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

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

Christina Ghan
(206) 233-3749

Lisa Rutzick
(206) 386-9049

Update – Proposed Code Amendments for Vacant Buildings Are Now Available

Draft legislation is available to review on our Vacant Building Code Updates website. The legislation would update provisions for the maintenance and demolition of vacant buildings. The proposed amendments to the Housing and Building Maintenance Code (Title 22) and the Land Use Code (Title 23) respond to an increase in the problems associated with vacant buildings in the city.

We anticipate making final recommendations to the Mayor by the end of the year.  Proposed legislation for City Council consideration would likely follow early next year. For more information, please contact:

City of Seattle, Seattle DCI
Attn: Christina Ghan
P.O. Box 94788
Seattle, WA 98124-7088