Living Building and 2030 Challenge Pilots Effective August 1

Seattle’s buildings produce about one-third of our greenhouse gases. Reducing these emissions are critical in achieving our goal to become a carbon-neutral community by 2050. To help achieve that goal, SDCI’s updated Living Building Pilot and new 2030 Challenge Pilot go into effect on August 1. The Living Building Pilot can be used for new and existing buildings. The 2030 Challenge Pilot is focused on development that includes existing buildings.

Mayor Durkan signed legislation that created the 2030 Challenge Existing Building Pilot Program and updated the Living Building Pilot Program on July 2, 2018. After signing the legislation, Mayor Durkan released the following statement:

“Seattle has always invented the future and the creation of this new pilot further establishes us as a leader combating the negative impacts of climate change. Our city doesn’t have the luxury of entertaining climate change denial. With building energy as a leading cause of pollution, our City can remain on the leading edge of construction and operation of buildings that meet the highest green standards while fostering a healthy environment.”

Developers that are constructing new buildings or building additions that meet the program standards can get the following benefits:

  • Up to 25 percent more floor area
  • Up to 30 percent more floor area if saving an unreinforced masonry structure
  • 5 feet of additional height for residential construction or 15 feet of additional height for non-residential construction in zones with height limits of 85 feet or less
  • 25 feet of additional height for residential construction or 30 feet of additional height for non-residential construction in zones with height limits greater than 85
  • Additional design departures for the pilot programs as specified in SMC 23.41.012D


Both pilots are performance-based; developers are required to conduct post-occupancy monitoring to show that the environmental goals have been met.   The green building program standards that are the basis of these pilots focus on different aspects of the environment, but both require a minimum energy reduction of 25 percent.  Both pilots require developers to participate in the Design Review Program so the project is a better fit with neighborhoods.

The 2030 Challenge Pilot:

  • Allows up to 20 projects that include renovation and preservation of portions of an existing building
  • Requires projects to be located within an urban center, excluding any lots located in the Shoreline District or within the International Special Review District
  • Requires specific standards for energy, water, and transportation efficiency
  • Prohibits the use of on-site combustion of fossil fuel for space and water heating


The Living Building Pilot:

  • Allows up to 17 projects (three projects have already submitted MUP applications)
  • Applies citywide, excluding any lots located in the Shoreline District.
  • Requires specific standards for energy and water efficiency, and requires either full Living Building Certification or Petal Certification
  • Prohibits the use of on-site combustion of fossil fuel for space and water heating.


More information can be found on our Priority Green webpage.   If you are interested in participating in these programs, please request green building information on your land use pre-submittal application.

Any questions may be directed to:

Jess Harris
Green Building Program Manager

New Washington State Building Council Fees in Effect Starting July 1

Washington state law authorizes the Washington State Building Code Council (SBCC) to impose a fee on residential and commercial building permits issued by local government agencies, plus an additional surcharge for each residential unit after the first unit (RCW 19.27.085). Each Washington county and city is required to send the money collected for this purpose to the state treasurer on a quarterly basis. SDCI has always added this fee and any related surcharges to building permits issued by the City of Seattle.

State law further specifies that the legislature may adjust these charges every four years, although the fee has not changed in several decades. This spring the state legislature established new SBCC fees, effective on July 1, 2018. The fee is increasing from $4.50 on each building permit (plus a $2 additional surcharge on each residential unit after the first unit) to $6.50 on each residential building permit and $25 on each commercial building permit. The $2 additional surcharge remains the same for both residential and commercial. The fees will be automatically added in our permitting system when building permits are issued.

Changes to Design Review Coming Soon

On July 1, many of the changes to the Design Review program that were adopted as part of Ordinance No. 125429 in October 2017 will go into effect. The changes include:

  • New requirements for early community outreach for all projects going through Design Review
  • Updates to the thresholds that determine which projects are required to go through Design Review


Read a summary of the changes.

Updates on Director’s Rule

We are currently working on updating and finalizing the joint Director’s Rule for Early Community Outreach, which we developed with Department of Neighborhoods (DON) and published for public review and comment from May 4 to May 21. We hope to have the final version of the rule published within the next week.

Information Sessions

On June 20, SDCI and DON will be hosting an information session for developers interested in learning more about the new requirements for early community outreach.

Wednesday, June 20
4:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Seattle Municipal Tower
700 5th Avenue, 19th Floor

Join us for a presentation and Q&A with staff to learn about:

  • The requirements for your early community outreach plan
  • How to document your outreach so you can move on to early design guidance (EDG)
  • How the early community outreach timing lines up with the design review process
  • Resources we’ve been developing to prepare for the July 1 rollout


No need to RSVP, just show up!

