Design Review - Program

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Seeking Board Members

We are seeking candidates for multiple upcoming board positions for terms beginning April 4, 2021. Design Review Board applications are due by December 31, 2020. To be considered for appointment, please send an application, cover letter, and resume to Lisa Rutzick at lisa.rutzick@seattle.gov.

Applicants should have knowledge of, or interest in, architecture, urban design and the development process. They should also have the ability to evaluate projects based on the city's design guidelines; the ability to listen and communicate effectively; a passion for design and community development; and the ability to work well with others under pressure. Prior experience with community or neighborhood groups is a plus. Board members must live in the City. They should expect to work 15 hours a month attending and preparing for board meetings, which are held twice a month in the evenings. Board members are expected to attend at least 90 percent of the meetings.

COVID-19 Update for Design Review

On April 27, 2020, the Seattle City Council passed emergency legislation CB 119769 and the Mayor signed it into effect on April 28, 2020 to allow projects subject to full design review (community meetings with the Design Review Board) to opt into Administrative Design Review (ADR) (SDCI planner review) temporarily*.

Projects impacted by a Design Review Board meeting cancellation have the option to make this change. Please contact Lisa Rutzick at lisa.rutzick@seattle.gov for further instructions.

All project design packets are posted to the Design Review website calendar by entering the project number or address.

Any project that is converted to ADR during this time will be re-noticed to the public for an additional 14-day comment period. Please visit our website for tips on how to provide the most effective Design Review comments and submit comments in writing on the proposed design to PRC@seattle.gov.

*Projects that complete the Early Design Guidance phase as ADR under this emergency legislation, may remain in the ADR process through October 25, 2020.

Program

Design Review LogoDesign Review Great Examples - Greenfire Campus is one example you'll find in our gallery

Design Review is one of the tools we use to create a better city. It gives our planners, residents, and the professional volunteers serving on the Design Review Boards a voice in the design of most new multifamily and commercial buildings. These participants in the design review process consider a broad set of design considerations and apply design guidelines that the architect must use to design the exterior of the building. Their guidance and recommendations help us promote designs that fit into and relate to the surrounding neighborhoods. They also offer flexibility with the code standards to achieve better designs.

Our Design Review Program and its boards review most private development projects in Seattle. We review multiple aspects of a building and its site, including some of the following:

  • The overall appearance of the building
  • How your proposal relates to adjacent sites and the overall street frontage
  • How your proposal relates to unusual aspects of the site, like views or slopes
  • Pedestrian and vehicular access to the site
  • Quality of materials, open space, and landscaping

We hold public meetings for full Design Review that includes review by City staff and the Design Review Boards. Our review process includes an opportunity for public comment and involvement. You may request a "departure" from the Land Use Code as part of your proposal. Be sure to consult the design guidelines that apply specifically to your project.

Learn About & Get Involved with Design Review

The Design Review Board welcomes public comment on project design. Public comment helps the board and City form its recommendations. For projects reviewed by a board, the public may comment at the board meeting or by writing to the design review planner directly.

Get Involved With a Neighborhood Group

  • Contact your community council, chamber, or other local group and seek to join them on upcoming project reviews. To make your group more effective, find people who are passionate about design to inform others about upcoming project reviews. 
  • Participate in the development of neighborhood design guidelines. 
  • Submit an application to serve on a Design Review Board.

Learn About Upcoming Reviews

  • Think about what you like about how your neighborhood looks, what works, and what could be improved
  • Review and consider the materials posted to our website and send us an email or attend a Design Review meeting to tell us your comments
  • You can find all upcoming reviews on the Design Review Calendar 
  • Check out our Shaping Seattle map to see all of the projects under review in your neighborhood

Know and Use the Design Guidelines

Use the city-adopted design guidelines to craft your comments before you submit them to us.

Focus on Design

Design review focuses on design: the building’s size and shape, materials, and other elements within the guidelines. Environmental issues, such as traffic and parking, are not addressed by the design review process. Write and submit environmental concerns to the design review planner and ask that they be considered for the Master Use Permit review.

For more information, please review and share our Design Guidelines primer which is also available in Spanish and Simple Chinese. For more information about how to get involved, check out our How to Engage with Design Review brochure.

Mandatory Housing Affordability 

The City Council has passed the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) upzone (commonly referred to as the "citywide MHA upzones") legislation that affects the zoning designation and development standards for property throughout Seattle. For projects that were in review prior to, and anticipated, these changes, please review this MHA document to better understand the permitting options for your project.