Mosler Lofts, Belltown (

Seattle’s Design Review Program is a detail-oriented process where architects, developers, and community members come together to comment on the design of major projects. At its best, it focuses attention on a building’s impact on the street and avoids really ugly architecture; at its worst, it stifles innovation and throws up roadblocks to development and densification. It is not a zoning board.

Anyhow, Seattle is looking for applicants for board members from both the community and from the professionals. Applications are due December 9th for positions opening on April 4th, 2012. Note that the application, cover letter, and resume should be sent to Shelley Bolser (, not Bruce Rips as indicated on the form. Here are the open positions:

Northwest Design Review Board

  • Community representative

Southeast Design Review Board

  • Local residential representative

Southwest Design Review Board

  • Development representative

East (Capitol Hill/First Hill/Central District) Design Review Board

  • Design professional representative

Get more information from the press release. It’s a commitment of 12-14 hours a month that comes with an opportunity to make a big impact on a built environment that will last for decades. This low-level stuff is where many important decisions are made, and a few people can make a big difference.

Requirements below the jump:

Applicants should have:

Knowledge of, or interest in, architecture, urban design and the development process;

  • The ability to evaluate projects based on the city’s design guidelines;
  • The ability to listen and communicate effectively at public meetings;
  • A passion for design and community development; and
  • The ability to work well with others under pressure.
  • Prior experience with community or neighborhood groups is a plus.

Board members must live in the city. The local residential interests representative must act as an ambassador to at least one community group or association (e.g. community council) that operates within the board district. Similarly, the local business interests representative must act as an ambassador to at least one business group or association (e.g. chamber of commerce) that operates within the board district. Acting as an ambassador may be easier for the board member if he or she lives or works within the district they are serving, but residency in a district is not a requirement to serve as a local representative.

6 Replies to “Seattle Seeks Design Review Board Members”

  1. I’ve been trying to understand the Design Review process, and I’ve read some pages on Roger Valdez’s blog but still don’t understand it. If a developer is proposing a building that otherwise meets code (that is, they don’t ask for any departures) can a DRB still reject it because it’s too ugly (or doesn’t fit into the architectural character of the surroundings)?

    1. The Design Review Board only makes a recommendation; the Director of the Department of Planning and Development makes the binding decision. The Director may condition issuance of the permit on compliance with design guidelines.

      See SMC 23.41.014

  2. Seattle’s governance structure is actually riddled with a lot of mostly powerless public committees like this one. I think you could make a good case these should either be given some teeth and elected or folded into a more representative structure i.e. appointed and responsible to the council.


    1. Either of those sound like really bad ideas. The one adds more offices to the ballot no one knows anything about, the other leaves the design review board (and others) vulnerable to the whims of the council.

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