About Us

What We Do

The Seattle Design Commission was established in 1968 to advise the Mayor, City Council, and City departments on the design of capital improvement projects that are located on City land, in the City right-of-way, or constructed with City funds. We provide key recommendations on the aesthetic, environmental, and design principals and policies applied to these projects. We give advice through the entire process, from the initial contract selection to the design concept and project construction.

We meet on the first and third Thursdays of each month in the Boards & Commissions room, located on the lower level of Seattle City Hall at 600 4th Ave. We review City-funded capital projects like community centers, park facilities, fire stations, and police stations. We also review vision plans like the Bicycle Master Plan and key transportation projects such as the Alaska Way / Viaduct Replacement and State Route 520.

We play a key role in evaluating projects that propose the vacation of a street or alley to allow new development, the construction of a new skybridge, or the reauthorization of an existing skybridge. We advise the Seattle Department of Transportation on whether the vacation of the street or alley negatively affects the remaining right-of-way and on how those impacts are mitigated through proposed public benefits. Public benefits are primarily public space improvements like widened sidewalks, new open spaces, or improvements to the surrounding streets or alleys.

Mission

The Seattle Design Commission advises elected officials and the public on design excellence in City facilities, infrastructure, and the public realm. Six values guide our work:

  1. Inspired Design - Inspired design unifies the public realm and inspires the community by embodying state-of-the-art practices.
  2. Contextual Integration - Integrated design responds to its context and enhances its neighborhood.
  3. Innovative Sustainability - Sustainable design minimizes environmental impact and provides long-term self-sufficiency.
  4. Social Inclusion - Inclusive design seeks to elevate the quality of life for all and responds fluently to its cultural context.
  5. Exemplary Partnerships - Design partnerships leverage public, community, and private resources, integrating design efforts across multiple disciplines and agencies to achieve greater results with the same resources.
  6. Effective Investments - Effective design provides high value for the investment by thoughtfully considering flexibility, longevity, and total life-cycle costs.

About the Commission

We require members of the Seattle Design Commission to have professional expertise in architecture, planning, engineering, urban design, or fine art. We also have one position for someone that is not in one of those professions. We recruit members in a variety of ways, including through other Commissioners and through outreach in professional networks, publications, and schools.

The Mayor ultimately selects Commission members who are then confirmed by the City Council. Commissioners can serve up to two two-year terms.  

The City also appoints a Get Engaged candidate for a one-year term on the Seattle Design Commission. The joint City of Seattle / YMCA Get Engaged program is dedicated to cultivating the next generation of leaders and advocating for the influence of young voices in City affairs. Applicants are not expected to have prior experience serving on a board.

Staff

The Seattle Design Commission is supported by four staff:

Together, they help us implement our mission and work, including:

  • Facilitating our yearly work plan
  • Developing written reports concerning projects subject to our review
  • Providing written minutes of our meetings
  • Communicating our recommendations to the Mayor, City Council, and City departments
  • Providing expertise to interdepartmental teams concerned with projects that affect the public realm or public places
  • Recruiting and training new Commissioners
  • Providing administrative and planning support for our special events

Commissioners

Brianna HolanBrianna Holan, Chair
Position: Urban Planner
Term: Second
Term Expires: March 1, 2021

Brianna Holan, AICP, brings experience from multiple perspectives of the city building process over her 14+-year career. Currently a Development Manager with Gemdale USA, Brianna focuses on urban core office and residential real estate development.

She has been a leading voice in civic planning and urban infrastructure projects for LMN Architects in her past position as Principal Urban Designer. Her work includes public and private design and planning projects, including large civic infrastructure, district and master plans, and commercial and residential high rise development. Brianna focuses on contextual and sustainable solutions, with an emphasis on robust community and stakeholder outreach, including working with the City of Seattle on complex multimodal projects involving coordination between several public agencies and stakeholder groups. She takes special consideration towards social equity and environmental stewardship. Brianna's primary goal in her work is to contribute to the creation of community-oriented activated places. As a 2018 UW Runstad Affiliate Fellow, she and team traveled to investigate South Africa's lessons in affordability and informality in housing, access to the economy, and the public realm.

Justin ClarkJustin Clark, Vice Chair
Position: Engineer
Term: Second
Term expires: March 1, 2022

Justin Clark, PE, is a bridge engineer with WSP, an infrastructure engineering consulting firm.  He has worked on many high-profile projects for transportation, transit, and rail agencies, including SDOT, Sound Transit (ST), WSDOT, BART, and LA Metro.  Exemplified by his recent work on ST's Northgate Link light rail extension, Justin is focused on creating transportation infrastructure that effectively fits into the fabric of the city and region, positively impacting how people live and the ways that development occurs. 

