DPD can only consider project-specific comments on proposed land use actions. Comments must also be relevant to the criteria and policies that apply to the project. For example, comments regarding a project’s impacts on property values are not considered in the review of a conditional use permit for an institution offering a food bank, because this is not one of the criteria that applies to the review of such a use.
DPD will not accept an application for a use that is clearly not permitted. Typically, when a use is permitted in the zone where it is proposed, DPD does not have the authority to deny that use. Most impacts can be mitigated to a level that is in accord with what was expected when the Council adopted the Land Use Code permitting the uses. The most common type of permit that is denied is a variance, which generally relates not to allowing the use, but to allowing the size or location of a particular development proposal to depart from the development standard of the code, and for which strict criteria must be met.
An 11x17 printable version of Neighbors Who Notice contains the information on this page. Neighborhos Who Notice is also available in Chinese (社區通告), Korean (주목하는 이웃), Somali (dadka deriska ee OGAADAY), Spanish (vecinos que se PREOCUPAN), Tagalog (ang mga kapitbahay na PUMANSIN), and Vietnamese (hàng xóm LƯU Ý).
How to Submit Comments
Comments on proposed land use actions must be submitted in writing, either by email to the DPD Public Resource Center at email@example.com, by fax to (206) 233-7901, or by mail to:
Department of Planning and Development
ATTN: Public Resource Center or Assigned Planner
700 Fifth Ave, Ste 2000
P.O. Box 34019
Seattle, WA 98124-4019
Please include the project, project address and you postal mailing address with your comment.
What Kinds of Comments Can DPD Staff Take Into Consideration?
There are specific issues that DPD is required to take into account when making decisions, and others which cannot be considered. These are set out as policies and as criteria in the Land Use Code and have all been adopted by the City Council. Below are some examples of the types of concerns that can be considered for different types of projects. In some cases a project may include more than one of these components. To be effective, your comments should focus on the same concerns DPD must consider.
- State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA)
There are policies for impacts on earth, such as erosion; on water and air, such as pollution; on traffic, such as congestion that may be caused or made worse by the proposal; on designated public scenic routes and viewpoints, such as a building that might block views of the mountains, lakes or skyline from public spaces; on plants and animals, such as a rare or endangered species or significant habitat area. The SEPA ordinance (SMC 25.05) contains 19 such policies. A printed copy of this ordinance is available from DPD's Public Resource Center. Additional information is available in Client Assistance Memo (CAM) 208, "When Environmental Review is Required in Seattle."
Shoreline areas around major water bodies (Greenlake and larger) have an overlay that requires additional scrutiny to protect water quality, habitat, water-dependent-uses, and views (not from private property); and to improve public access to the water for certain developments. Additional information is available in CAM 209, "Master Use Permit Application Requirements for Shoreline Permits."
Variances are allowed when a property has some unusual condition that makes it significantly less useable than other property in the same land use zone and vicinity. There are five criteria that must be met. Comments on variances should focus on whether or not the site is unusual compared to other property, and would have substantial difficulty or hardship being developed in accord with the Code; whether the variance goes too far; and whether the variance would cause material (physical) harm to the public or adjacent properties, or adversely affect the character of the area. Additional information is available in CAM 210, "Master Use Permit Requirements for Variances."
- Administrative Conditional Uses
Administrative Conditional Uses (ACU) are uses that the City Council has determined should be allowed in certain zones, but only if they meet specific criteria. These criteria usually deal with the physical or functional impacts of a particular use, such as noise, odors, litter, glare from lighting, parking or traffic. In some cases, the criteria pertain to other policy concerns, such as limiting residential uses in heavy commercial or industrial areas to prevent conflicts. In order to be effective, you should learn the specific criteria that apply to the proposal you are concerned about, and focus your comments on whether the project meets the criteria. Additional information is available in CAM 211A, "Master Use Permit Requirements for Administrative Conditional Use (in Single Family and Multifamily Zones)," and CAM 211B, "Master Use Permit Requirements for Administrative Conditional Use (in Residential Commercial and Commercial Zones)."
- Design Review
DPD conducts Design Review by using a set of adopted guidelines, and prioritizing the guidelines for a particular project, based on public comments and direction from the local Design Review Board. The guidelines cover the physical appearance of the building and the site, and how it relates to its surroundings, including the overall size and shape of the building, landscaping and materials. Your comments on design review should focus on these aspects of a project. Environmental concerns, such as traffic and parking impacts, are not addressed by design review. Additional information is available in CAM 238, "Design Review: General Information, Application Instructions and Submittal Requirements."
Tips on Making Effective Comments
Although the quantity of letters DPD receives regarding land use activities may indicate the extent of neighborhood or agency interest, it is the relevance of the comments—the information they contain—that will most affect a project’s outcome. Here are some tips on making your comments effective:
- Briefly explain who you are and why you are interested in the project.
- State your concerns clearly and succinctly using objective language.
- Comment only on issues relevant to the decision being made.
- State opinions and preferences, ask questions, and propose alternative solutions to particular issues. State informed opinions and, where possible, include data to support your opinion.
- Review the project’s technical reports or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) data, comment on conclusions, assumptions and the data collecting methods.
- Keep focused on your objective. You want DPD to hear your concerns and be compelled enough to investigate further.
- Identify the topics you want to include in your letter and how you want to organize them.
- Ask for studies that you think are important but have not been provided.
- If the proposed project is subject to SEPA and you think it will have significant environmental impact, request that an EIS be prepared.
- Provide your own information.
- Identify project features that you like and think should not be changed.
- Provide any comments about the project’s compliance with the Land Use Code.
- Ask to be added to the project mailing list and request a copy of the notice of decision. (Copies are sent via U.S. mail, so please provide your mailing address when making request.)
October 17, 2011