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Mayor Murray Proposes Improvements To Seattle Design Review Process

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray is proposing a new policy intended to reduce the design review wait times for typical projects by four to eight weeks. The legislation fulfills a key recommendation from Murray’s Housing Affordability and Livability Agenda to generate new housing more quickly while reducing construction costs.

The legislation recommends several new measures to streamline the process and incorporate more community feedback. Community engagement is not a mandatory part of the design process for developers at this time. The new program will require all developers to conduct mandatory early outreach to neighborhood stakeholders to ensure the community has a more meaningful say in the design of projects.

“Creating housing that is affordable for Seattle’s most vulnerable residents takes time, and we work with finite resources to create environmentally sustainable, high-quality housing,” Bill Rumpf, president of Mercy Housing and a member of the HALA committee, said in a statement released by the mayor’s office. “This measure makes the production of affordable housing more efficient, meaning we can build more housing for more people, faster. It also assures a community voice in the outcomes of buildings being developed in their neighborhoods — a win for everyone.”

In addition, the creators of the program plan to simplify and revise building criteria that triggers design review by basing thresholds solely on the size of a project, which will encourage developers to build more units on a site. One phase of the design review will be handled administratively and the remainder by the design review program as part of a new hybrid program. Through the new legislation, affordable housing projects will be reviewed through the administrative design review process, speeding up affordable housing production throughout the city.

“Our economic boom has put a strain on Seattle’s housing stock and overwhelmed our design review process,” Murray said in the statement. “To take on this challenge, we are comprehensively updating the city’s review process for the first time in decades with changes that will help reduce delays and cost overruns that are driving up housing prices and give communities an opportunity to weigh in on projects in their neighborhood. This change will create more housing and more affordable housing in Seattle.”

The design review program has not been comprehensively updated since it was created in 1994.