Major Institution Citizen Advisory Committees

Seattle's hospitals, universities and colleges are important assets of the region and Seattle therefore allows their development to exceed many of the zoning standards that would apply to nearby development.  Unique zoning rules are crafted for each major institution through the adoption of a Major Institution Master Plan that:

  1. identifies a boundary (Major Institution Overlay District) within which the revised rules applies; and
  2. identifies the specific rules that will apply to development within this boundary.

The objectives of the plan are to balance the needs of major institution development with the need to preserve adjacent neighborhoods.  Overlay districts have been established for thirteen major medical and educational institutions in Seattle.

About the Process

Major Institution Master Plan

The process by which a major institution applies for and develops a master plan is established by the Seattle Land Use Code Section 23.69.032.  Each plan describes the zoning rules that will apply to the institution, identifies a long-range plan for the development of the institution's property, and a transportation management plan that is intended to reduce single occupant vehicle use.

Master plans are developed when the overlay district is established and revised or amended at various times.  Revisions generally occur when:

  1. The major institution seeks to expand its boundaries or change the development standards established under its plan to be less restrictive than in the plan;
  2. A proposed structure would exceed development standards of the underlying zone and is not permitted under any of the provisions of an existing plan;
  3. More than four residential units or two residential buildings within the overlay district are proposed for demolition, or a change to non-residential use; or
  4. Once the total square feet of development authority granted under the plan has been used and the institution proposes any additional development.

Many institutions also develop new plans when their own plans change.

Please click here for a link to the Seattle Municipal Code for more detailed information on the major institution master plans.

Master Plan Process

Both the development of the plan and monitoring of development under adopted plans are collaborative efforts involving the major institution, the City and the community. The community is represented by a formally appointed committee that participates both in the development of the plans and the monitoring of subsequent development.   When this committee is involved in the development of a new plan it is called a Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC).  Once a plan has been adopted, this becomes a Standing Citizens Advisory Committee (SAC).

Citizens Advisory Committees (CAC)

As part of the process of preparing a master plan, a citizens advisory committee (CAC) is formed. The CAC is composed of 6 to 12 members (with alternates sometimes appointed). CAC members represent the interests of the institution, the surrounding neighborhood, and the City of Seattle.  The City Council officially appoints the CAC, which is staffed by the Department of Neighborhoods.

The CAC participates directly in the development of the institution's master plan from the plan's inception.  The role of the CAC is to advise both the institution and City concerning the impact of the development proposed by the major institution on the neighborhood. The CAC may recommend changes to the plan or possible mitigation of impacts to maintain the health and livability of the surrounding communities.  The CAC meets regularly with the institution and the City to discuss the master plan and resolve differences. The CAC submits comments throughout the process to the institution and the Department of Planning and Development (DPD).  The CAC's final recommendation is provided to the City of Seattle Hearing Examiner and City Council.

The CAC presents its recommendations to the Hearing Examiner at a public hearing. The Hearing Examiner considers all of the information presented, including the recommendations of the CAC, and issues a recommendation to the Seattle City Council, which adopts a final plan based upon the recommendations of the Hearing Examiner. The CAC may be asked to present information to the City Council at its meetings.

Citizen Advisory Committees

Standing Advisory Committees (SAC)

The process for developing and adopting a master plan generally lasts two years.  After adoption of the Master Plan, the CAC is reformed as a SAC.  The role of the SAC is to monitor compliance with the provisions of the adopted master plan.  The SAC meets as needed, but no less than annually, to:

  1. Review an annual report from the institution on its development;
  2. Review and comment on progress under the transportation management plan;
  3. Review requests for amendments to the plan and recommend whether the amendment is a major or minor issue and any conditions that should be attached to the granting of an amendment; and
  4. Provide comments on any project developed under the provisions of the adopted plan that requires a Master Use Permit (MUP), supplemental environmental review or is subject to any conditional use.

Membership on the SAC is from the same groups as the CAC, with members serving two year renewable terms.  The SAC continues until such time as the institution decides to develop a new plan.

Please click here for a link to the Seattle Municipal Code for more detailed information on the major institution master plans.

Standing Advisory Committees

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens when a major institution decides to update a master plan?

