Design Review - Full

What Is It?

Full Design Review is required for mid- and large-sized commercial and residential development projects such as:

  • An office building or apartment building
  • Commercial or multifamily development; not a single-family home
  • Large projects that meet the size thresholds in certain zones

Design Review considers multiple aspects of a building and site such as:

  • The overall appearance of the building
  • How the proposed building relates to adjacent sites and the overall street frontage
  • How the proposed building relates to unusual aspects of the site, like views or slopes
  • Pedestrian and vehicular access to the site
  • Quality of materials, open space, and landscaping

For full Design Review projects, we hold public meetings where the Design Review Boards review projects during the early design guidance and recommendation phases.

Our review process includes an opportunity for public comment and involvement before we approve your design. You may request "departures" from the Land Use Code as part of your Design Review proposal.

To find the design guidelines that apply to your project, go to our Design Review Guidelines page. There you can find the citywide (multifamily and commercial buildings) and neighborhood-specific design guidelines.

How Much Does It Cost?

Our review fee is $315 per hour. You need to pay up front for the first 10 hours of review when you submit your application. After we accept your application, we will send you a monthly invoice for all review time completed in that billing cycle. If you do not pay your invoice, we will stop reviewing your project.

How Long Does It Take?

Our review process depends on several factors:

  • The quality of your plans and project documentation
  • Your response time to correction letters and requests for further information
  • Public interest in your project

Your project may qualify for a shorter review if it meets criteria for the Streamlined Design Review or the Administrative Design Review.

Steps to get Your Permit:

Get your property information. Find property information to help you plan your project.

Learn about Design Review. 

Coordinate with other agencies. You may need permits or approvals from other agencies. These are the most common agencies you may need to work with for your permit type:

Learn about street improvement permits. Consult these documents to understand the required SDOT Street Improvement Permitting (SIP) Process:

Find incentive programs and zoning for your project. Research the City's different incentives that might apply to your project.

Start your application. Complete the Building & Land Use Pre-Application online using the Seattle Services Portal. You will also need to upload a site plan and a complete legal description for your site. You'll receive an email once we have added the pre-application site visit (PASV) fees to your project. A project number will be assigned to you. After you have paid the fee, we will perform the inspection. Your preliminary application materials will be sent to other departments for their review and comment.

Read our pre-application report. You will receive a preliminary application report that will include critical information based on preliminary reviews by our site inspector, land use planner, and drainage reviewer. This report will also include preliminary reviews by the Seattle Department of Transportation and Seattle City Light. Our report will highlight the required street or alley improvements for your project and may include other relevant project or code issues. You will also receive an email from the Department of Neighborhoods (DON) regarding the community outreach requirement associated with Design Review.

Conduct your community outreach. Visit DON's Early Community Outreach for Design Review webpage for information and resources about planning, conducting, and documenting your community outreach. The DON staff contact listed on that webpage is responsible for reviewing and approving your outreach documentation and is available to answer any questions you have about your outreach. You may begin your outreach at any time, however it must be completed before we will schedule your EDG meeting or begin any review of your application.

Apply for a pre-submittal conference. Submit the following forms to the Applicant Services Center and pay fees in order to schedule your pre-submittal conference. At the pre-submittal conference we will go over the Design Review process, project issues and your questions.

Once we have finalized the pre-submittal notes and the SDCI planner has approved and uploaded them to the project file, you may schedule your intake appointment for early design guidance (EDG) application.

Submit EDG application. All EDG applications are accepted on a rolling basis, based on when a complete application is submitted through your Seattle Services Portal. You do not need to schedule an intake appointment for EDG applications. You do, however, need to follow the steps in How to Submit Your EDG Application. We may contact you for more information when we screen your materials.

To submit your EDG application, the following documents will be required:

Also upload your EDG packet here.

Pay fees. EDG fees are listed on the back of the Land Use Application Fee Requirements

Drop off your paper copy. Drop off one paper copy of the draft EDG packet to the 19th floor basket.

Prepare for your EDG meeting. We will contact you with a meeting date. Once we schedule a meeting we'll give you our comments and feedback on your draft EDG packet developed using the EDG Packet Checklist.

Wait for public notice and public comments. Once your meeting is scheduled, we will publish a public notice about your application in the public notice section of the Seattle Services Portal, post it at the project site, and mail it to people within 300 feet of your site.

Submit final EDG packet. Ten days before your recommendation meeting date with the board, submit 8 copies of your final packet to the reception area on the 19th floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower. We will send your packets to the board. Also upload the following to your portal site.

