Capitol Hill Design Guidelines Update

What's Happening Now? 

This summer, we started meeting with our local partner, the Capitol Hill Housing EcoDistrict, and a group of community members to better understand how Capitol Hill's current design guidelines have influenced development over the past few years. This fall we started to identify themes that should be addressed in the updated design guidelines.

On November 16, 2017, we will have a large community meeting to help identify the community's vision and priorities for the updated guidelines.  The meeting will be held from 5:00-7:00 pm at the 12th Ave Arts Building in the Pike/Pine Room (2nd floor).  Click here for more information and sign up for the event here.

Learn more about the project on our Background page and find out how you can help shape the project on our Get Involved page by clicking on the above tabs.

Project Goals

Our goal is to achieve the community's vision for future redevelopment within the Capitol Urban Center Village by implementing updated neighborhood design guidelines.

The End Result

The new design guidelines will guide future development within the Capitol Hill Urban Center Village so to maintain and further develop healthy, diverse, and vibrant areas.


Get Involved

We need feedback from the community to guide our efforts and update the Capitol Hill Design Guidelines to help shape new development in the neighborhood.  

Over the next several months we will be hosting a series of community work group meetings (read more below). On November 16, 2017, we will have a large community meeting to help identify the community's vision and priorities for the updated guidelines.  The meeting will be held from 5:00-7:00 pm at the 12th Ave Arts Building in the Pike/Pine Room (2nd floor).  Click here for more information and sign up for the event here.

Can't wait until then?  Read through background materials on our Project Documents page, and send us an email with your questions or ideas.

Community Partnerships
Our local partner for this project, the Capitol Hill Housing EcoDistrict, led in forming a working group for the Capitol Hill Neighborhood Design Guidelines update to provide consistent feedback and advice on the direction of this project and its products. The working group consists of over a dozen renters, homeowners, and business owners who live/work in the Capitol Hill Neighborhood and have volunteered their time to help make this project a reality.  You may attend the work group meetings as an observer and there is a comment period at the end of each meeting. Find the latest work group documents and meeting minutes on our Project Documents page. Please contact us for the location and date of the next meeting.

You can learn about existing community organizations in Capitol Hill by visiting the links below.


The Capitol Hill Neighborhood is one of Seattle's densest communities. The neighborhood is home to several vibrant commercial centers, business districts, and residential areas. Like other areas of Seattle, Capitol Hill is experiencing a phase of rapid growth. Since the design guidelines were adopted in 2005, nearly 50 buildings have gone through the Design Review program and received development permits. In spring 2016, Light Rail expanded to the neighborhood. Transit oriented development (TOD) is expected to form around the station, creating another community anchor for the Capitol Hill Neighborhood. Also, the City is currently studying possible zoning changes in Capitol Hill and several other neighborhoods to help ensure that growth brings affordability through implementation of the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA).

As the neighborhood continues to grow, we are teaming up with Capitol Hill Housing Ecodistrict and local community members to update/revise the existing Capitol Hill Neighborhood Design Guidelines, which will serve as a guide for future development throughout all areas within the Capitol Hill Urban Center Village. This is a joint effort we are working on with the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI).

What Are Neighborhood Design Guidelines?

Design guidelines are the backbone of the Design Review Program. They direct designers and project reviewers to look closely at the neighborhood and its character to design new buildings that enhance their surroundings. The guidelines are used by the Design Review Boards and Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections staff to assess the merits of a project. There are three types of design guidelines: citywide design guidelines; downtown guidelines and neighborhood-specific guidelines. The neighborhood-specific guidelines are divided into districts (learn more here). Neighborhood specific design guidelines are intended to augment the Citywide Design Guidelines by providing recommendations on issues unique to a particular neighborhood that are not addressed in the Citywide Design Guidelines. The existing Capitol Hill Neighborhood Design Guidelines were developed by community members and design consultants, and adopted in 2005. The guidelines provide context for development within the neighborhood's commercial corridors, districts, and multifamily residential areas, all of which provide a diversity of building types and scale.  In 2013, the neighborhood guidelines were re-formatted to better align with the updated citywide design guidelines and supplemental guidelines for TOD sites located adjacent to the Capitol Hill Light Rail Station were added.

What Is Urban Design?

Urban Design is the art of creating and shaping cities and neighborhoods, giving form and character to places with the design of buildings, public spaces, transportation systems, and amenities. Below are some key urban design principles to consider when developing or updating design guidelines.

Respond to Physical Context & Site Features

  • Integrate sustainable systems, materials, operations, habitat, and features
  • Strengthen desirable built form patterns, natural features, and public spaces
  • Emphasize positive design elements, history, and character from the locale  

Reinforce the Public Realm & Public Life

  • Implement pedestrian connections, continuity, safety, and amenity
  • Ensure street-level interaction with transparency, doors, and activating uses
  • Create usable, sunny, and generous places for tenants, customers, and public
  • Prioritize pedestrian, bike, and transit access, amenities, and facilities  

High Quality Building Concept, Design, Materials, & Execution

  • Arrange uses and access points to reinforce streets and the public realm
  • Minimize impacts from vehicles, services, and utilities, and limit blank walls
  • Compose buildings with multiple scales, depth, material variety, and quality
  • Create positive open spaces with amenities and lush landscaping
  • Integrate weather protection, lighting, signage, and all exterior details