1.1 Vision, Purpose, and Authority

Last Updated: 8-19-2019Print page

Complete Streets Vision for Seattle’s Streets

Seattle today is facing the challenges that come with being one of the fastest-growing major cities in the country. At the same time, global trends are reshaping our transportation needs and the tools available to meet them. We are ready to meet these challenges head on as we progress towards the Seattle of tomorrow. 

Seattle streets must continue to adapt to accommodate a multimodal system that is efficient, safe, and attractive. Our streets should be designed for all ages and abilities, and should be welcoming for everyone. We must lead with equity and take an inclusive approach to project selection, outreach, design and implementation.

Streets Illustrated provides the tools to help developers, designers, engineers, and community advocates reshape the right-of-way to meet the needs for Seattle today and in the future. The street right-of-way accounts for 27% of city land and has a profound impact on how people move through the city. This manual sets new standards for different modes of transportation using the right-of-way and advances best practice design in the realm of moving goods (freight) and people – whether they are walking, biking, riding transit, or looking for a place to park. It also facilitates better outcomes in the public realm with standards for landscaping, street trees and green stormwater infrastructure, as well as pedestrian lighting and new public space programming tools.

Purpose and Need

Streets Illustrated, Seattle’s Right-of-Way Improvements Manual, is an online resource that provides design guidance and standards, and processes on how to design, build, and manage within the right-of-way.

Streets Illustrated considers and attempts to balance the access and mobility needs of everyone who uses and travels in the right-of-way: people walking, biking, driving, riding transit, or moving goods/freight. Procedures and design standards were developed keeping in mind the critical balance among the following: safety, the preservation and maintenance of roadway infrastructure and utility services, context sensitive design, and preserving our environment. Design guidance is not mandatory, but reflects best practices and has the most favorable alignment with city plans, priorities, and community input. This manual also includes tools on how to activate and enhance public space, which will serve as a tool to advocacy groups and neighborhoods throughout the City of Seattle.

Knowing that all projects have site-specific opportunities and constraints, Streets Illustrated articulates the City’s design standards for street right-of-way improvements and describes a deviation process to achieve flexibility when practical.


Streets Illustrated establishes and documents the policies, procedures, and practices for how the City manages physical improvements in the street right-of-way and on public property. It attempts to provide a comprehensive resource for all procedures, standards, and guidelines affecting physical changes in the street right-of-way. For more information on the authority and purpose of Streets Illustrated, the Right–of-Way Improvements Manual, see SDOT/SDCI Director’s Rules 04-2017/31-2017.

Streets Illustrated summarizes the City of Seattle’s Land Use Code requirements (Title 23 of the Seattle Municipal Code) for street and alley improvements and presents specific criteria for design and installation. In addition to requirements, Streets Illustrated includes additional resources and guidelines for doing work in the street right-of-way including information on project permitting, construction requirements, and street design guidelines.