  Outside of his design experience, Justin has been involved in committees with Leadership Tomorrow, American Public Works Association (APWA), and the Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO).  He is also passionate about diving into the intersections between his day job and the communities that he's a part of.  One of those areas of intersectionality is the expansion of opportunities for minorities in the STEM fields.  Partnering with multiple education organizations, Justin frequently participates in educational outreach and mentoring, predominately focused on students of color interested in the field of engineering.

Kim Baker
Position: Get Engaged Member
Term: 1 Year
Term expires: September 1, 2021

Kim Baker is a public health researcher and practitioner. She received her BS in Biomedical Sciences from Marquette University. After graduating, she worked for a health and development non-profit in Nicaragua for two years. Her design experience began working with rural communities on water and sanitation infrastructure. She then moved to Seattle in 2018 to begin a Master in Public Health and certificate in User-Centered Design at the University of Washington. During her Masters, Kim worked at VillageReach and Splash. Taking a human-centered design approach, she worked on projects ranging from vaccine supply chain, to menstrual health infrastructure and programming. Kim enjoys opportunities where she can bridge her passion between design, healthy communities, and the environment.

Kim is excited to serve on the Seattle Design Commission and sees it as an important opportunity in building her aptitude for civic engagement. She sees design as a crucial element in addressing racial equity, as well as health and environmental resilience in our City. 

Elizabeth ConnerElizabeth Conner
Position: Artist
Term: First
Term expires: March 1, 2022

Elizabeth Conner has created art in public spaces for 30 years, in the Pacific Northwest and throughout the United States. Through stories, conversations, explorations, and celebrations, her work reveals what may be overlooked about a place and its meanings, She is fascinated by how humans experience different spaces, and the ways in which we navigate change throughout our lives.

Growing up in rural upstate New York, Elizabeth spent summers in a family-owned lumber yard, gaining direct experience with construction, and a lifelong appreciation for working with contractors, designers, craftspeople, tools, and heavy equipment. In her current work on public projects, Elizabeth invites a broad range of people, with different skills and interests, to share and enrich the process. Her smaller-scale, performative and improvisational studio practice is informed by training in dance, sculpture, and a continuing desire to be surprised.   As a UW Tacoma Instructor, Elizabeth taught community engaged hands-on artmaking to non-majors for 11 years. She served as a volunteer board member of ArtsWA, a member of the King County Metro Public Art Commission, and a Trustee for Vashon Allied Arts.   Elizabeth has an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts, a BFA from Cornish College of the Arts, and a degree in French and Russian literature from the University of Rochester. 

Azzurra CoxAzzurra Cox
Position: Urban Design
Term: First
Term Expires: March 1, 2022

Azzurra Cox is a landscape architect and urban designer with Gustafson Guthrie Nichols (GGN), a landscape architecture firm based in Seattle. Azzurra has worked on a range of public-realm projects, including India Basin Parks in San Francisco, Hazelwood Plaza in Pittsburgh, and the Washington State Convention Center expansion. Her interdisciplinary background in social theory and the humanities informs her approach to the discipline, including her interest in the power of public space to shape and reflect collective social narratives. Azzurra also brings a range of professional experiences in the worlds of education and policy reform, publishing, and curation, all of which inform her approach to design. Outside of her professional work, Azzurra served on the inaugural Central Area Design Review Board, has led community design cyphers with the Africatown Community Land Trust, and volunteers with Minds Matter. 

Azzurra holds an MLA from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and a BA in Social Studies from Harvard College. She was named the 2016 National Olmsted Scholar by the Landscape Architecture for her ongoing research on landscapes of memory in St. Louis. 

Mark JohnsonMark Johnson
Position: Architect
Term: Second
Term Expires: March 1, 2022

Focused on connecting people with place, Mark Johnson, AIA works to inspire design for humankind, using a combination of materials, function, light, nature, and sound. Mark founded Signal Architecture + Research in 2014 following a 15-year career at Miller Hull Partnership and Jones and Jones Architects and Landscape Architects in Seattle. His desire to work at multiple scales to connect people to their place in the world was founded in Signal and is supported by a studio of designers who are equally inspired to explore the range of opportunities through design execution.

