School Departures Advisory Committees
The departure process is established by the Seattle Land Use Code Section 23.79.002. The intent of the process is to allow for the construction, addition, and/or renovation of schools that do not necessarily meet all of the land use and zoning standards of the surrounding neighborhood.
About the Process
Seattle, unlike other jurisdictions, does not have a "School Zone". Instead, the City allows schools in all zones, subject to the development standards (setback, height, lot coverage, etc.) of the underlying zone. Since most schools are in residential neighborhoods and are often zoned "single family", this can present problems. Many existing school sites in Seattle were established years ago and do not meet the current zoning requirements. Additionally, older school buildings are much smaller than those now being built or planned. As a result, in most cases where a school is being renovated or expanded, it will not meet the underlying zoning requirements.
The land use code contains provisions whereby the Seattle School District can request exemption from the provisions of the land use code. They may request these exemptions or "departures" from many of the provisions of the code. However, the impacts of these exemptions fall disproportionately on those residents who reside or own property closest to the school.
In order to assure that the views of nearby neighbors of the school, and the surrounding community, are given weight in any City decision to allow departures from the zoning, a departure committee is formed primarily from nearby neighbors of the school. The purpose of the committee is to review the departures requested, listen to and solicit the views of their neighbors, and make a recommendation to the Director of the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) concerning granting, denying, or conditioning any departures requested.