Design Review is one of the tools we use to create a better city. It gives our planners, residents, and the professional volunteers serving on the Design Review Boards a voice in the design of most new multifamily and commercial buildings. These participants in the design review process consider a broad set of design considerations and apply design guidelines that the architect must use to design the exterior of the building. Their guidance and recommendations help us promote designs that fit into and relate to the surrounding neighborhoods. They also offer flexibility with the code standards to achieve better designs.
Our Design Review Program and its boards review most private development projects in Seattle. We review multiple aspects of a building and its site, including some of the following:
We hold public meetings for full Design Review that includes review by City staff and the Design Review Boards. Our review process includes an opportunity for public comment and involvement. You may request a "departure" from the Land Use Code as part of your proposal. Be sure to consult the design guidelines that apply specifically to your project.
The Design Review Board welcomes public comment on project design. Public comment helps the board and City form its recommendations. For projects reviewed by a board, the public may comment at the board meeting or by writing to the design review planner directly.
Get Involved With a Neighborhood Group
Learn About Upcoming Reviews
Know and Use the Design Guidelines
Use the city-adopted design guidelines to craft your comments before you submit them to us.
Focus on Design
Design review focuses on design: the building’s size and shape, materials, and other elements within the guidelines. Environmental issues, such as traffic and parking, are not addressed by the design review process. Write and submit environmental concerns to the design review planner and ask that they be considered for the Master Use Permit review.
The City Council adopted updates to revamp and refresh our Design Review Program on October 2, 2017 (Council Bill 119057). Most of the changes will go into effect on July 1, 2018. Visit our Design Review Program Improvements page for additional information. We've posted a summary of the changes and a table summarizing the new thresholds online.
As we prepare for the new rules to go into effect, we’ve developed a Director’s Rule with Department of Neighborhoods (DON). The rule expands upon the new requirements for Early Community Outreach for projects going through Design Review that were adopted as part of the recent legislation. We’ve also put together some Sample Community Outreach Plans as a resource to help applicants understand the requirements in the Rule. Find more information on DON's new website for Early Community Outreach.
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