The Department of Planning and Development's (DPD) Design Review Program and its boards review private development projects in Seattle. Only commercial and multifamily development that exceed a certain size threshold in certain land use zones are reviewed. For more details on thresholds and zones, see the Instructions in the Applicant's Toolbox. Development projects in single family zones are not governed by the program nor are reviewed by its boards. DPD is developing a new Administrative Design Review process to apply to townhouse development.
The Design Review Board is just one of several citizen-led boards or commissions appointed by the Mayor and City Council to review the design of development projects. Other boards or commissions review the design of public projects, designated landmarks, and in historic districts. For details, download the brochure, "Project Design Review in Seattle."
The Design Review Program was created by Seattle City Council in 1994 to:
- encourage better design and site planning that enhances the character of the city and ensures that new development fits sensitively into neighborhoods
- provide flexibility in the application of development standards
- improve communication and participation among developers, neighbors, and the City early in the design and siting of new development.
Design Review "Triangle"
The Design Review Program is built on the concept of an equilateral triangle, with the three major stakeholders -- the citizens of Seattle, the project applicant, and the City -- given a voice in the process. Design Review Board meetings are structured to mirror this relationship, with a meeting's 90 minutes broken down as follows:
- 30 minutes for the project applicant's presentation and the Design Review Board's clarifying questions;
- 20 minutes for citizens to address their concerns and ideas to the Design Review Board about the project's design; and
- 25 minutes for the Design Review Board to deliberate and make recommendations to the project applicant.
How to Navigate the Design Review Process
For in-depth information on the design review process, including application instructions, the design guidelines and a sample project packet, consult the Applicant's Toolbox.
Want to read the legislative authority that created design review? Consult Chapter 23.41 Early Project Implementation in Seattle's Municpal Code.
Why Design Review Matters
The City's Comprehensive Plan calls for the City to accommodate growth by increasing density in urban centers and facilitating transit-oriented development. The Design Review Program will help create new development that is better integrated into the city.