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.

Wanted: Arts Permitting Specialist

One of the CAP Report: 30 Ideas for the Creation, Activation, and Preservation of Cultural Space recommendations from earlier this year was the creation of a liaison role, embedded in the Department of Construction and Inspections, that would work with arts and cultural projects as a point of connection between the culturally rich world of the arts and the complex world of various building and use codes. The City is acting on that recommendation, and is today launching the search for a culturally savvy code expert.

Are you someone who sees what is and imagines what could be? Someone who is curious about alternatives? Someone who understands the intricacies and specifics of building code, and can also see the broader forest through the trees? If so, the Office and Arts & Culture and the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections, working together, are looking for you.

You will get to work with colleagues in both departments to develop policy recommendations and code changes to make Seattle a more supportive partner to cultural spaces. Dive deep into code and develop alternative paths to compliance for complicated and atypical cultural projects. Be a part of a citywide effort, unique in the country, to support cultural spaces in a city where affordability and displacement are daily concerns.

Be a part of the solution, apply today.

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.

New Requirements for Transitional Encampments Director’s Rule

DR 9-2016, Requirements for Transitional Encampments, superseded DR 20-2015. This rule establishes requirements for community outreach, encampment operations standards, and coordination with the permit process for new transitional encampments. This rule went into effect August 8, 2016.