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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

Vinita SidhuVinita Sidhu, Chair
Position: Landscape Architect
Term: Second
Term expires: March 1, 2023

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.

Adam AmrheinAdam Amrhein
Position: Urban Planner
Term: First
Term expires: March 1, 2023

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, 2023

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.

Erica BushErica Bush
Position: Urban Designer
Term: First
Term expires: March 1, 2023

Erica Bush is an urban designer and artist and is the founding member of the firms Boomslang Creatives and Central Collective, following her work with MAKERS, Mithun, and the Downtown Seattle Association. Erica has worked on many public- realm projects in the Pacific Northwest, the San Francisco Area, and Hawaii. Erica is passionate about creating beautiful, healthy, and sustainable environments that inspire spending more time outdoors. Erica received a BA in Art, Political Science and Sociology from The New School followed by a dual Master’s in Urban Planning and Master’s in Landscape Architecture at the University of Washington in 2014.

Elizabeth ConnerElizabeth Conner
Position: Artist
Term: Second
Term expires: March 1, 2023

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. 

Jill CraryJill Crary
Position: At-Large
Term: First
Term expires: March 1, 2023

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. 

Amalia Leighton Cody Amalia Leighton Cody
Position: Transportation Planner
Term: Second
Term expires: March 1, 2023

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.

Puja Shaw Puja Shaw, Commissioner
Position: Principal & Civil Engineer
Term: First
Term expires: March 1, 2023

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, Get Engaged Commissioner
Position: Urban Designer
Term: First
Term expires: March 1, 2023

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.

Elaine WineElaine Wine
Position: Architect
Term: Second
Term expires: March 1, 2023

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.

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
sdc_administration@seattle.gov

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.