6 Glossary

Last Updated: 6-8-2017Print page

Abutting means to border upon.

Access easement means an easement created for the purpose of providing vehicular or pedestrian access.

Access street means a street generally limited to providing access to abutting property and tributary to major and secondary thoroughfares (RCW 35.78.0l0).

Adjacent means near but not necessarily touching.

Aisle means a passageway for vehicles within a parking garage or area, other than a driveway.

Alley means a public right of way not designed for general travel and primarily used as a means of vehicular and pedestrian access to the rear of abutting properties. An alley may or may not be named.

Alley, existing means any alley which is not a new alley.

Alley, new means an alley proposed to be created through the platting process.

Applicant means a person who applies for a Master Use Permit, a Building Permit, a Side Sewer Permit, or a Street Use Permit from the City of Seattle.

Appurtenances means subordinate but necessary accessory; in pluming, for instance, the fittings, valves, traps, etc., that are necessary to complete a house drain.

Arterial means a high capacity urban road.

Asphalt means a bituminous substance that is found in natural beds and is also obtained as a residue in petroleum refining and that consists chiefly of hydrocarbons.

Asphalt concrete means a concrete composition in which asphalt is used as a binder. Asphalt concrete is a material often used for roadway pavement.


Backfilling means to replace earth, etc., previously excavated, commonly into a trench or pier excavation, around and against a basement foundation.

Base course means the layer of aggregate, oil-treated aggregate, treated soil, or soil-aggregate that rests upon the subbase or, if no subbase, upon the subgrade.

Bench mark means a mark on a permanent object indicating elevation and serving as a reference in topographical surveys and tidal observations.

Boulevard means a wide street, usually having a median or promenade, and lined with trees often adjacent to a city park.

Building Grade Sheet means a document prepared by the Transportation Department showing the elevations or grading required along a right of way property line.


Catch line means the line where the new grade (street area) intersects with the existing grade (slope of the abutting private property).

City of Seattle Datum means the point of reference used by the City of Seattle to measure elevation. Measurements recorded for bench marks used by the city for surveying construction projects are based on City of Seattle Datum.

Concrete means a hard, strong construction material made by mixing a binder (as portland cement or asphalt) and a mineral aggregate (as sand and gravel) so that the entire mass is bound together and hardened.

Construction permit means a written warrant or license issued by DPD approving construction-related work within the Seattle City limits including: building; demolition; grading; and mechanical.

Crosswalk means a portion of a roadway where pedestrians are permitted to cross the street; can be marked or unmarked. In Washington State, legal crosswalks exist at every intersection, unless otherwise signed, regardless of whether they are marked or unmarked.

Crowned roadway means made so that the centerline of the structure, usually a street or highway, is raised above its longitudinal perimeter so as to cast water to the edges.

Crushed rock improvement means a roadway surfaced with crushed rock.

Cul-de-sac means a street closed at one (1) end by a widened pavement of sufficient size for automotive vehicles to be turned around.

Curb means a physical curb constructed from cement concrete, asphalt concrete, or granite.

Curb bulbs means a radial extension of a sidewalk at an intersection used to shorten the crossing distance for pedestrians.

Curb cut means a depression in the curb for the purpose of accommodating a driveway, which provides vehicular access between private property and the street or easement. Where there is no curb, the point at which the driveway meets the roadway pavement shall be considered the curb cut.

Curb line means the edge of a roadway whether marked by a curb or not. When there is not a curb, the curb line shall be established by the Director of Transportation.


Dedication means an appropriation or giving up of property to public use that precludes the owner or others claiming under the owner from asserting any right of ownership inconsistent with the use for which the property is dedicated.

Depression line means the line where the slope of a thickened, asphalt roadway edge intersects with the crowned slope of the roadway. The depression line functions as a gutter, directing the flow of storm water along the sides of the roadway.

Design considerations are not requirements, but do present information that is important to consider in the design, construction and maintenance of improvements within public right-of-way.

Design criteria are a set of requirements for the design, construction and maintenance of improvements within public right-of-way.

Design standard is a document, or an object for physical comparison, for defining product characteristics, products, or processes, prepared by a consensus of a properly constituted group of those substantially affected by, and having the qualifications to prepare the standard for use.

Development permit means a Master Use Permit or construction permit.

Deviation means variation from something intended or planned

Dewatering means the removal and appropriate discharge and release of surface water and sub-surface water.

Director of Transportation is the departmental Director of Transportation for the City of Seattle and/or the Director’s designee. Plan Review Project Managers for SDOT Street Use’s Plan Review Section serve as the designee for most of the approvals mentioned in this Manual.

Driveway means that portion of street, alley, or private property which provides access to, but not within, an off-street parking facility from a curb cut. Portions of the area defined as a driveway may also be defined as a sidewalk.


Easement means, for the purpose of this Manual, a grant by a property owner to specific persons or to the public to use land for a specific purpose or purposes.

Environmentally sensitive area means an area designated and mapped by The City of Seattle as such pursuant to the State Environmental Policy Act and SMC Chapter 23.62.

Excavation means any man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression in an earth surface, formed by earth removal.


Footing means support, usually rectangular in section, and of concrete, wider than the bottom of the foundation wall or pier that it supports and resting on earth.

Foundation means a base where structures such as buildings, bridges, and light poles are set on.

Frontage zone means an area between the pedestrian zone and property line. This zone allows pedestrians a comfortable distance from the building fronts, in areas where buildings are the lot lines, or from elements such as fences and hedges on private property.


Geotechnical engineer means an engineer with specialized training and knowledge of soils and rocks, employed to do soil investigations, design of structure foundations, and provide field observation.

Grade means the degree of inclination of a road or slope.

Grading means the process of changing the lay of the ground, usually to direct the flow of surface water.

Gravel means the loose rock fragments, and pebbles, or granular material retained on a no. 4 sieve (note that a gravel surface is considered to be impervious). Not defined in the Std. Specs.

Grubbing means to remove material from a construction site such as soil, pavement or vegetation.

Gutter means a trough or dip used for drainage purposes that runs along the edge of the street and curb or curb ramp.


Hard-surfaced street means a street that has been surfaced with a material other than crushed rock so that a hard, smooth, strong surface exists (for example, streets with an oil mat, seal coat, or brick surface).

Historic district means a neighborhood that has been designated a preservation district by City Council. Seattle has seven historic districts: Ballard Avenue; Columbia City; Fort Lawton; Harvard-Belmont; International District; Pike Place Market; and Pioneer Square. The appearance and historical integrity of structures and public spaces within each district are regulated by a citizen’s board and/or the Landmarks Preservation Board in accordance with processes and criteria established by City ordinance.


Impervious surface means a hard surface area in which the spacing of the particles is such as to permit only extremely slow passage of water. Common impervious surfaces include, but are not limited to, rooftops, walkways, patios, driveways, parking lots, storage areas, concrete or asphalt paving, and gravel roads.






Landscape street means a street designated as such on the Industrial Streets Landscaping Maps.

Landscape/furniture zone means an area between the roadway curb face and the front edge of the walkway.

Loading berth means an off-street space for the temporary parking of a vehicle while loading or unloading merchandise or materials and which abuts on a street, alley or easement.

Local streets means streets defined as land service streets and are generally limited to providing access to abutting property. They are tributary to the major and secondary thoroughfares and generally discourage through traffic.


Master Use Permit (MUP) means a written warrant or license issued by DPD approving land use within the Seattle City limits such as: platting (subdivision of land); departures from Land Use Code development standards (Design Review and variances); special approvals for specific uses of land (Conditional Use and Special Exceptions); and reviews under the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA).

Mineral aggregate means rock or gravel or sand or a blend thereof, which may or may not be crushed, screened to size and blended for use in road, bridge and municipal construction.

Minor arterial means routes that serve lesser points of traffic interest within a city; provide communication with outlying districts in the same degree or serve to collect and distribute traffic from the major arterials to the local streets.

Monolithic curb means a type of curb that is cast as one piece, formed or composed of material without joints or seams.


No-Protest Agreement means a document prepared by the City of Seattle and signed by a property owner signifying consent to the future formation of a Local Improvement District by the City of Seattle or by property owners for constructing and paying for street improvements.




Parking pad means the paving in the off-street right-of-way to accommodate parking.

Pavement structure means the combination of subbase, base course, and surface course, as applicable, placed on a subgrade to support and distribute the traffic load.

Paved means surfaced with a hard, smooth surface, usually consisting of portland cement concrete or asphalt concrete underlain by a subgrade of crushed rock.

Pavement means the paved surface.

Paver means a material used to pave a roadway.

Pedestrian walkway means a surfaced walkway, separated from the roadway, usually of crushed rock or asphalt concrete, and following the existing ground surface (not at permanent grade).

Pedestrian zone means an area of the sidewalk corridor that is specifically reserved for pedestrian travel.

Pedestrian street means a street designated as such in SMC Chapter 23.47A.008 , located in a pedestrian-designated zone.

Planting strip means that portion of street lying between the constructed curb and property line, exclusive of the sidewalk area: Provided, that if there is no constructed curb, then the “planting strip” means that portion of the street lying between a constructed sidewalk and the property line: Provided further, that if there is no constructed curb or constructed sidewalk, then planting strip means that portion of the street lying between the traveled way and the property line, exclusive of any established pedestrian path.

Portland cement is a hydraulic cement produced by pulverizing clinker consisting essentially of hydraulic calcium silicates, usually containing one or more of the forms of calcium sulfate as an inter-ground addition.

Portland cement concrete means a mixture of water, portland cement, fine aggregate, and coarse aggregate combined into a solid mass as a result of chemical reaction between cement and water.

Principal arterial means defined as transportation arteries which connect the focal points of traffic interest within a city; arteries which provide communications with other communities and the outlying areas; or arteries which have relatively high traffic volume compared with other streets within the city.

Private road means roads not in public authority ownership.

Private utility means utilities in Seattle other than Seattle City Light and Seattle Public Utilities.

Professional civil engineer means a person who is a registered professional engineer licensed by the State of Washington to practice the particular branch of engineering known as Civil.

Professional structural engineer means a person who is a registered professional engineer licensed by the State of Washington to practice the particular branch of engineering known as Structural.

PS (See Public combined sewer.)

PSD (See Public storm drain.)

PSS (See Public sanitary sewer.)

Public combined sewer means a wholly or partially piped system which is owned, operated, and maintained by the City of Seattle or Metro and that is designed to carry sewage or drainage water. (The abbreviation PS for “piped sewer” is used on plans.)

Public sanitary sewer means a piped system which is owned, operated, and maintained by the City of Seattle or Metro and that is designed to carry only sewage. (The abbreviation PSS for “piped sanitary sewer” is used on plans.)

Public road means roads in public authority ownership that are accessible to or shared by all members of the community.

Public storm drain means a wholly or partially piped system which is owned, operated, and maintained by the City of Seattle and that is designed to carry only drainage water. (The abbreviation PSD for “piped storm drain” is used on plans.)

Public utility means the City of Seattle two utility departments: Seattle City Light provides electric power, and Seattle Public Utilities provides water, sewer, and solid waste services.




Real property means land and attached improvements (also called “real estate”).

Right-of-way is the strip of land platted, dedicated, condemned, established by prescription or otherwise legally established for the use of pedestrians, vehicles or utilities.

Riparian corridor referring to something living or located adjacent to a body of water (usually, but not always, a river or stream).

Roadway means that portion of a street improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel and parking, exclusive of the sidewalk or shoulder. Where there are curbs, the roadway is the curb to curb width of the street.


SD (See Service drain.)

Screenline means a summary of vehicle and people movements across a specified region by vehicle classes and by time periods.

Seattle Standard Plans and Specifications means City of Seattle Standard Plans for Municipal Public Works Construction and City of Seattle Standard Specifications for Road, Bridge, and Municipal Construction.