  Mark has lectured and taught at UW for 15 years, and regularly serves as a juror for architecture and landscape architecture studios and thesis. His recent tenure with the 4Culture Public Art Advisory Committee following a board position at the ECOSS gave him an awareness for City and County function beyond the design studio. He sees his role on the Design Commission as an opportunity to support design excellence in our City.

Rick KrochalisRick Krochalis
Position: At-Large Representative
Term: Second
Term expires: March 1, 2021

Richard (Rick) F. Krochalis was the Regional Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Region 10 office in Seattle, Washington from May 2002 until he retired from federal service in June 2016. In this position, Mr. Krochalis was responsible for the administration of FTA's capital, operating and planning grant programs totaling over $700 million annually in the four-state Western region, which includes Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska. Prior to joining the FTA, Mr. Krochalis served as director of design, construction and land use for the city of Seattle for ten years, improving the performance of Seattle’s primary regulatory agency, including implementation of a program for neighborhood design review of private development projects. From 1972 until 1992, Mr. Krochalis served as an officer in the U.S. Navy in a series of facilities construction and management positions, including program manager for the Navy homeport at Everett, WA, and planning and real estate director for the Navy’s West Coast operations.

Mr. Krochalis obtained a master’s degree from Harvard University in city and regional planning and a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University in environmental systems engineering. His current memberships include: the University of Washington’s College of the Built Environment Planning Professionals Council, the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Public Development and Infrastructure National Product Council, the American Institute of Certified Planners and American Planning Association.

Amalia Leighton Cody Amalia Leighton Cody
Position: Transportation Planner
Term: First
Term expires: March 1, 2021

Amalia Leighton Cody, PE, AICP is a licensed civil engineer and certified planner. She is the Director for Seattle office of Toole Design Group, a firm that specializes in multimodal transportation. Amalia is passionate about finding creative ways to redefine and reconfigure the public realm. Over her career, she has partnered with a range of disciplines to identify policies and practices that guide allocation of public spaces specifically within the streetscape. Her favorite projects implement scalable solutions to increase safety, promote health, facilitate access, and support resilient environments in all types of communities.

Throughout her career she has focused her professional and volunteer engagement around policies and designs that inform how people live, work, and move around in their environment. Amalia previously served on the Seattle Planning Commission  and promoted health and equity policies to be integrated into the Seattle Comprehensive Plan. She currently serves on the Board of Futurewise and has been active in the Urban Land Institute, American Public Works Association, and American Planning Association. She is a lifelong Seattle resident and graduated from the University of Washington.

Vinita SidhuVinita Sidhu
Position: Landscape Architect
Term: First
Term expires: March 1, 2021

Vinita Sidhu is a principal at Site Workshop with 20-years' experience designing and planning projects in the public realm. Her professional expertise includes healthcare and university campuses, K-12 schools, parks, playgrounds and cultural landscapes. She is focused on improving community wellness through close collaboration with stakeholders, clients and integrated teams to design and build projects that achieve design excellence through implementation of a shared vision. Her recent work draws inspiration from research demonstrating the health benefits of social engagement and exposure to nature. Through thoughtful design and an emphasis on equity, she aims to connect people to nature and to each other through the artful creation of landscapes that are welcoming, immersive and engaging.

Vinita holds a Master of Landscape Architecture from Harvard University's Graduate School of Design and a Bachelor of Arts in Art History and Design of the Environment from the University of Pennsylvania. She is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects and a licensed landscape architect in Washington State.

Elaine WineElaine Wine
Position: Architect
Term: First
Term expires: March 1, 2021

Elaine Wine, AIA, is an Architect and Development Manager with Seneca Group. She has focused her career on creating high quality inspirational building projects that enhance the way people live, are environmentally responsive, and strengthen the community. With over twenty-five years of experience working with a range of clients from public agencies and non-profits to high-end corporate groups, she brings a diverse perspective to design and implementation in the built environment.

Prior to joining the Seneca Group, Elaine was a Director with the Federal Transit Administration, A Senior Project Manager with Vulcan, and a Project Architect with ZGF. With a passion for community service, she has served on the City of Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board, the Alaskan Way Viaduct North Portal Working Group, the Ballard Avenue Landmarks Board, the AIA Seattle Board and Committee on the Environment, and developed and led tours with the Seattle Architecture Foundation

Annual Reports

Please click here to view our interactive map to learn more about the projects we reviewed from 2015 to 2018.

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