Capitol Hill Design Guidelines Update

What's Happening Now?

Capitol Hill Neighborhood Design Guidelines were sent to City Council on April 16, 2019 for their review and action. City staff and working group members will brief the City Council Planning, Land Use, and Zoning (PLUZ) committee at their June 5th meeting. At this meeting, the PLUZ Committee will also hold a Public Hearing and possibly vote on this legislation. Written comments to the PLUZ Committee must be received by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 4th. The PLUZ Committee meeting will start at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 5th. The meeting is open to the public and streamed on the Seattle Channel.

Once voted out by the PLUZ Committee, the full City Council will vote to adopt the updated Capitol Hill Neighborhood Design Guidelines.

In 2017-18 we worked with Capitol Hill Housing EcoDistrict and other community stakeholders (working group) to prepare an update to the Capitol Hill Neighborhood Design Guidelines.

  • We held monthly meetings with the working group to review, assess and draft changes to the existing guidelines.
  • We held an Open House in November 2017.
  • We held a second Open House in May 2018 to share Draft design guidelines with the broader community.
  • We refined the design guidelines based on input from the community and expert review by other City staff.
  • We published the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Determination of Non-Significance for the draft legislation in February 2019. No appeal was made.
  • We made additional changes based on comments from the working group and the community.
  • The Mayor sent the design guidelines to City Council on April 16, 2019 for their review and action.

Additional Background

In 2017, we started meeting with our local partner, the Capitol Hill Housing EcoDistrict, and a group of community members to better understand how Capitol Hill's current design guidelines have influenced development over the past few years. We then identified themes that should be addressed in the updated design guidelines.

On November 16, 2017, we held a community open house at the 12th Ave Arts Building to help identify the community's vision and priorities for the updated guidelines. Thank you to everyone who attended the meeting, asked questions, and provided feedback! Throughout December 2017, we gave the opportunity to provide additional input through an online survey for those who were not able to attend the community open house. The community open house materials and other background materials are available on our Project Documents page. Over several months following the first community open house, our community work group built upon and refined the ideas shared at the community open house. Based on this input and other suggestions from our community work group, we drafted proposed guidelines for the Capitol Hill Neighborhood.

On May 30, 2018, we held a second community open house at the 12th Ave Arts Building to review and provide feedback on the draft guidelines. Thank you to everyone who attended the meeting and provided feedback!  From late May through mid-June we gave the opportunity for community members to provide additional input on the draft guidelines through an online survey.

Project Goals

Our goal is to achieve the community's vision for future redevelopment within the Capitol Urban Center Village by implementing updated neighborhood design guidelines.

The End Result

The new design guidelines will guide future development within the Capitol Hill Urban Center Village so to maintain and further develop healthy, diverse, and vibrant areas.

 

Get Involved

On November 16, 2017, we held a large community open house at the 12th Ave Arts Building to help identify the community's vision and priorities for the updated guidelines. Thank you to everyone who attended the meeting, asked questions, and provided feedback! Throughout December 2017, we gave the opportunity to provide additional input through an online survey for those who were not able to attend the community open house. The community open house materials and other background materials are available on our Project Documents page.

Over several months following the first community open house, our community work group (read more below) built upon and refined the ideas shared at the community open house.

On May 30, 2018, we held a second community open house at the 12th Ave Arts Building to review and provide feedback on the draft guidelines.  Thank you to everyone who attended the meeting and provided feedback!  From late May through mid-June we gave the opportunity for community members to provide additional input on the draft guidelines through an online survey.

On February 4, 2019, we republished the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) Determination of Non-Significance for the draft legislation, Draft Capitol Hill Neighborhood Design Guidelines and a Director's Report. This extends the period for comment and/or appeal of this determination until February 25, 2019. We anticipate City Council will consider this update in April 2019. Click here to view the most recent draft of the Capitol Hill Neighborhood Design Guidelines.