  • Final 11” x 17" EDG packet (referred to as Design Review Proposal in the portal) developed using the EDG Packet Checklist. In the Description field in the portal write: “Final EDG.”
  • Digital Image of massing concepts (referred to as Design Review Proposal cover page in the portal), following these instructions for preparing and sending your packet.

Attend your EDG meeting. You must present your proposal to the Design Review Board and the public.

  • During the meeting, the community is invited to comment on your project
  • The Design Review Board will discuss your project and provide guidance
  • We will send a meeting report to you and other interested parties and post it on our website

Schedule an intake appointment. Schedule an intake appointment through your Seattle Services Portal. You must upload all application documents by 7:00 a.m. the day of your appointment. We may contact you for more information when we screen your application materials.

Submit your Master Use Permit application. Upload the following information to the portal for your appointment:

Other helpful forms and information: 

Here's more information about other types of land use permits:

Pay fees. You must pay a minimum fee for your review, any accrued land use hourly fees, and noticing fees at intake. You will receive an email once we have added fees to your project. You must pay your fees before we will post any public notice or conduct any reviews. We will invoice you monthly for additional fees during the review process. We will stop reviewing your project if you do not pay your monthly invoice.

Wait for public notice. We will issue a public notice for your project as required by SMC 23.76.012, including posting the public notice. You are responsible for building and installing a large land use notice sign. (This sign must remain in place until the end of the appeal period or the Hearing Examiner decision, if applicable.). Once you've installed the sign, let us know by submitting an Environmental Sign Installation Notification using the Seattle Services Portal.

We will start a 14-day public comment period on your project. The comment period can be extended for another 14-days by request. We'll consider all public comments we receive during the project review.

Make corrections and resubmit your plans. Once all of our reviews are done, you will receive an email telling you that corrected, and/or additional documents can be uploaded into your portal. Your project may require multiple correction rounds before our reviews are complete. You should also upload your draft Recommendation packet to the portal (see next step).

Develop design recommendation packet. When you are ready to submit your corrections, upload the following documents to the portal:

  • Updated plans and correction responses
  • Draft 11” x 17" Recommendation packet developed using the REC Packet Checklist (referred to as Design Review Proposal in the portal). In the Description field in the portal write: “Draft REC.”

Drop off your paper copy. Drop off one paper copy of the draft REC packet to the 19th floor basket.

Prepare for design recommendation meeting.

  • We will schedule your meeting, review your corrected plans, and give you feedback on your draft recommendation packet
  • We will post your meeting on our website and mail notice to people interested in your project 

Submit final Recommendation packet. Ten days before your recommendation meeting date with the board, submit 8 copies of your final packet to the reception area on the 19th floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower. We will send your packets to the board. Also upload the following to your portal:

  • Final 11” x 17" Recommendation packet developed using the REC Packet Checklist (referred to as Design Review Proposal in the portal). In the Description field in the portal write: “Final REC.”
  • Digital Image of design rendering (referred to as Design Review Proposal cover page in the portal), following these instructions for preparing and sending your packet.

Present your final design. Present your design development and response to the EDG to the board and community. The board will discuss your project and make recommendations. We will prepare a Recommendation report and send the report to you and interested parties, and post it on our website

Make final corrections. Once all of our reviews are done, you will receive an email telling you that corrected, and/or additional documents can be uploaded into your portal. Submit your response to our corrections and recommended design conditions.

Pay outstanding fees. Once our review is complete, you will receive an email for any outstanding fees. You must pay these fees before we publish our decision.

Read our decision. We will publish our decision on your project in our public notice section of the Seattle Services Portal once all reviews are complete. We will also send a notice of our decision to everybody that made a formal comment on your project. Our decision will include any required conditions of approval, some that you must meet before we issue your permit.

How to submit an appeal. If you or a member of the public disagrees with our decision, you may file an appeal with the Hearing Examiner within 14 days from when we publish our decision.

Note the expiration date. The expiration date of your permit is based on the date of the end of the appeal or the City Hearing Examiner decision. Your permit may expire, and therefore your application may expire, without having a permit issued.

Pay final fees. We will notify you if you need to pay any final fees before we issue your permit.

Print your permit. We will notify you when we have issued your permit and the documents are available in your portal.

Apply for Construction Permit. You may apply for a construction permit at any time once you submit a land use application. However, the project can change and evolve through the land use application review process. Corrections required by our decision may require building plan changes that can result in costly design changes.