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November 4, 2015

Vince Lyons remembered for urban planning career

Vincent T. Lyons, a longtime staff member at the Seattle Department of Planning and Development, passed away Oct. 28 in Seattle. He was 72.

Lyons retired in 2010 after 29 years with the department.


In the early 1990s, he was a key member of the team that developed the city's design review program, which gives residents input on new projects in neighborhoods. He took over management of the program in 2001.

Shortly before his death, the city proclaimed Sept. 8 “Vince Lyons Day” in recognition of his achievements and contributions to urban design and planning.

The proclamation noted that he was the neighborhood planner for Seattle Housing Authority's High Point project during the 1970s, and helped improve life in that community.

At DPD, Lyons held several positions, including design lead for review and approval of New Holly, Seattle's first HOPE VI redevelopment. It became a national model for mixed-income neighborhoods.

Lyons lived in Wallingford. The city said in the proclamation that he helped generate support for turning Interlake School into Wallingford Center and created the vision for Wallingford Steps, a pedestrian pathway that connects Wallingford to North Lake Union.

Patrick Doherty, economic development and community services director for Edmonds, said Lyons was a key contributor to rewriting the downtown zoning code in 1984-85, and this helped make him the department's expert on reviewing downtown projects.

Doherty and Lyons worked on a team that developed Seattle's design review program, which took effect in 1994.

Doherty said Lyons was good at working with architects and developers to find the right solutions for projects.

“Not everybody would go that extra mile to help craft the solution,” he said.

Doherty called Lyons a consummate professional who could lighten a tough situation with his Irish humor and wit.

NAIOP named Lyons “Public Official of the Year” in 2000.

Lyons was born June 11, 1943, in Cleveland. He received his bachelor of architecture from University of Detroit, Mercy in 1967 and master of urban planning from the University of Washington in 1969.

Early in his career, he worked for Rai Okamoto on Bay Area Rapid Transit in San Francisco. He also worked for the architecture firm NBBJ, including an assignment in Iran planning American military bases.

Lyons is survived by his wife, Sue, sons Andrew, Scott and Greg, and grandchildren Hayley, Cameron, Ella and Mason.

A memorial service for Lyons will be held at 2 p.m. Nov. 14 at Wallingford United Methodist Church.

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