Major Institution Advisory Committees

Seattle's hospitals, universities and colleges are important assets of the region and the city. By collaborating with surrounding communities and neighborhoods, unique zoning rules are developed for each major institution through the adoption of a Major Institution Master Plan (MIMP) that:

  1. identifies a boundary (Major Institution Overlay District) within which the revised rules apply; and
  2. identifies the specific rules that will apply to development within this boundary.

The objective of the plan is to balance the needs of the institution with the needs of adjacent communities and neighborhoods.  MIMPs have been established for thirteen major medical and educational institutions in Seattle.

Header image adapted from an original photo by Joe Mabel.

About the Process

A Major Institution Master Plan (MIMP) describes the zoning rules that will apply to the institution, identifies a long-range plan for the development of the institution's property, and a transportation management plan. The process by which a major institution applies for and develops a Master Plan is established by the Seattle Land Use Code Section 23.69.032.

Forming a Master Plan and monitoring development after its adoption are collaborative efforts involving the community, the major institution, and the City. The community is represented by a formally appointed advisory committee that participates in both creating the plan and monitoring subsequent development. When this committee is involved in establishing a new plan it is called a Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC). Once a plan has been adopted, this becomes a Standing Citizens Advisory Committee (SAC).

The Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) is composed of 6 to 12 voting members appointed by the City Council as part of the Master Plan development process. The CAC represents the interests of the institution, the surrounding neighborhoods, and the City of Seattle.  

The role of the CAC is to advise both the institution and City about the potential impacts of the development proposed by the major institution on the surrounding neighborhoods. The CAC recommends changes to the plan and ways to mitigate development related impacts to maintain the health and livability of nearby communities.

The CAC holds regular public committee meetings with the institution and the City to discuss the Master Plan and resolve any differences. The CAC submits comments throughout the process to the institution and the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI). The CAC presents its final recommendations to the City of Seattle Hearing Examiner and City Council. The Hearing Examiner, after considering all the material available, issues a recommendation which the Seattle City Council uses when it adopts a final plan. This process generally lasts two years.

Citizen Advisory Committees

After a Master Plan's adoption, the CAC is reformed as a SAC.  The role of the SAC is to monitor compliance with the provisions of the adopted Master Plan.  The SAC meets as needed, but no less than annually, to:

  1. Review an annual status report from the institution detailing the progress the institution has made in achieving the goals and objectives of the Master Plan;
  2. Review and comment on progress under the transportation management plan;
  3. Review requests for amendments to the Master Plan and recommend whether the amendment is a major or minor issue and any conditions that should be attached to the granting of an amendment; and
  4. Provide comments on all proposed projects developed under the provisions of the adopted plan that requires a Master Use Permit (MUP), supplemental environmental review, or is subject to any conditional use.

Please visit the Seattle Municipal Code for more detailed information on MIMPs.

Standing Advisory Committees

Frequently Asked Questions

All Advisory Committee meetings are open to the public. At each meeting, there is an opportunity for public comment. If you would like to be informed of the dates and times of meetings, please contact:

Maureen Sheehan
Major Institutions and Schools Programs
Phone: (206) 684-0302

Once a Major Institution informs the City of its intention to initiate the planning process, the following steps occur to select members of the Citizens Advisory Committee:

  • The Department of Neighborhoods and the Institution jointly advertise for volunteers to the Citizens Advisory Committee.  Advertisements are mailed to the area surrounding the institution, and are placed in local newspapers and in SDCI's Land Use Information Bulletin.
  • Volunteer applications are jointly reviewed by staff from the Institution and from the Department of Neighborhoods. A list of recommended volunteers is developed by the Institution and forwarded to the Director of the Department of Neighborhoods for transmittal to the City Council, via the Mayor.
  • The Mayor forwards a list of recommended appointments to the Citizens Advisory Committee to the City Council.  This is done as part of a Memorandum of Agreement, which sets forth the process for both development and review of the plan.

The Seattle City Council formally appoints the members of the Citizens Advisory Committee.
The process for appointment of a Standing Citizens Advisory Committee is similar except that the appointments are by the Director of the Department of Neighborhoods, with concurrence by the Mayor.

A Citizens Advisory Committee or Standing Advisory Committee can be contacted through the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.  Inquiries should be directed to:

Maureen Sheehan

Department of Neighborhoods Contact
Street Address:
Seattle City Hall
600 4th Avenue
4th Floor
Seattle, WA 98104
Mailing Address:
PO Box 94649
Seattle, WA 98124-4649

A Citizens Advisory Committee or (CAC) is formed to assist with the development of a new or revised plan for a Major Institution.  One a plan is in force, a Standing Citizens Advisory Committee or (SAC) is formed to monitor development under the plan to assure that the various requirements of the plan are adhered to.

Once a Master Plan is adopted by the City Council, it becomes the legal document that sets zoning and development regulations for the Institution. The Institution is required to comply with all provisions of the plan and make yearly reports concerning its development under the plan. Moreover, in its annual report, the Institution must detail its progress towards meeting any other goals or conditions under the plan, such as programs to reduce traffic impact on the surrounding areas. These reports are provided to the City and the Standing Advisory Committee. 

Four groups collaborate to review and enforce compliance with the adopted plans:

  1. The Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI);
  2. The Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT);
  3. The Standing Citizens Advisory Committee (SAC); and
  4. The Seattle Department of Neighborhoods (DON). 

The primary responsibility lies with the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections. The SAC is required to review the annual report of the institution and any proposed amendments to the plans. These reviews are coordinated by the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods and provided to the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections.

Master Plans are developed when the overlay district is established and revised or amended at various times.  Revisions generally occur when:

  1. The major institution seeks to expand its boundaries or change the development standards established under its plan to be less restrictive;
  2. A proposed structure would exceed development standards of the underlying zone and is not permitted under the existing plan's provisions;
  3. More than four residential units or two residential buildings within the overlay district are proposed for demolition or change to non-residential use; or
  4. Once the total square feet of development authority granted under the plan has been used and the institution proposes any additional development.

Many institutions also develop new plans when their own plans change.

For more detailed information on MIMPs, please see the Seattle Municipal Code.

When an institution decides to update a Master Plan:

  • The Institution informs the City of its intent to develop a new or revised plan;
  • The City and Institution jointly solicit volunteers to serve on the Citizens Advisory Committee for the plan development;
  • The City and Institution enter into a formal Memorandum of Agreement, appointing the members to the Citizens Advisory Committee and initiating a two-year process to complete a plan for adoption by the City Council.

The Seattle Department of Neighborhoods:

  • Coordinates outreach to solicit members for the Citizens Advisory Committee and Standing Citizens Advisory Committee;
  • Provides staff support to the Advisory Committees: assists with scheduling and conducting  meetings, including the preparation of all agendas and meeting summaries;
  • Assists the Committee in preparing its various reports to the Institution, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections, the City of Seattle Hearing Examiner, and the Seattle City Council.

The Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI):

  • Provides technical advice to the Advisory Committees on code related issues;
  • Oversees the preparation of the environmental reviews for the plan;
  • Prepares the formal City of Seattle staff recommendation to the Hearing Examiner and City Council.

For more detailed information, please reference the Seattle Municipal Code.