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Stay Involved

Interested in staying involved and/or updated with development in Capitol Hill?  Learn more about Design Review:

Find out more information here.

Community Partnerships

Our local partner for this project, the Capitol Hill Housing EcoDistrict, led in forming a working group for the Capitol Hill Neighborhood Design Guidelines update to provide consistent feedback and advice on the direction of this project and its products. The working group consists of over a dozen renters, homeowners, and business owners who live/work in the Capitol Hill Neighborhood and have volunteered their time to help make this project a reality.  You may attend the work group meetings as an observer and there is a comment period at the end of each meeting. Find the latest work group documents and meeting minutes on our Project Documents page.

You can learn about existing community organizations in Capitol Hill by visiting the links below.

Background

The Capitol Hill Neighborhood is one of Seattle's densest communities. The neighborhood is home to several vibrant commercial centers, business districts, and residential areas. Like other areas of Seattle, Capitol Hill is experiencing a phase of rapid growth. Since the design guidelines were adopted in 2005, nearly 50 buildings have gone through the Design Review program and received development permits. In spring 2016, Light Rail expanded to the neighborhood. Transit oriented development (TOD) is expected to form around the station, creating another community anchor for the Capitol Hill Neighborhood. Also, the City is currently studying possible zoning changes in Capitol Hill and several other neighborhoods to help ensure that growth brings affordability through implementation of the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA).

As the neighborhood continues to grow, we are teaming up with Capitol Hill Housing Ecodistrict and local community members to update/revise the existing Capitol Hill Neighborhood Design Guidelines, which will serve as a guide for future development throughout all areas within the Capitol Hill Urban Center Village. This is a joint effort we are working on with the Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI).

What Are Neighborhood Design Guidelines?

Design guidelines are the backbone of the Design Review Program. They direct designers and project reviewers to look closely at the neighborhood and its character to design new buildings that enhance their surroundings. The guidelines are used by the Design Review Boards and Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections staff to assess the merits of a project. There are three types of design guidelines: citywide design guidelines; downtown guidelines and neighborhood-specific guidelines.

The neighborhood-specific guidelines are divided into districts (learn more here). Neighborhood specific design guidelines are intended to augment the Citywide Design Guidelines by providing recommendations on issues unique to a particular neighborhood that are not addressed in the Citywide Design Guidelines. The existing Capitol Hill Neighborhood Design Guidelines were developed by community members and design consultants, and adopted in 2005. The guidelines provide context for development within the neighborhood's commercial corridors, districts, and multifamily residential areas, all of which provide a diversity of building types and scale.  In 2013, the neighborhood guidelines were re-formatted to better align with the updated citywide design guidelines and supplemental guidelines for TOD sites located adjacent to the Capitol Hill Light Rail Station were added.

What Is Urban Design?

Urban Design is the art of creating and shaping cities and neighborhoods, giving form and character to places with the design of buildings, public spaces, transportation systems, and amenities. Below are some key urban design principles to consider when developing or updating design guidelines.

Respond to Physical Context & Site Features

  • Integrate sustainable systems, materials, operations, habitat, and features
  • Strengthen desirable built form patterns, natural features, and public spaces
  • Emphasize positive design elements, history, and character from the locale  

Reinforce the Public Realm & Public Life

  • Implement pedestrian connections, continuity, safety, and amenity
  • Ensure street-level interaction with transparency, doors, and activating uses
  • Create usable, sunny, and generous places for tenants, customers, and public
  • Prioritize pedestrian, bike, and transit access, amenities, and facilities  

High Quality Building Concept, Design, Materials, & Execution

  • Arrange uses and access points to reinforce streets and the public realm
  • Minimize impacts from vehicles, services, and utilities, and limit blank walls
  • Compose buildings with multiple scales, depth, material variety, and quality
  • Create positive open spaces with amenities and lush landscaping
  • Integrate weather protection, lighting, signage, and all exterior details