FILE – Sunset in Seattle

(The Center Square) – Developers of affordable rental housing projects would enjoy ongoing immunity from the design review process if a proposal by Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell is adopted.

Harrell’s proposal was developed in partnership with City Councilmembers Dan Strauss and Teresa Mosqueda. The bill would continue to exempt affordable rental housing projects from the design review process, a change first developed under the COVID-19 State of Emergency on a one-year interim basis, according to Harrell.

The exemption is set to expire on Dec. 30, over two years after it was established in April 2020 under the COVID-19 Civil Emergency that modified the land use permitting process.

If passed, the bill would create a two-year test process where any major development project in the city could either choose to undertake a public review as is currently required in the full design review or partake in the administrative design review process that includes public feedback, but without public meetings.

“Seattle’s housing affordability and homelessness crisis demands bold action and creative solutions to more urgently create affordable housing," Harrell said in a statement. "This legislation will reduce permitting bottlenecks so that the process is more swift, efficient and consistent.”

Since taking office in January, Harrell has made affordable housing a priority. He formed a housing sub-cabinet featuring members across all city departments that focus on housing and evaluate the practical challenges that prevent housing from being built. 

Harrell set a goal to have all affordable housing project permits be approved within a year following submission. 

The City of Seattle’s community based Design Review Boards review developments, commercial and multifamily housing projects. Currently, the boards are seeking candidates to fill 21 upcoming openings. 

Seattle City Council’s Land Use Committee will discuss this legislation on Nov. 30 and hold a public hearing on Dec. 8. A vote on the bill could be made as early as Dec. 13.

Staff Reporter

Spencer Pauley reports on Seattle and the King County area of Washington. He was previously an independent filmmaker and worked on "The Clinton Affair," a documentary series investigating the impeachment proceedings of former President Bill Clinton.