When an institution decides to update a master plan:

  • The Institution informs the City of its intent to develop a new or revised plan.
  • The City and Institution jointly solicit volunteers to serve on the Citizens Advisory Committee for the plan development.
  • The City and Institution enter into a formal Memorandum of Agreement, appointing the members to the Citizens Advisory Committee and initiating a two-year process to complete a plan for adoption by the City Council.

What is DON’s role?

The Department of Neighborhoods:

  • Coordinates the outreach for solicitation of members to the Citizens Advisory Committee or the Standing Citizens Advisory Committee.
  • Prepares, on behalf of the City, the Memorandum of Agreement appointing the members to the Citizens Advisory Committee.
  • Provides all staff support to the Citizens Advisory Committee: assists with scheduling and conducting its meetings, including the preparation of all agendas and meeting summaries.
  • Assists the Committee in preparing its various reports to the Institution, DPD, the City of Seattle Hearing Examiner, and City Council.

What is DPD’s role?

The Department of Planning and Development:

  • Provides technical advice to the Citizens Advisory Committee on code related issues.
  • Oversees the preparation of the environmental reviews (usually a full Environmental Impact Statement) for the plan.
  • Prepares the formal City of Seattle staff recommendation to the Hearing Examiner and City Council.

How is an advisory committee selected?

Once a Major Institution informs the City of its intention to initiate the planning process, the following steps occur to select members of the Citizens Advisory Committee:

  • The Department of Neighborhoods and the Institution jointly advertise for volunteers to the Citizens Advisory Committee.  Advertisements are mailed to the area surrounding the institution, and are placed in local newspapers and in DPD's Land Use Information Bulletin.
  • Volunteer applications are jointly reviewed by staff from the Institution and from the Department of Neighborhoods. A list of recommended volunteers is developed by the Institution and forwarded to the Director of the Department of Neighborhoods for transmittal to the City Council, via the Mayor.
  • The Mayor forwards a list of recommended appointments to the Citizens Advisory Committee to the City Council.  This is done as part of a Memorandum of Agreement, which sets forth the process for both development and review of the plan.

The Seattle City Council formally appoints the members of the Citizens Advisory Committee.
The process for appointment of a Standing Citizens Advisory Committee is similar except that the appointments are by the Director of the Department of Neighborhoods, with concurrence by the Mayor.

What is the difference between a CAC and a SAC?

A Citizens Advisory Committee or (CAC) is formed to assist with the development of a new or revised plan for a Major Institution.  One a plan is in force, a Standing Citizens Advisory Committee or (SAC) is formed to monitor development under the plan to assure that the various requirements of the plan are adhered to.

What happens after a major institution master plan is complete?

Once the plan is completed (adopted by the City Council), it becomes the legal document that sets zoning and development regulations for the institution.  The Institution is required to comply with all provisions of the plan and to report yearly concerning its development under the plan and progress towards meeting any other goals or conditions under the plan, including programs to reduce traffic impacts to the surrounding areas.  These reports are provided to the City and the Standing Advisory Committee.

Who is responsible for enforcing conditions placed on the master plan?

Three groups collaborate to review and enforce compliance with the adopted plans:

  1. The Department of Planning and Development;
  2. The Standing Citizens Advisory Committee; and
  3. The Department of Neighborhoods. 

Of these, the primary responsibility lies with the Department of Planning and Development.  The Standing Citizens Advisory Committee is required to review and report on the annual report of the institution and on any suggested amendments to the plans.  These reviews are coordinated by the Department of Neighborhoods and provided to the Department of Planning and Development.

How do I get in touch with the people responsible for making decisions on the master plan process?

The Citizen's Advisory Committees or Standing Citizens Advisory Committees can be contacted directly through the City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.  Inquiries should be directed to:
Steve Sheppard
Major Institutions
Department of Neighborhoods City of Seattle
700 5th Avenue Suite 1700
PO Box 94649
Seattle WA 98124-4649

Phone (206) 684-0302

How can I participate?

All Citizen's Advisory Committee or Standing Citizens Advisory Committee meetings are open to the public; there is a formal public comment period at each meeting. If you wish to be informed of the dates and times of meetings contact:

Maureen Sheehan
Department of Neighborhoods Contact
Mailing Address:
PO Box 94649
Seattle, WA 98124-4649
Street Address:
Seattle Municipal Tower
700 5th Avenue
Suite 1700
Seattle, WA 98124-4649
(206) 684-0302

For more detailed information, please reference the Seattle Municipal Code.