About Us

What We Do

The Seattle Design Commission was established in 1968 to advise the Mayor, City Council, and City departments on the design of capital improvement projects that are located on City land, in the City right-of-way, or constructed with City funds. We provide key recommendations on the aesthetic, environmental, and design principals and policies applied to these projects. We give advice through the entire process, from the initial contract selection to the design concept and project construction.

We meet on the first and third Thursdays of each month in the Boards & Commissions room, located on the lower level of Seattle City Hall at 600 4th Ave. We review City-funded capital projects like community centers, park facilities, fire stations, and police stations. We also review vision plans like the Bicycle Master Plan and key transportation projects such as the Alaska Way / Viaduct Replacement and State Route 520.

We play a key role in evaluating projects that propose the vacation of a street or alley to allow new development, the construction of a new skybridge, or the reauthorization of an existing skybridge. We advise the Seattle Department of Transportation on whether the vacation of the street or alley negatively affects the remaining right-of-way and on how those impacts are mitigated through proposed public benefits. Public benefits are primarily public space improvements like widened sidewalks, new open spaces, or improvements to the surrounding streets or alleys.


The Seattle Design Commission advises elected officials and the public on design excellence in City facilities, infrastructure, and the public realm. Six values guide our work:

  1. Inspired Design - Inspired design unifies the public realm and inspires the community by embodying state-of-the-art practices.
  2. Contextual Integration - Integrated design responds to its context and enhances its neighborhood.
  3. Innovative Sustainability - Sustainable design minimizes environmental impact and provides long-term self-sufficiency.
  4. Social Inclusion - Inclusive design seeks to elevate the quality of life for all and responds fluently to its cultural context.
  5. Exemplary Partnerships - Design partnerships leverage public, community, and private resources, integrating design efforts across multiple disciplines and agencies to achieve greater results with the same resources.
  6. Effective Investments - Effective design provides high value for the investment by thoughtfully considering flexibility, longevity, and total life-cycle costs.

About the Commission

We require members of the Seattle Design Commission to have professional expertise in architecture, planning, engineering, urban design, or fine art. We also have one position for someone that is not in one of those professions. We recruit members in a variety of ways, including through other Commissioners and through outreach in professional networks, publications, and schools.

The Mayor ultimately selects Commission members who are then confirmed by the City Council. Commissioners can serve up to two two-year terms.  

The City also appoints a Get Engaged candidate for a one-year term on the Seattle Design Commission. The joint City of Seattle / YMCA Get Engaged program is dedicated to cultivating the next generation of leaders and advocating for the influence of young voices in City affairs. Applicants are not expected to have prior experience serving on a board.


The Seattle Design Commission is supported by four staff:

Together, they help us implement our mission and work, including:

  • Facilitating our yearly work plan
  • Developing written reports concerning projects subject to our review
  • Providing written minutes of our meetings
  • Communicating our recommendations to the Mayor, City Council, and City departments
  • Providing expertise to interdepartmental teams concerned with projects that affect the public realm or public places
  • Recruiting and training new Commissioners
  • Providing administrative and planning support for our special events



Jill CraryJill Crary, Chair
Position: At-Large
Term: Second
Term expires: March 1, 2025

Jill retired as Seattle Center’s Redevelopment Director in 2020, having led the Seattle Center Century 21 Master Plan and subsequent development such as Chihuly Garden and Glass, the Armory rebranding, and KEXP.  She was named one of Seattle Magazine’s Most Influential People of 2013.

Jill worked on a diverse range of Seattle Center projects, from public art installations and open space projects – The Grass Blades, Artists at Play, Theater Commons and multiple skate parks, to complex public/private collaborations – Seattle Children’s Theatre Technical Pavilion, Seattle Opera Center, Marion Oliver McCaw Hall and Climate Pledge Arena.    

Jill’s background is technical theater, with a B.A. from Purdue University and M.A. from University of Missouri-Kansas City; as a member of the technical/productions staffs that opened the Bagley Wright Theatre and KeyArena she learned the ability of new places and environments to transform arts organizations and communities.  She is excited to continue to contribute to Seattle’s public spaces as part of the Design Commission.

