Seattle residents are passionate about their neighborhood and city, with an emphasis on community involvement in policymaking. As a result, in July 2018, City leaders recently implemented a complete overhaul of the 20-year old Design Review process to include – among other substantive changes – mandatory community outreach for projects of even modest scope and size. This new outreach requires an intentional approach to community relations and completing the Master Use Permit (MUP) process. We recently updated our e-book Land Use in Seattle: Mastering the Art of the Possible to reflect these changes.
One of the goals of this free resource is to demystify the process required to get a project approved. The MUP process is a multi-step process allows numerous opportunities for community input that can slow, derail or prompt significant modifications to the developer’s original vision. The time necessary to navigate the MUP process varies based on complexity of the project and public interest in the undertaking. It’s not unheard of to have three or more public meetings during this time. It typically takes a minimum of 12 to 18 months for a proposal to wind its way to approval.
The biggest change to Seattle’s Design Review process centers around the MUP pre-application phase and the new requirements around Community Outreach. The mandatory Community Outreach steps now include:
1) Preparing, submitting and receiving approval for an Early Community Outreach Plan from key City staff, which specifically outlining how an applicant will execute on the required efforts.
2) Development and launch of a digital presence, typically in the form of a microsite.
3) Designing and mailing a notification postcard or other means to nearby residents and businesses, alerting them to the project, inviting them to the website, and inviting them to an upcoming meeting.
4) Hosting or co-hosting a community meeting with stakeholders to discuss the preliminary ideas and/or concepts behind the project.
5) Preparing an executive summary of feedback collected in-person as well as digitally. This will become part of both the Early Design Guidance package and part of the public record.
These new regulations could become burdensome and time-consuming, if performed by an inexperienced team or without careful adherence to the guidelines. A communications partner experienced in these new rules is crucial here. A new, required process that might otherwise take months, performed deftly by a strategic communications partner, can be completed in a matter of weeks, saving time and money.
To learn more about navigating the process, download your copy of our updated e-book today and accelerate your project’s success.