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Design Review Program “Improvements”, Comments due Monday July 10

Growth Without Oversight:

Seattle Design Review “Improvements” Released
Your Input Matters!

Do you believe in responsible growth that is positive for your community’s quality of life as well as benefitting developers and investors?

Then make your voice heard with the City Council! The City’s proposal to amend the design review process takes away your influence concerning what gets built in your neighborhood.

The City and Neighborhood Design Guidelines combine with the two public Design Review Review meetings format to make growth fit within the context of your neighborhood. Without the check and balance of inclusive design review, growth can destroy neighborhoods. With it, the character and quality of the neighborhood is strengthened when adding housing and commercial spaces.

Please ask all Council members to:

  • Leave the Design Review process as is.
  • Direct city employees and the Design Review Boards to enforce existing design guidelines.

Two Important Dates:

  • Public comments will be accepted through Monday July 10, 2017.
  • SEPA appeals may be made through Thursday June 29, 2017.

Proposed changes that impact neighborhoods include:

  • Removing neighborhoods from the process by replacing language such as:
    • “Neighborhood priorities among the design guidelines” with “identify guideline priorities”.
    • “Highest priority to the neighborhood” with “highest priority to the Board”.
  • Exempting projects on properties of less than 10,000 square feet from any design review. In the past 2 years, 29% of projects were in this category. For perspective: most four story apartment buildings are on properties of less than 10,000 square feet.
  • Restricting the scope of the Design Review Process:
    • Administrative – Developments inside Urban Villages get Administrative Design Review, with no public meetings, if less than 20,000 square feet.
    • Hybrid – Developments up to 20,000 square feet (or larger inside an Urban Village) would require only the Design Review Board “Recommendation” meeting and not the “Early Design Guidance” meeting.
    • Full – Only the largest developments, over 20,000 square feet, and only outside Urban Village boundaries, would require the normal Design Review Board “Early Design Guidance” and “Recommendation” meetings.
  • Revising who is a stakeholder by changing straightforward terms such as “Developers” to more generic terms like “Project Proponents”.
  • Shifting responsibility and authority from the Design Review Board to the Director. This has the effect of making Design Review Boards less independent, and will make the Board positions less attractive to the professionals who volunteer their time.
  • Granting departures from design guidelines without public review.

Submit your comments by Monday July 10, 5:00 PM to William Mills, Land Use Planner Supervisor, at william.mills@seattle.gov or by mail to:
City of Seattle, SDCI
Attn: William Mills
PO Box 94788
Seattle, WA 98124-7088

Please send your comments to the City Council by phone, 206-684-8888, or by email:
sally.bagshaw@seattle.gov; tim.burgess@seattle.gov; mike.obrien@seattle.gov; kshama.sawant@seattle.gov; rob.johnson@seattle.gov; lorena.gonzalez@seattle.gov; lisa.herbold@seattle.gov; bruce.harrell@seattle.gov; debora.juarez@seattle.gov

Please submit your comments to Mayor Murray:

Your input DOES MATTER!  Last year, due to comments and push-back from all over the city, the proposed changes were tabled until now.

Feel free to send version of these suggested comments:

I oppose the amendments to the Land Use Code (Title 23 SMC) to modify the design review process. 

The Design Review Process is meant to bring three perspectives together, the developer, the designer, and the community. The proposed changes drastically reduce the involvement of the community, creating an imbalance of input. Without the checks and balances of inclusive design review, growth can destroy neighborhoods. With them, they strengthen the character and quality of the neighborhood while adding housing & commercial spaces. 

I oppose the proposal to eliminate design review for developments under 10,000 square feet within Seattle (a four story apartment house is under 10,000 square feet). I live in Seattle, and I believe this, combined with the proposed Grand Bargain HALA MHA upzones and new zoning definitions for almost all of the residential zones and neighborhood commercial zone, will lead to an unchecked and un-reviewed redevelopment frenzy in my neighborhood.

When combined with the Grand Bargain HALA MHA upzone and new zoning definitions, this rule change will allow 40+ foot tall, zero-lot-line developments to appear next to single-family homes without any kind of notice, review, or public hearing. This type of development will negatively impact the livability and quality of the city. The community has a right to participate in the approval process. I ask that you prevent these rule changes from occurring.

Please leave the Design Process as is, and instead, direct the city to start enforcing design guidelines. Too many departures are being granted, too many setback requirements are being ignored, and too many loopholes are being exploited due to poor enforcement.

Learn more about the draft recommendations here:

Design Review Program Improvements, Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections (SDCI).
Draft Ordinance (PDF format).

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