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

Making a Vibrant 35th Avenue

On Wednesday, June 24, DPD hosted a community open house to discuss potential zoning changes to the neighborhood business districts along 35th Ave NE (at 65th, 75th, 85th, and 95th Streets). More than 100 people attended the open house to provide their input.

DPD is reviewing the potential zoning changes that were initiated by a group of neighbors who created the Future of 35th Ave NE plan. During 2014 budget deliberations, City Councilmembers requested that DPD evaluate the plan’s zoning recommendations. DPD has identified potential zoning solutions to encourage additional ground floor commercial space to accommodate more retail.  These solutions could:

  • Change some areas along 35th Ave currently zoned for low rise (residential) development to neighborhood commercial (mixed use)
  • Increase the height allowed in existing neighborhood commercial zones from 30 feet to 40 feet
  • Designate the business districts at 65th and 95th Streets as pedestrian zones

Download the open house presentation and diagrams.

More information regarding the Future of 35th Ave NE’s plan process, goals, and recommendations can be found here:

Next Steps

DPD is looking for input on how 35th Ave can become a more vibrant retail environment, and on the solutions that DPD has developed. Please give us your feedback by taking our survey at The survey will be open through July 31. DPD will use your comments to determine the level of support for taking action on any of the proposed solutions.

For more information about DPD’s proposed zoning changes along 35th Ave, contact:

Ryan Moore
(206) 233-2537