Advocacy Update – April 2020

This month in advocacy: COVID resources, more climate webinars, legislative adjustments to Seattle's MHA program and its ADU laws, and more!

As we all work to navigate these unprecedented times, AIA Seattle and AIA Washington Council are working to make sure you have the resources you need to take advantage of federal, state, and local programs designed to help firms and individuals. We’re also striving to keep you aware of policies released by state and local officials and to relay the state’s guidance on how architects can and cannot operate during this ongoing period of social isolation. If you have questions, comments, or resources to share, please let us know – or join us for our series of Town Halls for discussions and resources sharing among our member groups.


This is a review of COVID-related policies that impact architects at the state and local level, as well as resources for small businesses. You can view AIA Seattle’s full list of COVID resources and opportunities here.

Construction Activity & Essential Businesses
Read Gov. Inslee’s determination of an “essential” business and his clarification on construction activity here.

Seattle: The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) delayed its 2018 code update scheduled to go into effect on July 1 to November 1, 2020. More info is available on SDCI’s code update website.

State: On April 2, Gov. Inslee issued an executive order delaying the implementation date of the 2018 code updates from July 1 to Nov. 1, 2020.

Seattle Design Review
To keep projects moving during COVID restrictions on public gatherings, the Seattle City Council is considering legislation that would:

  • Shift projects that are subject to full design review to administrative design review for six months (or earlier if the city can get design review online).
  • Exempt from design review certain affordable housing projects funded by the Office of Housing (these are currently required to go through administrative design review).
  • Bypass Landmarks Preservation Board meetings by allowing certain decisions to be made by the city’s Historic Preservation Officer rather than the Board.

This legislation will be considered by the full Council on April 20. At the direction of the Housing Task Force, AIA Seattle sent a letter to councilmembers in support of the proposed design review changes for affordable housing while also issuing a call for the city to expand on these to address both the coming COVID economic crisis and the ongoing housing crises for all housing projects, including market rate housing.

Small Business Assistance
Federal: The Small Business Association (SBA) received billions of dollars in funding via the CARES Act to support small businesses with special grants and loans, and more funds are likely to be appropriated once Congress is back in session. Find more information about coronavirus relief options available through the SBA here.

The CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) provides small businesses with 500 employees or fewer up to $10 million in forgivable loans to pay their employees during the COVID-19 crisis. Loans are provided through financial institutions and lenders.

For more information about PPP loans:

Seattle’s Office of Economic Development is available to help small businesses navigate the SBA loan application process. To request this service, contact OED at or (206) 684-8090.

Note: the state’s own small business loan program has stopped accepting applications at this time due to high volume. We’ll let you know if/when it reopens.

Seattle’s Restaurant Takeout & Delivery Map for feeding yourself and supporting small businesses.


State Legislature
A reminder that the State Legislature concluded its 2020 legislative session on March 12. A special session is expected sometime this summer to address ongoing funding related to COVID-19, as the state has already spent two-thirds of the $200 million appropriated for the crisis by legislators in March (these funds came from the state’s rainy day fund). You may read AIA Washington Council’s session wrap-up here.


MHA Refinements
Although city timelines have been pushed back for many projects due to COVID, AIA expects the City Council to start work this year on making adjustments to the Mandatory Housing Affordability (MHA) legislation it passed in 2019. AIA’s Housing Task Force is working to identify changes architects would like to see made to the MHA program in advance of that work. Our understanding is the city has been collecting data on the performance vs. payment percentages of ongoing MHA projects, and we are working to find out when this data might be released and how it will be used by the city. AIA would like to see where development is happening under the current program so we can propose refinements. If you have thoughts on changes you would like to see to the MHA program, please add your comments to our Google Drive document here.

ADU Clean Up Legislation
Similarly, the city may start work this year on legislation to make adjustments to the ADU legislation passed last year, and AIA would like to develop a list of recommend changes to provide to the city. Examples identified by the Housing Task Force include allowing STFI for ADUs and removing covered porches from the square footage limits. Do you have changes you would like to see to the city’s ADU policies? Please add your comments to our Google Drive document here.


AIA Seattle’s 2020 ADU Tour Canceled
AIA Seattle’s public ADU Tour, originally scheduled for June 6, has been canceled. We are working on a program that will allow members to showcase attached or detached built ADUs online; stay tuned here for more information.

AIA Seattle Presents: Action Now, Accelerating Pathways to Decarbonization
Tues. April 21, 8:30 AM – 5 PM
This series of webinars identifies the ways in which the significant scale and urgent timeframe of our climate crisis demand interventions that are broad and immediate. Four webinars throughout the day will help identify the data-driven interventions that will pay the highest dividends immediately; explore what will position us to stay on the path to 2030 targets and net-zero 2050; and pinpoint the regulatory and financial frameworks necessary to support this scale and urgency. Specific topics include: embodied carbon, building electrification, retrofits and more. Read more about the series here.

Cities Climate Action Webinar (Focus on Buildings)  Sat. May 2, 9:30-11 AM
People for Climate Action presents a look at how building policies around energy use and GHG emissions can impact climate change, including presentations by Architecture 2030, Bellevue City Council Member Janice Zahn, and Bellingham’s Climate Action Task Force. More info here.


AIA Seattle Member Town Halls
Join us for our series of Town Halls for discussions and resources sharing among our member groups. Each Town Hall will be facilitated by a combination of representatives from our Staff, Board, and Steering Committees and focused on finding ways for our community to co-create, share knowledge, and support one another in these unprecedented times. April 20 – May 15.

AIA Seattle Committee Meetings
The Center for Architecture and Design is closed until the governor’s Stay Home Stay Healthy order is lifted. All meetings and events are either canceled or moved to an online or conference call format.  Check AIA’s events page for more details on specific events.

AIA Seattle’s Housing Task Force continues to meet on the 2nd Thursday of the month (noon) via Zoom. For info on how to access the meeting, contact Kirsten.

AIA Seattle’s Transportation Task Force is maintaining dialogue through Slack. If you’d like to join the discussion, contact Kirsten.


We’d love to hear from you! To comment or for more information on these or any other topics, please contact:

Kirsten Smith
Manager of Policy & Advocacy
AIA Seattle & AIA Washington Council
206-957-1926 |