More Design Review Guidance

Information on Design Review changes as a result of COVID - from SDCI.

On April 27th, City Council passed emergency legislation making temporary six-month land use permitting process changes that:

  • Exempt affordable housing from design review
  • Keep projects normally subject to Design Review moving forward by allowing City staff to complete review processes through administrative design review
  • Allow for community participation during this public health emergency through the administrative design review process and by replacing in-person meetings with virtual meetings.

With this legislation, projects that have been unable to move forward due to the statewide prohibition of in-person meetings can once again be underway. The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) will temporarily conduct the design review process administratively. Additionally, SDCI now has the authority to eliminate design review for City-funded affordable housing projects that can submit a building permit within the next six months. These projects can also request modifications from certain code standards as part of their building permit review.  SDCI staff will continue to develop an online meeting platform to allow for virtual Design Review Board meetings.

The Department of Neighborhoods (DON) is authorized to allow historic preservation staff to approve minor changes to City Landmarks, Special Review Districts, Landmark Districts, and Historical Districts. International Special Review District (IRSD) meetings will be postponed for at least 60 days.

The legislation also allows digital outreach to replace the in-person meeting requirements for the community outreach portion of the design review process.

This legislation is a temporary six-month solution to keep critical projects and processes moving and allows for community engagement during the COVID-19 public health crisis.

Additional Guidance

  • Projects that are subject to Full Design Review may elect into Administrative Design Review (ADR) within the six month period (ending Oct 25, 2020). SDCI has already reached out to all projects that have been impacted by a canceled meeting and the re-noticing process for these projects is well underway.
  • For projects subject to this emergency provision for ADR will stay in ADR until one of the following occurs – whichever is first*/**:
    • Boards resume business;
    • Virtual Design Review Board meetings are held; or
    • The six month period of the emergency legislation expires.

*Exception: If the EDG phase is completed within the six months, the project may stay in ADR for the full six months.

**Exception: Determination that a return to the Board would preclude the timelines set forth in 23.76.005 from occurring.

  • We will contact applicants directly to convert projects over to ADR as follows:
  • For first EDG phase, after application acceptance.
  • For EDG cycles beyond the first EDG and for all Recommendation cycles, when staff determine projects is ready to return to the Board.
  • As with all ADR projects, the assigned Planner is the point person for you to work with.
  • Affordable housing projects, which were already subject to ADR, may opt out of ADR if they intend to have a building permit submitted within the six month period, as determined by Office of Housing.

If you have questions about how this legislation may impact a specific development project, please contact:

Design Review
Lisa Rutzick, SDCI