Adam AmrheinAdam Amrhein
Position: Urban Planner
Term: Second
Term expires: March 1, 2025

Adam Amrhein, AICP  is an urban designer at LMN architects, where he's managed and designed projects ranging from large-scale transportation  infrastructure to campus planning and urban re-development. Adam's work at LMN has focused predominately in the Puget Sound Region. In planning and design he is interested in systems scale solutions, bold partnerships, and people and place centricity. Adam has previously managed the launch and development of the Living Community Challenge program, and has consulted on public and private capital and planning projects across North America.

Adam is a guest studio reviewer in the UW's College of Built Environments, and is active with AIA and APA committees, mentoring, and program development. Before working in design, Adam made a living as a facilitator, trip leader, and bicycle mechanic. He has a masters degree in City and Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania, and a bachelors degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

Jay BackmanZubin Rao
Position: Architect
Term: First
Term expires: March 1, 2026

Zubin Rao, AIA is an Associate at the Miller Hull Partnership, an architecture firm that designs projects of consequence that celebrate the power of people and their natural surroundings. With over 15 years of professional practice experience, Zubin’s work has spanned a wide variety of project types and scales including affordable housing, higher education learning environments, wastewater treatment plants, US consular facilities, and most recently, civic projects such as fire stations and parks.

Zubin holds a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and a master’s degree in Architecture, both from the University of Michigan. He has served as a design studio critic and guest lecturer at universities in Washington, Illinois, and Michigan.

Jay BackmanJay Backman
Position: Get Engaged Commissioner
Term: First
Term expires: October, 2024

Jay is a Senior Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Engineer at the City of Bellevue.  They have experience spanning both the private and public sectors in design, maintenance, and operations of public roadway systems. They are passionate about applying innovative technologies and design practices to improve roadway safety, efficiency, and accessibility for all users. When they aren't conducting traffic analysis and adjusting Bellevue's adaptive signal system, they are applying their expertise to multi-modal projects such as Bike Bellevue.

Jay has worked on a wide array of projects including Sound Transit Alignment Alternative Analysis, Alaskan Way Viaduct Demolition roadway and utility design, and various Vision Zero initiatives. They have also kept diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at the forefront of their work by leading and participating in multiple DEI related committees over the course of their career. They are passionate about applying the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion to transportation infrastructure, zoning and building code, and city planning.

kate clarkKate Clark
Position: Artist
Term: First
Term expires: March 1, 2026

Kate Clark is the lead artist and founder of the public art project Parkeology. Projects have included installations and commissions with 4Culture, The Oakland Museum of California, the San Diego Natural History Museum and the The Smithsonian Institution. As an artist committed to collaboratively enriching public space, Kate also works in city departments to develop public art plans. Kate collaborated with Seattle City Light engineers, environmentalists and race and social justice leads to develop a 10 year public art plan, published in 2024. Currently Kate serves as a community engagement Artist-in-Residence for the Bitter Lake Improvement Project, in collaboration with Seattle Public Utilities, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture and Seattle Parks and Recreation. Supported by ARTS and Seattle Department of Transportation's 1% for arts, Kate is also currently collaborating with Duwamish tribal members to create a permanent sidewalk mural for the Duwamish Longhouse.

Kate received her MFA at UC San Diego. She has served as a Parson's Urbanisms of Inclusion fellow and visiting researcher at the Bauhaus-Universität Weimar.

Puja Shaw Brian Markham
Position: Engineer
Term: First
Term expires: March 1, 2026

Brian Markham, is a Structural Engineer and Seattle Office Lead at Arup.  He has a broad range of project management and structural engineering experience on complex building projects ranging from art and art museums to airports, ground transportation and even performing arts centers. 

