Seattle Design Review Process: Streamline or Improve?

Seattle Design Review Process: Streamline or Improve?

For over a year, the old DPD, now the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (DCI), has been working to make long-needed “improvements” to their Design Review process. On March 7, in a post entitled Seattle Design Review Process is Fatally Flawed [ ] we discussed our concerns with the process. Now we see a DCI proposal designed to "streamline" approval of new developments. Looking at the details, our conclusion is that “streamlining” is developer code for taking the public out of the process.  If approved, these changes will be contrary to the overall intent of Design Review and will significantly and negatively affect all downtown residents.

The existing Design Review Guidelines state “design review provides a forum for citizens and developers to work toward achieving a better urban environment through attention to fundamental design principles.” One principle objective of design review is “to improve communications and participation among developers, neighbors, and the City early in the design and siting of new development.”

Some of the proposed changes that would specifically impact our neighborhood include:

 •   Developments inside urban villages up to half a block in size would only require a single Design Review Board meeting.

 •   Developments of any size, whether inside or outside of urban villages, would only require a single Design Review Board meeting as long as they are considered to be “Deep Green”.

We do need “improvements" to the Design Review process, but limiting already inadequate public input to the process is regression, not an improvement, and should not be passed into law without change. The deck is already stacked in favor of developers. This will make it worse.

In the existing process at a Design Review Meeting, there is no give and take between the Board and the citizens, no time is provided for the Board to ask questions related to the public comments, and there is no time whatsoever for the Board to think about or explore what they heard from the public or review details in graphs/tables, photographs, or other information that the public presents. This incredibly flawed process results in a Design Review decision that is made without meaningful public participation.

We do not see how this “streamlined” process proposal will remedy the existing flaws nor benefit anyone other than developers.

We need real “improvement” to the Design Review process. This is not it!

Please submit your comments to DCI by completing their survey:

The comment period ends this Friday, April 8.

Please also comment by email to the City Council:;;;;;;;

And please submit your comments to Mayor Murray:

Read more about the proposed changes here: