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A Permit Expediter’s Guide To Seattle

Known for their beautiful mountain views, coffee culture, and outdoors lifestyle; Seattle, Washington is one of the most beloved cities in the United States. With a 2019 population of 753,675, this make it the largest city in both the state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest region of North America – and that number is only climbing. People are gravitating towards the rustic way of life that is popular in Seattle, resulting in a steady boom of retail openings and construction projects.

If you are finding yourself one of the many people hoping to open a store, restaurant, or office space in Seattle, then prepare yourself with the necessary information for obtaining a building permit fast.


1. Proper Due Diligence

  • a. Located at the SDCI website: you can research property information, zoning, and permit history; this will help determine the application types and requirements you will need to meet. Additionally, through this website you can review Tips, Director’s Rules, and Checklists and Standards; and create fee estimates.
  • b. Green Building Permitting Incentive Information: Seattle prioritizes buildings that help fight climate pollution as the city is hoping to eliminate climate pollution and transition to 100 percent clean energy in their buildings by 2050. By meeting specific green building goals and certification, your project may be approved for certain leniency such as additional height, floor area, or a faster building permit.

  • c. Public Resource Center: This service allows you to purchase code, view land use files and construction drawings, and research permit and plan history in the microfilm library.

2. Preliminary Application Materials

  • a. After doing the proper due diligence ahead of time, you will start the process of applying for your various permits. Before submittal, you will have to gather your preliminary application materials: the following materials can be submitted through the Seattle Services Portal.

  • b. Preliminary Application: To start the construction and land use (MUP) permit process, you’ll need to submit a Building and Land Use Pre-Application.
    • I. If you are applying for a Subject-to-Field-Inspection (STFI) permit, use the Building and Land Use Pre-Application. (This includes STFI demolition permits).
    • ii. If you are applying for a mechanical permit, select mechanical permit under the Trade heading on the portal.
  • c. Include:
    • A site plan meeting the requirements in Tip 103, Site Plan Requirements, for a Preliminary Site Plan or Simple Site Plan (depending on your project type).
    • Location plans per Tip 316, Subject-to-Field Inspection Permits, are required for all STFI permit applications.
  • d. If you are requesting a street improvement exception, submit a Right-of-Way Improvement Exception Request Form per Tip 205, Street and Ally Improvement Exceptions.

3. Pre-Application Requirements

    • i. Seattle requires a PASV for land use (MUP), new construction, grading applications, most environmentally critical areas (ECA), and other projects having ground disturbance greater than 750 square feet in non-environmentally critical areas.
      • 1. Exception: if the SDCI conducted a PASV at your development site within the past 24 months.
      • 2. Exception: if STFIs have no ground disturbance or ECA issues [ground disturbance is defined as equal to or greater than 1 cubic yard of hand-dug earth disturbance (roughly 5 or 6 footings)].
    • ii. You will receive a PASV Assessment Report identifying site conditions including ECAs, drainage patterns, large trees, existing structures, street curb, and potential property line impacts.a. Pre-Application Site Visit (PASV)
    • iii. After the previous steps, begin exemption process if required. See Tip 327A, or Tip 327B.
      • Note: based on the PASV results, Seattle may require additional submittal materials.
  • b. Preliminary Assessment Report (PAR)
    • I. Seattle conducts a Preliminary Assessment on all MUPs and new construction applications. This assessment of your project will be conducted by the SDCI, Seattle Department of Transportation, Seattle Public Utilities, and Seattle City Light to locate any potential major project problems. This process is started as soon as you submit your preliminary application, request the Pre-Application Site Visit, and pay the associated fees.
    • ii. If you are needed to complete the Street Improvement Plan process, then this is the time to start.
  • c. Pre-Submittal Conference Application
    • i. Seattle asks for a Pre-Submittal conference for high-rise structure and atrium construction, Early Design Guidance, and Streamline Design Review.
    • ii. We recommend Pre-Submittal Conferences for substantial alterations, buildings with unusual structural systems, ECA exceptions, Shoreline Substantial Development permits, system analysis for energy code compliance, complex zoning interpretations, right-of-way requirements, and council actions (e.g., rezones).
    • iii. Submit to Pre-Submittal Conference Application Form and a Financial Statement of Responsibility to request a conference to discuss codes, process, or complex issues spanning many disciplines (e.g. construction, land use, etc.) and/or involving several City Departments.
    • iv. Seattle has a limited number of Pre-Submittal Conferences available, so be sure to schedule ahead of time to guarantee a spot.
    • v. You are also able to submit a list of questions about your project that their Project Managers can answer for you.
    • vi. Payment of the initial pre-submittal conference fees must be paid in full before scheduling the appointment.

    4. Screening (construction applications only)

  • a. Screening can be done through the Seattle Services Portal.
  • b. For screening, you must submit detailed construction drawings, forms, reports, and other documents for SDCI to screen for completeness prior to intake. Please include a full-size site plan in your plan set.
  • c. Seattle will review your application to make sure it meets submittal requirements and is complete. Once we have approved your screening, you may schedule an intake appointment.


  • a. Your intake appointment will be done electronically. You do not need to come into the SDCI’s office to do so.
  • b. To properly intake, upload your documents by 7:00 a.m. in the morning of your intake appointment.
  • c. Once all your intake documents have been uploaded and your appointment has been scheduled, you can submit the intake. The SDCI’s managers will automatically move your intake forward as their openings permit. Please be aware that once you have submitted for intake, you are no longer able to add or make changes to your submittal.
  • d. If a Street Improvement Plan (SIP) is required, a 60% complete SIP must be submitted to the Seattle Department of Transportation, screened, and accepted 5 days prior to SDCI’s construction intake appointment.
  • e. Once they have accepted your intake materials, you must pay your fees within 48 hours. If you don’t pay your fees, we will reject your intake and you will need to reschedule.

6. How to Pay Fees

If you need to pay fees online through the Portal or contact the cashiers at (206) 386-9780 to submit payment.

Additional Helpful Information

Seattle also launched in 2020, a tool that helps make it easier to find construction permits anywhere in Seattle. This tool, called the Shaping Seattle: Property & Building Activity – which is an interactive map that allows users to find active construction and land use permits and proposals subject to Design Review in each neighborhood.

For a more comprehensive collection of ‘Tips’, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections has a compilation of advice that expand on many common complications and questions. You can find this collection here.

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