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


Ben-deRubertisBen de Rubertis, Chair
Position: Urban Designer
Term: Second
Term expires: March 1, 2020

Ben de Rubertis is Creative Director of Genus Architecture, a diverse architectural practice focused on the use of advanced metrics for the development of cost-efficient, sustainable, community-responsive buildings. He serves concurrently as Design Director for Flad Architects. Ben has worked in many capacities as volunteer, public leader, master planner, teacher, artist, historian and principal designer for nationally recognized and published projects. He served as Design Principal for AR7 Architects, providing design leadership for higher education practice for the Western US. While a fellow with the Professional Schools Neighborhood Clinic, Ben worked with various local community development corporations to help endow several capital construction extending necessary services into inner-city neighborhoods.

In addition to his planning experience, Ben has worked on pioneering the sustainability movement within Colorado and Arizona. He has been the principal designer for two of the first three LEED Platinum buildings at University of Arizona. Ben’s professional focus on climate-sensitive building design as well as renewable energy systems and their systematic deployment in educational settings has earned numerous awards and teaching engagements. Ben has been active in both AIA and ULI, is an active committee member with the Colorado Water Conservation Board and has served as a member of the Citizens Advisory Committee for the Denver Public Library. Ben earned B.A. and M.Arch degrees from Yale University.

Brianna HolanBrianna Holan, Vice 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
Position: Engineer
Term: First
Term expires: March 1, 2020

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.

Laura-HaddadLaura Haddad
Position: Fine Artist
Term: Second
Term expires: March 1, 2020

Laura Haddad is an artist who has been working in Seattle’s public realm for the past twenty years. Her site-specific work derives meaning from the phenomena, utility, context, and history of a site. Fusing the temporal with the spatial and the conceptual with the functional, she strives to create art that forms a medium of exchange between systems, ideas, and interventions. In 2001 Laura co-founded Haddad|Drugan, a studio that operates at the intersection of art, architecture, landscape, and theater. Their large-scale environmental art, located in cities across the United States and Canada, is often integrated into urban infrastructure and realized through a process of working closely with design teams. Laura has also authored multiple art plans, including the Elliott Bay Seawall Project Art Programming Plan.

Laura holds a Master of Landscape Architecture from the University of California at Berkeley and a Bachelor of Arts in History from Bowdoin College. She has taught design studios dealing with art landscape at University of Washington and Rhode Island School of Design and served on the Port of Seattle’s Art Oversight Committee.

Mark JohnsonMark Johnson
Position: Architect
Term: First
Term Expires: March 1, 2020

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.

Lucas WhitesellLucas Whitesell
Position: Get Engaged Member
Term: 1 Year
Term expires: September 1, 2020

Lucas Whitesell is a structural engineer at Arup. He grew up in Olympia, WA, received his BS in Civil Engineering from the University of Washington, and graduated with a Master's in Structural Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. Since joining Arup in 2015, Lucas has been a part of the structural engineering teams in San Francisco and Seattle. His project work has given him experience in seismic design and assessment of new and existing buildings, modular building design in high-seismic zones, structural design of permanent and temporary art installations, and feature stair design for strength and serviceability.

In addition to structural engineering, Lucas is passionate about community engagement, serving as a mentor with Big Brothers Big Sisters and ACE Mentoring, phone banking and door-to-door canvassing on behalf of local and national initiatives, and co-leading his local office's LGBTQ advocacy group. He views his role on the Seattle Design commission as an important opportunity to combine his structural engineering experience with his drive to better his community, as well as an opportunity to learn from other professionals and city leaders

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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