DICTIONARY OF LAND USE TERMS

Design Review 
Design review is a discretionary process for reviewing larger development proposals. The purposes of Design Review are to provide greater flexibility for developers, ensure higher standards of architectural design and provide a forum for public input.

DPD – Department of Planning and Development
DPD is the planning department of the City of Seattle. DPD oversees the city’s zoning code and reviews proposed developments for compliance with it. DPD also periodically makes changes to the zoning code and the long-range, Comprehensive Plan documents that describe how the city will grow decades into the future.

DRB - Design Review Board
The city is divided into seven geographic districts. Each district has its own designated Design Review Board, made up of volunteer members who are appointed by the Mayor and City Council. The 5 positions represent the following interests: design, community, residential, development and community.

EDG - Early Design Guidance
When an applicant submits a design to the city for review, an EDG meeting is scheduled with the Design Review Board for the district where the project is proposed.  The board and the public review the project and comment on it.  The board makes a recommendation to the Department of Planning and Development.  They can recommend approval, approval with specific design changes, or they can send the applicant back to redesign the project.  If this happens, another EDG meeting is scheduled to review the redesigned proposal. This repeats until the DRB is satisfied with the design.

FAR - Floor Area Ratio 
Floor area ratios are used as a measure of the intensity of the site being developed. The ratio is generated by dividing the building area by the parcel area, being sure to use the same units. For example, a 5,000 square foot building on a 10,000 square foot lot would have an FAR of 0.5:1.  A 10,000sf building on that same lot would have an FAR of 1:1, and a 20,000sf building would have an FAR of 2:1.  A given floor area can be arranged in different ways on the site to produce shorter or taller buildings, or more or less lot coverage.

MUP - Master Use Permit
A MUP is a single land use permit that integrates the process, procedures, and review of all non-appealable and appealable land use decisions that are made by DPD. The MUP generally includes discretionary land use decisions associated with a given development or use proposal, and provides for the consolidated appeal of those land use decisions.

SDOT – Seattle Department of Transportation
The Dept. of Transportation is responsible for the planning and maintenance of public rights-of-way. This means the space from lot line to lot line, including the sidewalks, planting strips and streets. SDOT exists to provide facilities for all users – pedestrians, cyclists, transit riders and drivers.

SEPA – State Environmental Protection Act
SEPA reviews assess the environmental impacts of large development projects. They also take into account other impacts to neighborhoods.

Setbacks
Setback requirements describe how close a building can be to the lot line.  Lots can have minimum or maximum setbacks depending on the kind of building and what zone it's in (see zoning, below).

Zoning
The zoning code is portion of the Seattle Municipal Code that describes what kind of development is allowed on a given property. Zoning describes use (residential, commercial, industrial, etc.) and intensity (low-rise, mid-rise, high-rise, etc.).


FAQS

What is my property zoned? 
The City of Seattle provides an interactive GIS map for quick viewing of land use and zoning designations. Zoom to the property you’re interested in, and select “detailed zoning” from the menu to the left. For more detailed property information, King County’s iMap tool provides additional levels of data.

What do Seattle’s Zoning Code Designations Mean?
The following documents are published by the City of Seattle’s Department of Planning and development. They describe the kinds of development permitted in the different land use zones established by city code. Click the links below to explore Seattle’s land use zones:
How does the development process works with the City of Seattle?
The following flow chart, excerpted from the DPD’s Client Assistance Memo #238 describes the process of design review in graphical form:

[click to enlarge]

flow chart
What do the big white signs mean?
The Department of Planning and Development places signs on properties to notify the public that someone has filed for a permit to make some kind of change to the property. Typically this means an applicant has filed for a change of zoning or for a permit to develop a new building on the site. DPD’s activity locator map provides a tool to look at your neighborhoods and see what permits have been applied for.

Design review is triggered by the scale of the project. This differs by zone and type of project, as described by this table excerpted from the DPD’s Client Assistance Memo #2:

design review thresholds