Frequently Asked Questions

This Rule goes into effect July 1, 2018.

1. What buildings and projects must follow this Rule?
2. What is the purpose of the outreach?
3. I am a developer. What are the basic steps for fulfilling this requirement?
4. What is an Equity Area and how do I know if my project is within one?
5. What happens if my project is located in an Equity Area?
6. Who is the Ethnic Media and what do they do?
7. As a community member, how do I know if a project is going through Early Outreach?
8. How long does Early Community Outreach take?
9. Can a developer apply for a permit for their project before Early Outreach is complete?
10. As a developer, do I need to make an appointment with DON to discuss my outreach plan or how to create one?
11. As a developer, how do I know that I am doing outreach activities that will get approval?
12. How do I submit my outreach documentation?
13. My building is affordable housing and I am receiving NOFA funding from the Office of Housing. They also have outreach requirements. Do I have to do both?
14. Who do developers talk to as part of their outreach?
15. Are developers required to incorporate community feedback into the project's design?

1. What buildings and projects must follow this Rule?

All new buildings going through Design Review as part of Seattle's permitting process will need to conduct Early Community Outreach. This includes most multi-family, commercial, and mixed-use buildings (those over 8,000 square feet) and some smaller residential development projects (as small as 5,000 square feet). There are some exceptions and caveats for this requirement, and we recommend reading the City's codes directly.

2. What is the purpose of the outreach?

The purpose it to establish a dialogue between applicants interested communities early in the development process.  This will allow the applicants to share information about the project, and by seeking input they’ll better understand the local context and hear community interests and concerns related to their project.


3. I am a developer. What are the basic steps for fulfilling this requirement?

  1. Step 1: Read the Director’s Rule and go over our Outreach Options table to see what strategies work for you.

  2. Step 2: Email your basic project details to DREarlyOutreach@seattle.gov so we can post your project on the Early Community Outreach to the Design Review blog.

  3. Step 3: Create a plan that mixes print, digital, and in-person outreach methods. Our Sample Outreach Plans provides several different pre-planned sets and one of these might work for your project; or you can tailor-make one to your needs as long as you meet our basic requirements.

  4. Step 4: Carry out your outreach plan and make sure to document your efforts as required in the Director’s Rule.

  5. Step 5: Send your documentation to the DREarlyOutreach@seattle.gov for verification.


4. What is an Equity Area and how do I know if my project is within one?

Equity Areas are areas of the City of Seattle where projects conducting early community outreach for design review need to customize their outreach to the needs of historically underrepresented communities. In this case, historically underrepresented communities are defined as census tracts within which the census-tract average of two-out-of-three factors is greater than the city-as-a-whole average. Those factors are the following datasets: people of color, households with limited English proficiency, and low-income people. To see a map of these areas, click HERE [link coming soon]. Once you fill out SDCI’s Preliminary Application Tool for your project, DON will contact you to confirm whether you are in an Equity Area.

5. What happens if my project is located in an Equity Area?

You will need to work with Design Review Outreach staff in DON to customize your outreach to the needs of historically underrepresented communities nearby. This could mean translating materials, contacting ethnic media, or other ways to address barriers to awareness and participation. Start by reviewing some of the resources we have available, then share your outreach plan with Design Review Outreach staff in DON .We’ll review it and may recommend different ways to reach underrepresented groups.

6. Who is the Ethnic Media and what do they do?

We define ethnic media as “any communications outlet that intentionally produces news stories and other content for a particular ethnic minority group or ethnic minority community.” To learn more about the City’s approach to ethnic media, click HERE. We also keep an Ethnic Media Directory.

7. As a community member, how do I know if a project is subject to Design Review and conducting Early Outreach?

We have a blog that lists all projects going through this process.

8. How long does Early Community Outreach take?

It depends on the project and how the developer approaches the outreach. Depending on which outreach strategies they choose and how quickly they carry it out, it could be as short as four weeks. Timeline COMING SOON.

9. Can a developer apply for a permit for their project before Early Outreach is complete?

No. All projects going through Design Review must complete their Early Community Outreach before moving on in the Design Review process and (eventually) applying for a permit.

10. As a developer, do I need to make an appointment with DON to discuss my outreach plan or how to create one?

No. In most cases all the interaction between Design Review Outreach staff in DON and developers can be conducted over email and phone. DREarlyOutreach@seattle.gov

11. As a developer, how do I know that I am doing outreach activities that will get approval?

If you are unsure about your plan, start by reading through the Director’s Rule and our Sample Outreach Plans. There are also some great templates and other resources on our webpage. If you are still unsure, feel free to contact the dedicated Design Review Outreach staff in DON and ask if you are on the right track (we’ll provide up to an hour of coaching per project — more if you are in an Equity Area). Be sure to have a plan ready with ideas so we have something to respond to.

12. How do I submit my outreach documentation?

Outreach documentation can be submitted by email to DREarlyOutreach@seattle.gov. Please include your project number (if available) or site address in the subject line of your email.

13. My building is affordable housing and I am applying for the Notice of Funds Available (NOFA) funding from the Office of Housing (OH).  They also have outreach requirements. Do I have to do both?

Yes, you must meet the requirements of both programs, but it is possible to make sure your Office of Housing outreach efforts and documentation will also satisfy this outreach requirement. Read the Office of Housing requirements and the Director’s Rule. We also have a Sample Outreach Plan for affordable housing projects.

14. Who do developers talk to as part of their outreach?

The requirements depend on which outreach methods the applicant chooses;, but in general it’s important for a diversity of neighborhood perspectives to be heard. Most in-person events should be open to the general public. The only exception to this is hosting a focus group that is open to representatives of the community organizations listed on DON’sCommunity Connector  and/or  Neighborhood Snapshots. An applicant that chooses to attend a community organization’s meeting can pick from the list on DON’s Community Connector  and/or  Neighborhood Snapshots.  If the project is in an Equity Area, DON may suggest a specific group or contact; but otherwise our goal is to allow some flexibility since every project (and neighborhood) is different.


15. Are developers required to incorporate community feedback into the project's design?

The intention is not to require that feedback be incorporated, but to have feedback shared early enough that it could be incorporated into designs while they are still being developed. While some feedback may not be possible or appropriate to incorporate, other feedback may improve the project and could be a benefit to both neighbors and future residents.  Other feedback may be so detailed that it can be addressed at later stages of review in the existing Design Review process. Regardless of level of feedback is incorporated into the design, the applicant/developer is required to report what they heard to the Design Review Board or SDCI’s assigned planner as part of the Early Design Guidance process.