School Use Advisory Committees
The process for the reuse of an existing or former school is established by the Seattle Land Use Code Section 23.78.002. The intent of the process is to establish criteria for the non-school use of a Seattle Public School building.
About the Process
The School Use Advisory Committee process is initiated only AFTER the Seattle Public Schools (SPS) has made a final decision to close a school, or a portion of a school building because it is determined as 'surplus' property. If you are concerned about the possibility of a public school in your neighborhood being closed, you should contact SPS.
After the school has been closed, the school district will at some point apply for the School Use Advisory Committee (SUAC) process to be initiated by the Department of Neighborhoods (DON) to establish criteria for how the school will be reused. DON is then responsible for chairing and facilitating the SUAC committee to obtain public comments, and for making recommendations on the criteria and relevant conditions for reusing the school.
Generally, the lifespan of a SUAC is 90 to 190 days. The committee may meet once or several times in the course of the following process:
The DON Director appoints the public members and assigns a staff person to convene the SUAC for the school building in question. The composition of the SUAC will include representation from interested parties, including: the City of Seattle, the Seattle School District, nearby property owners, the school Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA) (if joint use is contemplated), the neighborhood, and a person representing citywide education issues. DON provides public notice of the application for reuse criteria, formation of the SUAC, and notice of the advisory committee's first meeting.
- Advisory Committee Responsibilities - The SUAC is responsible for conducting one or more public meetings within 90 days of its formation. The purpose of the public meetings is to gather and evaluate public comment.
Following the public comment period, the committee must develop reuse criteria for the school building and grounds, compatible with the community. The criteria must address benefits to the community and public; population to be served; community access; recreational and aesthetic use of the school grounds, given the availability of those resources in the neighborhood; mitigation of large structure bulk; traffic impacts; landscaping and maintenance of grounds; exterior appearance of the structure; and noise, hazards, and other potential nuisances.
The school reuse criteria must be recommended to the DON Director within 90 days of the committee's first meeting. (A ten-day extension may be granted.
- DON Director Duties - Based upon the SUAC's recommendation, the DON Director will issue final use criteria, and permitted uses of the school building and grounds, within ten days of receiving the SUAC's recommendation.
The Director's decision is made public, and that notice is published. Within the public notice, the DON Director notifies the public that the decision is subject to appeal, and describes the appeal procedure.
- Appeal of School Use Criteria - Within fifteen days of the publication of the DON Director's decision, any person may appeal the decision, in writing, to the Seattle Hearing Examiner. The appeal must state why the appellant finds the criteria inappropriate or incorrect.
The Hearing Examiner may affirm, reverse, or modify the DON Director's decision, in whole or in part. The Hearing Examiner may also remand the decision to the DON Director for further consideration.
The Hearing Examiner's decision is final.
- Criteria Serve as Regulations - Once the school use criteria are established, they are used as the substantive criteria applicable for master use permits. If the school building is demolished, the uses and development standards of the underlying zone apply.
See the Seattle Municipal Code for more detailed information on the major institution master plans.