Service drain means a privately owned and maintained system for collecting, transporting, and disposing of drainage water only. (The abbreviation SD for service drain is used on plans.)

Setback is the required distance between a structure and the lot lines of the lot on which it is located.

Sewer means a pipe or conduit for carrying sewage and other waste liquids excluding hazardous materials. This includes sanitary sewer, side sewer, and combined sewer.

SDCI is the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections.  SDCI is responsible for managing the Land Use code.

Shoring means support system that provides support to an adjacent structure, underground installation, or the sides of an excavation.

Shoulder means the graded area between the roadway edge and the sidewalk (or the slope line where there is no sidewalk) on any street where there are no curbs.

Side sewer means a privately owned system for transporting and disposing of drainage water or sewage. Both service drains and sanitary side sewers are considered “side sewers.” (The abbreviations SD and SSS, for service drain and sanitary side sewer, are used on plans.)

Side sewer permit means a written warrant or license issued by SDCI approving work within the Seattle City limits on all connections of sanitary/storm drain lines.

Sidewalk means, for the purposes of this Manual, a hard surfaced walkway, usually of portland cement concrete, separated from the roadway by a curb, planting strip or roadway shoulder.

Slope line means the line where the graded portion of the roadway from the centerline toward the edge changes to the transition slope required to meet the surface of the abutting private property.

Specifications are written technical descriptions of materials, equipment, construction systems, standards, and workmanship, which, in conjunction with the drawings, detail the requirements for acceptable completion of the work. Specifications include but are not limited to note, schedules, and moments of the drawings.

SSS (See Side sewer.)

Standard plans means the current edition of the City of Seattle Standard Plans for Municipal Construction adopted by the owner. These show frequently recurring components of work that have been standardized for use by various departments within the City of Seattle.

Storm drain means a pipe used for conveying rainwater, subsurface water, condensate cooling water or other similar discharges, but not commercial and industrial wastewater or sewage. Storm drains carry the excessive storm water from the point source and convey it to the nearest natural body of water.

Stormwater means the rainwater as well as water from washing cars, over watering lawns, and other sources.

Steep topography means, for the purpose of this Manual, an area where the difference in elevation between the existing ground and the proposed street grade at the property line is greater than 8 feet.

Street is a right of way that is intended to provide or provides a roadway for general vehicular circulation; is the principal means of vehicular access to abutting properties; and includes space for utilities, sidewalks, pedestrian walkways and drainage. Any such right of way shall be included within this definition, regardless of whether it has been developed or improved or not.

Street, arterial means every street, or portion thereof, designated as an arterial in SMC 11.18.010.

Street, commercial access means a non-arterial street for providing access to commercial and industrial land uses and providing localized traffic circulation.

Street, existing means any street which is not a new street.

Street furniture means fittings and fixtures installed in streets, such as lamp posts, fire hydrants, street signs, and similar municipal structures, at or above grade level. Including benches, litter and recycling receptacles, bike racks, multiple publication newsracks, water fountains, pedestrian scaled lighting and planters.

Street improvement is an improvement in the public right of way, whether above or below the ground surface, such as pavement, sidewalks, or a storm water drainage system, that increase its present or future value.

Street, new means a street proposed to be created through the platting process or by dedication to The City of Seattle as part of a development proposal.

Street, private means a named, private permanent access easement exceeding thirty-two (32) feet in width not dedicated to public use but which provides a roadway at least twenty-four (24) feet wide for internal use within a subdivision or other development, and which includes sidewalks and space for utilities and drainage. A private street shall be treated as a street for the purpose of application of development standards to abutting properties.

Street, residential access means a non-arterial street providing access to residential land uses.

Street tree means a tree planted within a public right of way.

Streetscape is the appearance or view of a street.

Street use permit means the written warrant or license issued by SDOT approving use, work, and construction in the right-of-way within the Seattle City limits.

Structure means anything constructed or erected on the ground or any improvement built up or composed of parts joined together in some definite manner and affixed to the ground, including fences, walls and signs, but not including poles, flowerbed frames and such minor incidental improvements.

