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.


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.


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



Jill CraryJill Crary, Chair
Position: At-Large
Term: Second
Term expires: March 1, 2025

Jill retired as Seattle Center's Redevelopment Director in early 2020, having led the Seattle Center Century 21 Master Plan and subsequent development such as Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Armory rebranding, and KEXP. For the soon-to-open Climate Pledge Arena, Jill was instrumental in the Request for Proposals process, leading the City's interdepartmental Design and Constructability Review Team and the Landmarks Preservation Board's successful designation of the KeyArena-Coliseum site.  She was named one of Seattle Magazine's Most Influential People of 2013.

Jill worked on a diverse range of Seattle Center projects, from public art installations and open space projects - The Grass Blades, Artists at Play, Theater Commons and multiple skate parks, to complex collaborations - Seattle Children's Theatre Technical Pavilion, Seattle Opera Center and the $127M Marion Oliver McCaw Hall.  From 1990-98, she was an Event Service Representative, managing the Seattle Sonics and NBA games and events, including the 1996 NBA Finals in newly renovated KeyArena.  Jill's background is technical theater, with a B.A. from Purdue University and M.A. from University of Missouri-Kansas City; for many years  she was a member of the technical staff of the Seattle Repertory Theater.  Her participation in the opening of the Bagley Wright Theatre showed her the ability of new places and environments to transform arts organizations and communities.  She is excited to continue to contribute to Seattle's public spaces as part of the Design Commission. 

Adam AmrheinAdam Amrhein, Vice Chair
Position: Urban Planner
Term: Second
Term expires: March 1, 2025

Adam Amrhein, AICP  is an urban designer at LMN architects, where he's managed and designed projects ranging from large-scale transportation  infrastructure to campus planning and urban re-development. Adam's work at LMN has focused predominately in the Puget Sound Region. In planning and design he is interested in systems scale solutions, bold partnerships, and people and place centricity. Adam has previously managed the launch and development of the Living Community Challenge program, and has consulted on public and private capital and planning projects across North America.

Adam is a guest studio reviewer in the UW's College of Built Environments, and is active with AIA and APA committees, mentoring, and program development. Before working in design, Adam made a living as a facilitator, trip leader, and bicycle mechanic. He has a masters degree in City and Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania, and a bachelors degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

Matt AalfsMatt Aalfs
Position: Architect
Term: First
Term expires: March 1, 2024

Matt Aalfs, AIA, is the founder and principal architect at BuildingWork, a Seattle architecture firm that specializes in the design of civic spaces, public libraries, creative workplaces, adaptive reuse projects, and historic preservation. With more than two decades of professional experience, Matt designs innovative and carefully detailed buildings that contribute to the health of communities, the environment, and culture.

Since 2000, Matt has served as a visiting lecturer and design studio critic with the University of Washington Department of Architecture. He has served on the King County Library System Foundation Board, and on Seattle’s ACT Theater Board of Directors. Matt received his B.A. in Art from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and studied architecture in Rome, Italy, and at the California College of Arts in San Francisco. Matt earned a Master of Architecture from the University of Washington and is an alum of the Urban Land Institute’s Center for Leadership.

Jay BackmanJay Backman
Position: Get Engaged Commissioner
Term: First
Term expires: October, 2024

Jay is a Senior Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Engineer at the City of Bellevue.  They have experience spanning both the private and public sectors in design, maintenance, and operations of public roadway systems. They are passionate about applying innovative technologies and design practices to improve roadway safety, efficiency, and accessibility for all users. When they aren't conducting traffic analysis and adjusting Bellevue's adaptive signal system, they are applying their expertise to multi-modal projects such as Bike Bellevue.

Jay has worked on a wide array of projects including Sound Transit Alignment Alternative Analysis, Alaskan Way Viaduct Demolition roadway and utility design, and various Vision Zero initiatives. They have also kept diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at the forefront of their work by leading and participating in multiple DEI related committees over the course of their career. They are passionate about applying the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion to transportation infrastructure, zoning and building code, and city planning.

Elizabeth ConnerElizabeth Conner
Position: Artist
Term: Second
Term expires: March 1, 2024

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. 

