4.1 City of Seattle Permit Process

Last Updated: 6-11-2017Print page

There are numerous permits that the City of Seattle may require for private development projects. A number of City departments oversee permitting, including:

  • Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has authority over permits related to any work being performed in Seattle’s street right-of-way. SDOT coordinates the review and inspection of drainage, wastewater and water infrastructure with Seattle Public Utilities (SPU) and electrical infrastructure with Seattle City Light (SCL). See SDOT Permit Types for more information on additional permit types.
  • Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) is responsible for and leads the review and approval of Construction and Master Use Permits (MUPs)
  • Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation (SPR) permits work proposed on land that they own or on designated park boulevards.
  • Seattle Department of Neighborhoods (DON) reviews and approves projects within the seven historic districts.  Their review ensures the historical integrity of structures and public spaces in the City’s seven historic districts. DON is also responsible for the legal process of nominating, designating and protecting landmark structures and sites.

In addition to City required permits, many projects may require permits or approvals by County, State or Federal agencies.

This section of Streets Illustrated provides a high-level overview of typical permits that may be needed for work in the street right-of-way.

Navigating the SDCI/SDOT permitting process. Shows SDCI permits, SDOT permits, and all city departments permits. For the preliminary assessment, all City departments issue a preliminary assessment report (PAR), SDCI identifies code-required street and alley improvements, and SDOT reviews code requirements and identifies permitting requirements (SIP). In the pre-submittal phase, SDCI schedules a pre-submittal conference while SDOT provides design requirements and recommendations and responds to questions from the applicant.  There is a joint pre-submittal conference which SDCI leads and SDOT attends. The permits for SDCI enter the Master Use Permit (MUP) phase and SDOT permitting enters preliminary design guidance. SDCI reviews early design guidance (EDG) submittal while SDOT reviews EDG packets and provides guidance to SDCI, applicant, and Design Review Board (DRB). SDOT also reviews transportation analysis and 0-30% SIP plans. This will lead to SDOT conceptual approval at the end of the 0-30% SIP development period. SDCI will hold an EDG meeting with the applicant. SDCI will review MUP submittal, post notice of application, do an initial plan review, and do any corrected plan review. The MUP recommendation meeting from SDCI will coincide with the 60% SDOT SIP Design Guidance meeting. After these meetings, SDCI will develop director's recommendation report and publish MUP decision.  SDOT will review plans for constructability and manage interdepartmental coordination of improvements in the right-of-way. SDCI will then begin construction permits while SDOT permits will include a Street Improvement Permit (SIP) and Right-of-Way Management Permits. SDCI and SDOT will review construction management plan (CMP) for CMP approval through the Construction Permit and Right-of-Way Management permit process. Meanwhile the SIP process reviews plans for constructability and manage interdepartmental coordination of improvements in the right-of-way. After CMP approval, SDCI will review construction permits, including demolition, shoring, excavation, and building permits. SDOT will have a Preliminary right-of-way assessment meeting (PRAM), review the traffic control plan (TCP). The right-of-way management permit process will approve the TCP and then review right-of-way management (ROWM) permits. ROWM permits will be issued around the same time as construction permits. The SIP will be issued after construction and ROWM permits are issued.

Right-of-Way Improvement Requirements

Right-of-way improvement requirements for private development can be triggered through several different review processes. Some of the more common ways that street improvements are triggered are:

When right–of-way improvements are required, a street use permit is required for those improvements. The type of street use permit depends on the type and extent of the improvements required.

Requirements for Streets, Alleys and Easements

Required Improvement

Code section


Pedestrian access and circulation

SMC 23.53.006

  • General requirements

Improvement requirements for new streets in all zones:

SMC 23.53.010

  • Zone category
  • ROW widths

Improvement requirements for existing streets in residential and commercial zones:

SMC 23.53.015

  • Full and Reduced Improvement requirements
  • ROW widths
  • Pedestrian access and easements
  • Dedication requirement
  • No Protest Agreement
  • Paving Requirement

Improvement requirements for existing streets in Industrial zones:

SMC 23.53.020

  • Full and Reduced Improvement requirements
  • ROW widths
  • Pedestrian access and easements
  • Dedication requirement
  • No Protest Agreement
  • Paving Requirement

Alley improvements in all zones:

SMC 23.53.030

  • General requirements
  • Alley width
  • Driveway and curb cut standards

Access easement standards:

SMC 23.53.025

  • Required improvements
  • Easement standards


Overview of Requirements from the Land Use Code

The City of Seattle Land Use Code (Chapter 23.53 of the Seattle Municipal Code) requires that streets and alleys adjacent and leading to lots being created, developed, or redeveloped, be improved to meet the minimum conditions specified in the Land Use Code and this Manual. The Seattle Department of Construction & Inspections determines the required right-of-way improvements and the Department of Transportation reviews and permits the construction of those right-of-way improvements through the Street Improvement Permitting Process. See SDOT Permit Types section for more information.

The street improvement requirements vary by location, by land use zones, and by street types to reflect the intensity of development, the scale and character of the zone, and to provide a balance between the need to accommodate public transportation and utility infrastructure in a manner compatible with existing neighborhood character. In addition to the requirements for street and alley improvements contained in the Land Use Code, additional street and alley improvements may be required through the environmental review process.

All required street improvements shall be constructed by the developer and accepted by the Department of Transportation prior to issuance of the final Certificate of Occupancy. A temporary Certificate of Occupancy may be issued prior to completion of street improvements when approved by the Director of Transportation.

Changes to the Land Use code can occur on an irregular basis and may affect the requirements necessary for your project. It is the responsibility of the applicant to know and understand the development requirements.  

Coordination Activities

Construction and maintenance activities in the street right-of-way require coordination with many agencies and with other nearby construction activities, including federal, state, other local authorities, and other private development. In situations where proposed development is adjacent to work in the right-of-way, SDOT and the developer are encouraged to work together to leverage collaboration opportunities so as not to duplicate work. Coordination with some agencies will require the project applicant to provide advance notification so any necessary reviews and approvals are in place prior to City permits being issued. SDOT’s Development Review team coordinates SDOT input on the Construction and Master Use Permit process, as well as State Environmental Protection Act (SEPA), Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), and transportation impact analyses (TIA) processes.

The Project Coordination Office maintains a database of infrastructure projects planned for the right of way, including paving, utility infrastructure improvements and service connections. This database, called the Planning Analysis and Coordination Tool is in the process of being replaced with a more widely accessible database and map that can help identify planned construction for the right of way as well as the Street Use and SDCI permitted activity in and around their work site. This will improve the coordination of street and utility work in the street right-of-way. Information about project locations, coordination groups and moratoriums is available from the Project Coordination Office and is currently updated quarterly. The information on this interactive map from the SDOT Street Use Division is updated monthly.

In general, there is a five-year moratorium on opening new pavement, as disrupting new pavement reduces the life and quality of this public asset. Exceptions to the moratorium are limited by law and restoration requirements in these areas are stringent. It shall not be permitted within the five-year period following its installation, except in the following circumstances:

  • Emergency repairs that could not have been anticipated or that are necessary for the protection of the public’s health and safety
  • New or revised service connections that have been requested by a utility customer
  • Work necessary to ensure continued service delivery to an agency’s customers
  • Work for which SDOT’s denial of a permit would violate local, state, or federal law