Subbase means the layer(s) of specified or selected material or designated thickness in a pavement structure immediately above the subgrade and below the base course.

Subgrade means to surface of a roadbed upon which the pavement structure and shoulders are constructed.

Substructures are the girders, slab, barrier, and railing attached to the substructure. Substructures do not include endwalls, wingwalls, barrier and railing attached to the wingwalls, and cantilever barriers and railings unless supported by the superstructure. Substructures are the part of the structure below:

  1. The bottom of the grout pad for the simple and continuous span bearings, or
  2. The bottom of the girder or bottom slab soffit, or
  3. Arch skewbacks and construction joints at the top of vertical abutment members or rigid frame piers, and extending:
    a. From the back of pavement seat at one end to the back of pavement seat when the endwalls are attached to the superstructure, or b. From the expansion joint at the end pier to the expansion joint at the other end pier when the endwalls are not attached to the superstructure.

Std Spec 1-01.3 definition is the part of a Structure below:

  1. The bottom of the grout pad for the simple and continuous span bearings, or
  2. The bottom of the girder or bottom slab soffit, or
  3. Arch skewbacks and construction joints at the top of vertical abutment members or rigid frame piers.

Substructures include endwalls, wingwalls, barrier and railing attached to the wingwalls, and cantilever barriers and railings.

Surety bonds means the approved form of security, furnished by the Contractor and the Contractor’s Surety, guaranteeing completion of the Work and payment to persons supplying labor and materials in the prosecution of the Work, in accordance with the terms and conditions of the Contract.

Surface course means the top layer of the pavement structure designed to accommodate the traffic load and resist skidding, traffic abrasion, and the disintegrating effects of climate; sometimes called “wearing course”.

Survey means the locating and monumenting in accordance with sound principles of land surveying by or under the supervision of a licensed land surveyor, of points or lines which define the exterior boundary or boundaries common to two or more ownerships or which reestablish or restore general land office corners.

Survey point/monument means the physical structure, along with any references or accessories thereto, used to mark the location of a land boundary survey corner, geodetic control point, or local control point.


Thickened edge means a thickened roadway edge sloped upward from the roadway for the purpose of directing storm water drainage along the roadway.

TIA Transportation impact analyses part of the environmental review process. Typically estimates traffic volumes that a proposed project would generate, and compares the operating conditions of nearby intersections or roadway segments with and without the additional traffic.A TIA may also estimate potential traffic queues, examine any outstanding safety issues, and assess the impact of the project on transit, pedestrian, and bicycle facilities.

Traffic Control Manual for In-Street-Work means the document that refines the basic principles embodied in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) as published by the U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington D.C. to allow for better application to urban traffic conditions in the Seattle area.

Transportation Department is The City of Seattle Department of Transportation.




“V” section is a street or alley cross section that slopes downward from both sides toward the centerline.


Walkway is a walking surface constructed for pedestrian usage.

Water main is a water supply pipe for public or community use.

Wayfinding sign is enabling a person to find his or her way to a given destination thru the use of effective signage.

Wetland means those areas inundated or saturated by ground or surface water at a frequency and duration sufficient to support, and that under normal circumstance do support, a prevalence of vegetation typically adapted for life in saturated soil conditions. Wetlands generally include swamps, marshes, bogs, and similar areas.







Additional standard abbreviations can be found in Standard Specification 1-01.2. Standard abbreviations for use on contract drawings can be found on Standard Plan No. 002.)

AASHTO American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials
Council Seattle City Council
DOIT Department of Information Technology
SDCI Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections
F&F Fleets and Facilities
LAG Local Agency Guidelines, Washington State Department of Transportation
MUP Master Use Permit
MUTCD Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices
OED Office of Economic Development
RCW Revised Code of Washington
ROW Right-of-Way
ROWIM Right-of-Way Improvements Manual
SCL Seattle City Light
SDOT Seattle Department of Transportation
SMC Seattle Municipal Code
SPR Seattle Parks and Recreation
SPU Seattle Public Utilities
WAC Washington Administrative Code
WSDOT Washington State Department of Transportation