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Design Review

The Design Review program and its boards review private development projects in Seattle. Only commercial and multifamily developments exceeding a certain size threshold in certain land use zones are reviewed. Design review is a tool that can help communities influence future multifamily and commercial development. This can be especially important where, with design direction, new development can contribute to enhanced street environments and improved conditions for pedestrians. The design review process is based on adopted design guidelines, which provide flexibility for new development to respond to the distinctive character of its surroundings.

Design guidelines cannot change zoning or resolve zoning disputes, control uses of property, or significantly reduce a project’s height, bulk, scale or density. Design guidelines can improve the quality of development, increase community involvement in the design and development review process, and help articulate a community’s design priorities. Neighborhood planning groups may develop their own localized design guidelines as part of a neighborhood plan. Neighborhood design guidelines should complement, but may supersede some, citywide guidelines, and become the basis for Design Review of specific projects reviewed within a neighborhood. (Refer to “Design Review: Guidelines for Multifamily and Commercial Buildings,” and “Preparing Your Own Design Guidelines.”) Both are available from the Neighborhood Planning Office.

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