community Development (OPCD).

Come meet the team, learn more about design guidelines update, and share your thoughts about design of new development on Capitol Hill.

Capitol Hill Design Guidelines Open House
Thursday, November 16, 5:00 – 7:00 pm (brief presentation at 6:00 pm)
Pike/Pine Room of 12th Avenue Arts
1620 12th Avenue, 2nd Floor
RSVP on Facebook here

What are Design Guidelines?
Design Guidelines serve as a tool to establish a set of expectations, goals, values, and qualities used to evaluate construction projects. They define the qualities of architecture, urban design, and public space for the City’s Design Review Program. Guidelines are intended to address how new buildings support and enhance the character of the existing community fabric.

Please visit OPCD’s website to learn more about the project and review related materials.

For more information, please contact:

Patrice Carroll, OPCD

Christina Ghan, SDCI

City of Seattle to Host Community Open House in South Lake Union

South Lake Union residents, employees and businesses are invited to a community open house and informational meeting from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 25 at the South Lake Union Discovery Center, 101 Westlake Avenue North. This event is hosted by the South Lake Union Community Council and the City of Seattle.

From 6:00 – 7:30 p.m., various city departments will share information about their projects and programs that will affect the South Lake Union neighborhood.

  • SDOT will present information on changes they’re making to signal timing along Mercer; connecting the new Westlake Protected Bike Lane to the neighborhood and downtown along 9th Ave N to 7th Ave and Bell Street; upgrading bus service to the University District; extending the SLU Streetcar line to downtown; managing on-street
    parking and loading; and replacing the last timber-supported bridge in Seattle, the Fairview Ave N Bridge
  • The Office of Planning and Community Development will explain its Open Space Plan
  • Seattle City Light will explain its Advanced Metering program and the construction impacts of the Denny Substation Project
  • Seattle Public Utilities will have information about recycling and food waste collection for apartment residents
  • The Office of Housing will explain various affordable housing programs, including Mandatory Housing Affordability
  • There will be information about the city’s Democracy Voucher program

From 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., Seattle City Light will also host a community information meeting about the possible sale of City Light’s property at 800 Aloha Street.

Aerial view of City Light’s property at 800 Aloha Street

The utility is considering selling or transferring the property for full market value. There will be representatives from various City departments there to answer questions about the proposal.

For more information on the 800 Aloha Street property, please visit