Civic minded, Arup has had an impact in shaping the icons and community infrastructure of Seattle – from expanding The Market, to renovating the Space Needle, to delivering the Central Library, to restoring and enlivening the King Street train station, to opening the new Convention Center.  It is with great pleasure to say that we have had a key role in improving the city by delivering the amenities that can truly help all peoples.  We stress community, engagement, equity, and betterment – proudly in line with the ethos of the Commission.

Raised in Minnesota, Brian has spent significant time living and working in the cities of the NE, the SE, internationally, and now the PNW.

Molly SpetalnickMolly Spetalnick
Position: Urban Designer
Term: First
Term expires: March, 2025

Molly Spetalnick is an urban designer at ZGF Architects whose experience and education span a range of design disciplines including urban design, architecture, landscape architecture, and interior design. She has a passion for leveraging policy, architecture, landscape architecture, and robust community engagement to support the development of vibrant, affordable communities near transit stations. Molly works on Sound Transit projects including the Transit Oriented Development Inventory, SDOT on the Pike Pine Streetscape and Bicycle Improvements Project, and with volunteers with a variety of organizations including the Africatown Community Land Trust, and Community Passageways.

Phoebe BogertPhoebe Bogert
Position: Landscape Architect
Term: First
Term expires: March 1, 2025

A principal at PLACE, Phoebe Bogert brings her artful and ecologically sensitive approach to the design and planning of public and private projects. During her 18-year career, her experience has made her an invaluable project leader who motivates her team, works closely with all stakeholders, and engages the community. These sensibilities are reflected in all her work from universities, parks and housing, to libraries, gardens and playgrounds.

Phoebe has lived and worked internationally and is a longtime resident of Seattle. Her love of the space in between, took root in Los Angeles' mural art, and informs her approach to foster thriving communities with a strong sense of place. A graduate of Pitzer College and a Garfield High School alum, Phoebe holds a Masters in Landscape Architecture from University of Washington, is a registered, award-winning Landscape Architect, and has served two terms on the Seattle Design Review Board.

Molly SpetalnickBen Gist
Position: Architect
Term: First
Term expires: March 1, 2025

Ben is a Principal in the Seattle office of Carrier Johnson, a national architecture and design firm. Ben has over 20 years experience in the design and execution of mixed use and single purpose residential or commercial developments. Most of Ben’s work has focused on new development in the Puget Sound area, with additional work on residential projects at University of California’s Irvine campus. Ben has a strong commitment to professional development in his service in leadership roles at the Seattle chapter of the American Institute for Architects. Since 2017, Ben has also served on the Downtown Seattle Associations’ Family-friendly downtown taskforce.

Ben has a Masters’ degrees in Architecture and a Bachelors’ in Environmental Design from Montana State University.

Molly SpetalnickKevin O'Neill, Vice Chair
Position: Transportation Planner
Term: First
Term expires: March 1, 2025

Kevin has an extensive background in Transportation Planning, serving in a variety of leadership roles in the public and private sectors. Kevin was the Transportation Planning Director and Strategic Planning Manager for the City of Bellevue from 2002-2011. From 2011-2019 he served in the Seattle Department of Transportation as a Deputy Director, Director of the Street Use Division, and Planning Manager. From 2019-2021 Kevin was the Senior Planning Manager in the Seattle office of WSP, managing the urban and transportation planning workgroups. In these roles Kevin led workgroups on a variety of projects including Sound Transit’s West Seattle to Ballard project, Climate Pledge Arena, and the new Seattle Convention Center’s Summit building.

Kevin has a Masters’ degrees in both City and Regional Planning and Public Administration from Ohio State University, and a Bachelors’ degree from University of Vermont. He is also an Affiliate Instructor in the Department of Urban Design and Planning at the University of Washington.

Annual Reports

Please click here to view our interactive map to learn more about the projects we reviewed from 2015 to 2018.

Example of interactive map interface

Seattle Design Commission

Address: 600 4th Avenue, 5th Floor, Seattle, WA, 98124
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 94788, Seattle, WA, 98124-7088
Phone: (206) 684-0435

The Seattle Design Commission advises the Mayor, City Council, and City departments on the design of capital improvements and other projects and policies that shape Seattle's public realm.