Advocacy Update – March 2020

This month in advocacy: Covid-19 updates, Architect Advocacy in action, the state legislative session concludes in Olympia; the YIMBY Act moves forward in Washington, D.C.; AIA supports a delay in Seattle's 2018 codes implementation; AIA's 2nd Annual ADU Tour is accepting projects, and more!


Seattle Firm Prompts New Rulemaking for Common Sense Bar Design
This report is written by Joe Herrin AIA, Principal at Heliotrope in Seattle.

Heliotrope is fortunate to have collaborated with many of Seattle’s most successful restauranteurs. In our effort to provide them with the best possible design solutions we regularly encounter interesting technical challenges. One persistent challenge has been how to design liquor barriers that meet state liquor board requirements while minimizing impact to spatial flow. These clunky bar-rails are ubiquitous and often awkward, inhibiting a natural circulation flow.

Every challenge presents an opportunity, and in the summer of 2018 Associate Ben Humphrey wrote to the Washington State Liquor Control Board and literally asked, “Is there a way to get this law changed?” A petition followed, and it became clear that the Board was interested in addressing this. Over the following months Ben collaborated with the rulemaking body on refining the language. He recently testified before the Board in Olympia, and this month the new rules were accepted and adopted. The new rules change the game related to how we design bar spaces, greatly improving the opportunity for intuitive flow and creative expression. Now a bar area can be demarcated through a simple change in floor material, plantings, in-floor lighting, and more. There is even language allowing us to propose a solution not expressly codified. The full text of the law can be read here.

Do you have a story of architect advocacy in action? Let us know!


As we face so many unknowns related to the coronavirus, personally and professionally, AIA Seattle is working to identify the areas where the practice of architecture will be impacted, immediately and in the future, and how we can work to support firms and individual architects and help the industry weather the impacts that will come. There are ongoing discussions at the state and local level around adjusting regulations related to codes, permitting, licensing, employment, and active construction projects. We will keep you updated as soon as we have specific details. In the meantime, please let us know what you are hearing that might be helpful to other architects, and we’ll work to collect and share as much information as possible.

2018 Seattle Construction Code Adoption Delayed
On March 19, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) issued the following announcement related to the 2018 code update scheduled to go into event July 1, 2020:

SDCI is in the process of updating Seattle’s construction codes to the 2018 versions of the building, residential, existing buildings, mechanical, energy, fuel gas, and plumbing codes.  We have been aiming for an effective date of July 1, 2020, to align with the effective date of the Washington State building codes.  However, due to many factors, including the impacts of the COVID-19, the effective date of Seattle’s codes will be delayed until November 1, 2020.  If the 2018 Washington State construction codes effective date is delayed past November 1, we will align the effective date of our codes with the State.

Please visit our code update website for continued information and to review proposed code change documents. If you have questions, please contact Micah Chappell, Technical Code Development Manager, at

On March 12, AIA sent a letter to SDCI Director Nathan Torgelson supporting a deferral to provide greater flexibility as architects and others face extraordinary coronavirus measures that impact workplaces and families.

SDCI Closes Public-Facing Resources
SDCI has closed its Applicant Services Center, Public Resource Center, and the 19th floor reception area. Alternative methods of reaching SDCI are available online. Click here for more info.


2020 Presidential Primary Election Results
View the results from Washington’s presidential primary election from the Secretary of State here.

YIMBY Act Passes House
The U.S. House of Representatives passed without opposition the YIMBY Act, H.R. 4307, co-sponsored by Washington’s Rep. Denny Heck (D-Olympia). The bill would address the country’s affordable housing crisis by streamlining affordable housing production and zoning for high-density single-family and multifamily housing. It also proposes to reduce hurdles related to affordable housing production by:

  • Reducing minimum lot sizes.
  • Increasing development in areas close to transit centers.
  • Allowing for the construction of duplexes and manufactured homes in areas currently zoned for single-family homes.
  • Increasing the allowable floor area ratio in multifamily housing areas.
  • Providing incentives to produce adaptive reuse projects.

Many of these measures can be found in state legislation considered in recent years, including bills from Washington. The YIMBY Act now goes to the Senate, where it faces a less certain future. At AIA Seattle’s request, AIA National is reviewing this bill with its Government Affairs Council for inclusion in AIA’s housing policy portfolio. More info on the YIMBY Act.


Washington’s 2020 Legislative Session Concludes
The State Legislature concluded its 2020 legislative session on March 12 and will not go into special session this year except to address coronavirus-related appropriations or other legislative action. You may read AIA Washington Council’s session wrap-up here. Highlights include passage of C-PACER legislation to provide a private funding mechanism for deep energy and resiliency retrofits; the defeat of licensing bills that had the potential to weaken architect licenses; the defeat of numerous attempts to delay or eliminate the 2018 residential energy code update and to impact the functioning of the State Building Code Council; and some positive steps forward on housing and affordable housing funding. Thanks to all of you who contacted your legislators during the session; your outreach makes a difference!


Seattle Approves Homelessness Measures
In February, the Seattle City Council passed and Mayor Durkan signed an ordinance sponsored by Councilmember Kshama Sawant to allow up to 40 tent cities, tiny home villages, or parking lots where people living in their cars can camp. The first city-permitted tent cities opened in 2015 and the city currently has eight sites; the 2015 authorization expires this month. The legislation makes it easier to site transitional encampments on land owned by religious organizations, the county, and the state. It also allows encampments in residential zones. Funding for additional villages was not addressed in the ordinance, however; the City Council provided funding for only two additional villages in the 2020 budget.

Also in February, the Council approved an ordinance by Councilmember Sawant to ban residential evictions between Dec. 1 and March 1, with some exceptions. Mayor Durkan allowed the ordinance to become law without her signature.

On March 5, Mayor Durkan announced that the city would expand available shelter space in the wake of coronavirus public health concerns. On March 17, the City Council approved and expanded a moratorium on residential evictions ordered by Durkan.

AIA’s Committee on Homelessness advocates on these and other issues based on AIA’s policy statement on homelessness.


Submit your project for AIA Seattle’s 2020 ADU Tour
AIA Seattle’s 2nd Annual ADU Tour is scheduled for June 6, 2020. AIA is currently accepting applications for attached or detached ADUs to present on the tour. Projects must be designed by an AIA member and be located within the Seattle city limits. More info here. Note: the Tour will be postponed until later in the year if necessary, but we encourage you to submit your project by the April 17 deadline.


AIA Seattle Committee Meetings
The Center for Architecture and Design is currently closed based on recommendations from local and state health officials. 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 Washington Council Sustainability Webinar Series Kicks Off March 24
AIA|WA will host a three-part webinar series on sustainability issues, including a review of basic sustainability concepts, the state energy code, the role of architects and the resources available to us, and upcoming changes architects should be aware of. Although all are welcome, this series is not designed for architects who are experts in the field of sustainability; rather, the content is aimed at those who have had less exposure to these concepts. The first webinar is scheduled for March 24, 4:30-5:30 pm. Although the “viewing parties” originally organized in larger cities have been canceled, the webinar will still take place. One HSW credit will be available for participants. More info here.

AIA Seattle Climate Comprehensive Webinar: State, Local + National View – April 7
This session, moved to a webinar, will recap AIA’s work on climate issues across many policy levels. We’ll review what happened in Olympia this year as well as state and local climate policies currently in the works. We’ll also take a look at AIA National’s Big Move on climate and the ongoing work that Shift Zero (AIA is a member) is doing on zero carbon building initiatives. More info here.


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 |