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Design Review

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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:


Greenfire Campus - a Great Design Review Example

Design Review Great Examples - Greenfire Campus is one example you'll find in our gallery.

  • The overall appearance of the building
  • How your proposal relates to adjacent sites and the overall street frontage
  • How your proposal relates to unusual aspects of the site, like views or slopes
  • Pedestrian and vehicular access to the site
  • Quality of materials, open space, and landscaping

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.

Learn About & Get Involved with Design Review

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

  • Contact your community council, chamber, or other local group and seek to join them on upcoming project reviews. To make your group more effective, find people who are passionate about design to inform others about upcoming project reviews. 
  • Participate in the development of neighborhood design guidelines. 
  • Submit an application to serve on a Design Review Board.

Learn About Upcoming Reviews

  • Think about what you like about how your neighborhood looks, what works, and what could be improved
  • Review and consider the materials posted to our website and send us an email or attend a Design Review meeting to tell us your comments
  • You can find all upcoming reviews on the Design Review Calendar 
  • Check out our Shaping Seattle map to see all of the projects under review in your neighborhood

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.

For more information, please review and share our Design Guidelines primer. Also, for more information about how to get involved, check out our How to Engage with Design Review brochure.  

Design Review Program Improvements

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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