Changes to Design Review Now in Effect

On July 1, many of the Design Review program changes that were adopted in Ordinance 125429, in October 2017, went into effect. The changes included:

  • New requirements for early community outreach for all projects going through Design Review
  • Changes to the thresholds that determine which projects are required to go through Design Review
  • The type of Design Review that would be required

 

SDCI and the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods (DON) also published a final joint Director’s Rule that expands on the new community outreach requirement.

Information Sessions

We will 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.

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

Questions?

For questions about how the new requirements may impact a specific development project, please contact:

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

 

For questions about the requirements for early community outreach, please contact:

Danielle Friedman, DON
DREarlyOutreach@seattle.gov

New Rule & Resources for Design Review Early Community Outreach

Final Director’s Rule Available

On June 12, we published a final joint Director’s Rule with the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods (DON).

The Rule expands on the new requirement that all projects going through Design Review must conduct community outreach before beginning the early design guidance (EDG) process. The final Rule builds on a public review draft that was shared in May 2018 and a staff draft that was shared in August 2017.

New Webpage & Resources

Check out DON’s new Early Community Outreach for Design Review webpage! This webpage provides guidance about the process, along with the resources and tools to help you implement it.

Information Sessions

We will host 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 Ave), 19th Floor

Can’t make it to the meeting? 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.

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

Background

The new requirement for early community outreach was adopted by City Council as part of Ordinance No. 125429 in October 2017. It will go into effect on July 1, 2018.

Other Changes Coming July 1

Other changes to the Design Review program that will go into effect on July 1 include: changes to the thresholds that determine which projects are required to go through Design Review; and what type of Design Review would be required. Read a summary of the changes and view the detailed thresholds rules.

Contact

For questions about how the new requirements may impact a specific development project, please contact:

For general questions about the requirements for early community outreach, you may also contact:

Comment on Updates to Design Review Program Through July 10

On June 8, 2017, we posted draft legislation to modify the design review program for public review. In order to allow more time for public review of our draft legislation to modify the Design Review program, we are accepting public comments through Monday, July 10.  The deadline to file an appeal of our SEPA decision was June 29.

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.

Find more information on the proposal on our Design Review Program Improvements webpage.

Please submit comments on the proposal 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

City Proposes Updates to the Design Review Program

— Includes a simplified process and earlier community engagement

For Immediate Release:  June 8, 2017
Media Contact: Wendy Shark (206) 684-8443

SEATTLE – Our proposed amendments to the Land Use Code are intended to improve the overall function of the program to enhance the efficiency and predictability of the project review process and make the program more transparent and accessible to the community.

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.

The Mayor’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda recommended changes to the Design Review program to streamline process and reduce the cost of building housing. In addition, program changes focus on development projects most likely to influence the character of a neighborhood and incorporate many of the recommendations from the report we released in March 2016.

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, residential 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. Affordable housing proposals have the option of an entirely administrative review process.
  4. 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, 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 decision (SEPA) 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, Seattle DCI
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

Design Review Program Improvement Recommendations Available for Public Comment

Seattle DCI and OPCD released draft Design Review Program Improvement recommendations on March 9, 2016. Our recommendations identify and evaluate organizational, structural, and procedural changes to enhance the design review program’s efficiency and enable it to better achieve its purpose. You can comment on our recommendations through April 8.

Over the last year, we worked with a 16-member stakeholder advisory group as well as the general public to develop specific recommendations about how to improve the Design Review program. We gathered input through stakeholder and focus group interviews, an online survey, and two community open houses held in September and October 2015.

The Design Review Program began in 1994. Since then, the Design Review Board has improved over a thousand development projects! The program and its boards review multiple aspects of private development projects in Seattle, including:

  • The overall appearance of the building
  • How the proposal relates to adjacent sites
  • Pedestrian and vehicular access
  • The unusual aspects of the site, like views or slopes
  • Quality of materials, open space, and landscaping

 

Even though it’s a very successful program, the process hasn’t changed significantly. Concerns regarding the program’s effectiveness and efficiency prompted us to identify opportunities for improvement.

Goals of the Design Review Program Improvements Project include developing recommendations that:

  • Cultivate the program’s purpose of encouraging better design
  • Improve the level of consistency, efficiency, and predictability in how the City administers the program
  • Increase accessibility to encourage better dialogue between the boards, applicants, and community
  • Use communication strategies and tools (both traditional and emerging technologies) to improve how information is presented, shared, and reviewed throughout the entire design review process

 

Our general approach to identifying methods to improve the program focused on:

  • What people like about the program
  • What could be improved
  • How people currently engage with the program
  • How people prefer to engage with the program in the future

 

For more information, visit the Design Review Program Improvement website.