Puja Shaw Puja Shaw
Position: Principal & Civil Engineer
Term: First
Term expires: March 1, 2024

Puja Shaw is a principal and civil engineer with KPFF Consulting Engineers. She has over 20 years of experience working on a wide variety of project types and has a passion for bringing life to Seattle’s urban environment while cultivating inclusivity and collaboration in the teams she leads and is a part of. Her professional expertise in campus work, regional stormwater management facility design, and integrated project delivery. Over her career she has been an integral member of project teams for the University of Washington’s Montlake Triangle Rainier Vista, Seattle University’s Center for Science and Innovation, King Street Station Renewal, and Pike Place Market Renovation.

Puja is a University of British Columbia graduate with a Bachelor of Applied Science in civil engineering. She is a former member of the Seattle Bicycle Advisory Board and Seattle Public Utilities’ Customer Review Panel.

Molly SpetalnickMolly Spetalnick, Urban Design Commissioner
Position: Urban Designer
Term: First
Term expires: March, 2025

Molly Spetalnick is an urban designer at ZGF Architects whose experience and education span a range of design disciplines including urban design, architecture, landscape architecture, and interior design. She has a passion for leveraging policy, architecture, landscape architecture, and robust community engagement to support the development of vibrant, affordable communities near transit stations. Molly works on Sound Transit projects including the Transit Oriented Development Inventory, SDOT on the Pike Pine Streetscape and Bicycle Improvements Project, and with volunteers with a variety of organizations including the Africatown Community Land Trust, and Community Passageways.

Phoebe BogertPhoebe Bogert
Position: Landscape Architect
Term: First
Term expires: March 1, 2025

A principal at PLACE, Phoebe Bogert brings her artful and ecologically sensitive approach to the design and planning of public and private projects. During her 18-year career, her experience has made her an invaluable project leader who motivates her team, works closely with all stakeholders, and engages the community. These sensibilities are reflected in all her work from universities, parks and housing, to libraries, gardens and playgrounds.

Phoebe has lived and worked internationally and is a longtime resident of Seattle. Her love of the space in between, took root in Los Angeles' mural art, and informs her approach to foster thriving communities with a strong sense of place. A graduate of Pitzer College and a Garfield High School alum, Phoebe holds a Masters in Landscape Architecture from University of Washington, is a registered, award-winning Landscape Architect, and has served two terms on the Seattle Design Review Board.

Molly SpetalnickBen Gist
Position: Architect
Term: First
Term expires: March 1, 2025

Ben is a Principal in the Seattle office of Carrier Johnson, a national architecture and design firm. Ben has over 20 years experience in the design and execution of mixed use and single purpose residential or commercial developments. Most of Ben’s work has focused on new development in the Puget Sound area, with additional work on residential projects at University of California’s Irvine campus. Ben has a strong commitment to professional development in his service in leadership roles at the Seattle chapter of the American Institute for Architects. Since 2017, Ben has also served on the Downtown Seattle Associations’ Family-friendly downtown taskforce.

Ben has a Masters’ degrees in Architecture and a Bachelors’ in Environmental Design from Montana State University.

Molly SpetalnickKevin O'Neill
Position: Transportation Planner
Term: First
Term expires: March 1, 2025

Kevin has an extensive background in Transportation Planning, serving in a variety of leadership roles in the public and private sectors. Kevin was the Transportation Planning Director and Strategic Planning Manager for the City of Bellevue from 2002-2011. From 2011-2019 he served in the Seattle Department of Transportation as a Deputy Director, Director of the Street Use Division, and Planning Manager. From 2019-202 Kevin was the Senior Planning Manager in the Seattle office of WSP, managing the urban and transportation planning workgroups. In these roles Kevin led workgroups on a variety of projects including Sound Transit’s West Seattle to Ballard project, Climate Pledge Arena, and the new Seattle Convention Center’s Summit building.

Kevin has a Masters’ degrees in both City and Regional Planning and Public Administration from Ohio State University, and a Bachelors’ degree from University of Vermont.

Annual Reports

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

Example of interactive map interface

Seattle Design Commission

Address: 600 4th Avenue, 5th Floor, Seattle, WA, 98124
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 94788, Seattle, WA, 98124-7088
Phone: (206) 684-0435

The Seattle Design Commission advises the Mayor, City Council, and City departments on the design of capital improvements and other projects and policies that shape Seattle's public realm.