Can’t make it? We will also be hosting two Reddit “Ask Me Anything” sessions online:

  • July 10
    12:00 – 1:00 p.m.
  • August 14
    8:00 – 9:00 a.m.


Save the date! Find us on Reddit’s AMA board day-of, or under DON’s username SEA_Neighborhoods.


For more information, please visit SDCI’s project webpage, read Ordinance No. 125429, or visit the City Clerk’s webpage for Council Bill 119057.



For questions about how the new early outreach requirements or thresholds changes may impact a specific development project, please contact:

Lisa Rutzick, SDCI
(206) 386-9049

For questions about the information sessions or general questions about the new early outreach requirements, you may also contact:

Christina Ghan, SDCI
(206) 233-3749

Susie Philipsen, DON
(206) 733-9283

Neighborhood Parking Ordinance Effective May 14

On April 2, the City Council approved legislation with several changes to parking rules in the Land Use Code. The amendments provide more flexible off-street parking options and clarify “frequent transit service” areas where parking is not required. The rules will go into effect Monday, May 14.

Highlights of the ordinance:

  • Allows easier flexible use of off-street parking spaces in buildings, creating more options for daytime and overnight neighborhood parking for shoppers and residents, in Lowrise 3, Midrise, Highrise and most commercial zones
  • Clarifies rules that allow reduced parking in areas near frequent transit service
  • Eliminates minimum parking for income-restricted housing citywide
  • Eliminates minimum parking for institutional uses such as daycares in urban villages with frequent transit service
  • Increases bicycle parking requirements citywide, with more design guidance for secure and accessible bicycle parking facilities
  • Requires new parking stalls to be a minimum size
  • Allows park-and-ride parking within residential or mixed-use building garages
  • Requires “unbundling” of parking fees from housing and commercial rent, so renters don’t have to pay for parking if they don’t need it

These new rules support reducing costs for providing housing, since parking is one of the most expensive parts of building new housing. This fulfills the Seattle’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda (HALA) recommendations. Creating more flexible parking choices will help us make the best use of all neighborhood parking resources as we grow. The proposal also supports more people to choose options such as bicycles, mass transit, and car-share to move around the city, fulfilling transportation and environmental quality goals.

If you have comments or questions, please contact:

Gordon Clowers
(206) 684-8375

Planning for the New Mandatory Housing Affordability Upzones

The Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) upzones are coming soon! The City Council is considering changes to the zoning designation and development standards for property throughout Seattle. The proposed MHA upzones will allow you to construct larger buildings than what is currently allowed. After an MHA upzone, your property will also be subject to the MHA requirements and you may need to contribute to an affordable housing fund or provide affordable units as part of your development.

If you are ready to submit a project to us for review and want to use the new codes and zoning designations for your project, here are your permitting options for your project. Remember, your project is not subject to the MHA requirements or any of the new development standards if your project is vested to a Land Use Code in effect before an MHA upzone.

All Construction Permits
Since a construction permit vests your project to the current land use codes, you don’t want to submit one for a project if you intend to use a future land use code. We cannot process requests to use a future land use code once you file a complete building permit application for your project. You will have to wait to apply for your construction permits until after the new codes are effective.

All Master Use Permits
If your project requires a Master Use Permit (MUP) and you want to get a head start by designing your project using the new code, SDCI will accept your MUP application once the Mayor signs the ordinance.  This typically occurs 30 days prior to the effective date of the ordinance. We will not issue your MUP until after the new codes are effective.

All Design Review Master Use Permits
Starting now, if your project is subject to design review, SDCI and the Design Review Board can consider MHA options at the early design guidance (EDG) and recommendation phases of your project. However, your MUP application must be submitted and designed according to current codes until the Mayor signs the ordinance. We will review your project for zoning standards under current code. You should include the MHA option at the end of the plan set or design review packet with a note that it is for reference only. Once the Mayor signs the new ordinance, you may update your plans to reflect the approved codes and zoning designation. At your option, if you want your MUP issued according to the future codes, we will not publish our decision on your project until the effective date of the ordinance.

If you plan to use the proposed MHA upzone provisions for your project:

  • Submit a written request to SDCI stating your intent to use the future MHA upzone for your project. Provide this letter with your EDG submittal and your MUP application. If you have an existing project under review, provide this letter when you upload revised drawings that are designed to the approved code. SDCI will allow applicants to update drawings to reflect the approved code after the Mayor signs the ordinance.
  • Only reference one code in your application. Your plan set drawings should be prepared using only the current code until the MHA upzone is approved and signed by the Mayor. At that time, you must update your drawings based on the new code. We will re-notice the project if the height or number of units is increased.

For more information, contact:

Megan Neuman
(206) 684-3101

You can also download our summary flyer.