Mayor Durkan Announces Emergency Legislation to Keep Housing and Key Projects Safely Moving Forward During COVID-19 Pandemic

Seattle (April 3, 2020) – Following Governor Inslee’s extension of the Stay Home, Stay Healthy order until May, Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced emergency legislation to keep housing and key projects safely moving forward during the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation makes temporary land use permitting process changes that prioritize affordable housing development, keep projects moving forward by allowing experienced City staff to complete review processes, and enlists community participation by replacing in-person meetings with virtual and electronic outreach. These are processes that have all been impacted by public health mandates on social distancing and limited gatherings.  

“There’s no roadmap for how we need to reinvent city government, but as we navigate this public health crisis, we have to turn to unconventional ways to ensure our City work and projects move forward in a responsible way that keeps everyone safe and healthy,” said Mayor Durkan. “Our boards and commissions are essential to development in our City and by making these administrative changes, we will be able to fulfill regulatory milestones, keeping us on track to support businesses and develop the housing we desperately need.” 

“Seattle’s need for more housing, especially affordable housing, was felt before the coronavirus crisis, and is more critical than ever for families suffering from the economic impacts of this health crisis. I’m grateful our City staff is finding creative ways to ensure construction on important housing projects can continue,” said Councilmember Dan Strauss (District 6, Northwest Seattle), and Chair of the Council’s Land Use and Zoning Committee. 

Mayor Durkan’s plan will allow more than 30 projects, encompassing 3,000 homes including homes for middle-income families, to proceed. These projects were facing regulatory challenges based on the current Seattle Municipal Code.  

Upon Council passage, Mayor Durkan’s emergency legislation will allow design review projects to be reviewed by staff from the Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI) and will expedite reviews for City-funded affordable housing projects projected to come online next year. The legislation also authorizes the Department of Neighborhoods to keep projects on track by allowing historic preservation staff to execute required approvals for minor changes to City Landmarks, Special Review Districts, Landmark Districts, and Historical Districts. The legislation will be in effect for six months.  

“These unprecedented times call for immediate creative solutions to our challenges. This legislation will allow the city to prioritize the needs of Pioneer Square small businesses while protecting our historic fabric. The future of Pioneer Square is important, and we appreciate the city’s mindfulness around the complexities that have arisen from the COVID-19 crisis,” said Lisa Dixon Howard, Alliance for Pioneer Square 

If you have a pending project and have questions about how the legislation may impact an individual development project, please contact: