Working for a safe, affordable, vibrant, innovative, and interconnected city.
Learn More
Seattle.gov Home Page
Seattle.gov This Department
Link to Seattle Department of Planning and Development home page DEPARTMENT OF PLANNING & DEVELOPMENT

Grading Permit

See also: 

What Is It?

Grading is the process of changing your property’s ground level.

You may need a grading permit if your project includes any of these activities:

  • Excavating, removing, or adding soil on your property
  • Moving soil from one part of your property to another
  • Removing roots or stumps from steep slopes
  • Installing new pavement

If your grading project is part of a construction permit application, you do not need a separate grading permit.

For a complete list of work that needs a grading permit, and for possible exemptions, see Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) 22.170.060. In general, you will need a grading permit if your project will include any of the following:

  • Change the existing grade (the ground level) by more than 4 feet vertically and the combined volume of material excavated or added is more than 50 cubic yards
  • Change the existing grade by more than 4 feet vertically if the result is a permanent slope steeper than a ratio of 3 horizontal to 1 vertical
  • Change the existing grade by more than 4 feet vertically if the result is a temporary slope cut steeper than a ratio of 1 horizontal to 1 vertical
  • Excavate, move, or add soil if the combined volume of material is more than 500 cubic yards
  • Disturb land (such as clearing a site of trees) in an area that is one acre or larger; land disturbing activity is any action that results in movement of soil, change in soil cover, or change in the existing topography
  • Add new or replace a combined 2,000 square feet or more of impervious surface, including pavement

In addition, you will need a grading permit for work in a shoreline district (the lakes, bays, Puget Sound, and wetlands, and land within 200 feet of those areas) if:

  • You are grading any land covered by water
  • You are disturbing land within 100 feet of the ordinary high water mark
  • Your project has a combined volume of more than 25 cubic yards of excavation, filling, and other movement of earth within 100 and 200 feet of the ordinary high water mark

You may also need a shoreline land use permit or environmental review (SEPA) in addition to the grading permit.

In addition, in environmentally critical areas and buffers, you need a grading permit and possibly an environmental review if:

  • You are disturbing land in wetlands, wetland buffers, shoreline buffers, and riparian corridors (a river, stream, or body of water and the land within 100 feet on each side )
  • You are disturbing land in landslide-prone areas (a steep slope, known slide, or potential slide) and the combined volume of excavation, filling, and other movement of earth is more than 25 cubic yards

Whether you need a permit or not, you need to meet all code requirements such as restrictions on land disturbance in ECAs and their buffers.

How Much Does it Cost?

The fee for review a grading permit is based on the time it takes us to complete the review. Our review fee is based on the DPD hourly rate.

How Long Does It Take?

How long it takes us to review your grading permit application depends on the complexity of your project. Depending on the scope of your project, we may take 2 days, 2 weeks, or 8 weeks for the initial review. Each additional review cycle takes 1 to 2 weeks.

Steps to Get Your Permit

 

1. Research

Get your property information. Find property information to help you plan your project.

Determine restrictions to your project. Research the codes to determine requirements and limits for your project.

Determine if you need an environmental review. You might need an environmental (SEPA) review in addition to a grading permit. We need several months to do a SEPA review, which must be submitted before you apply for a grading permit.

Attend a coaching session. We offer 20 minutes of free coaching to answer drainage, land use, geotechnical or construction permit questions. If you need a longer coaching session, we offer one-hour sessions for $250.

2. Start Permit Application

Get a project number. Get a project number by starting your application online or by submitting a preliminary application. You will need to include either a location plan (for interior work) or a site plan (for exterior work). You can use the number to track your project.

Request a pre-application site visit. You need a pre-application site visit if you will disturb more than 750 square feet of land or disturb any land on a site with an environmentally critical area (other than liquefaction or peat-settlement prone areas). Request a pre-application site visit online or submit a pre-application site visit form. Our report will include information about your next steps, what to include in your plans, and what to provide at your intake appointment.

Request a pre-submittal conference (optional). We recommend pre-submittal conferences for very complex projects, including buildings with unusual structural systems, substantial alterations, or work in environmentally critical areas or shorelines. One-hour pre-submittal conference fees vary based on the type of conference you need.

Apply for exemptions. You may need an exemption from code requirements if your project is located in an environmentally critical area or near the shoreline.

Prepare your plans. Plans should be to scale and easy to read and scan.

Fill out forms.

Coordinate with other agencies. You may need permits or approvals from other agencies. These are the most common agencies you may need to work with for your permit type:

3. Submit Plans

Get your project screened by our permit techs. We screen your application to make sure it’s ready to submit. Screening is available on a walk-in basis at the Applicant Services Center on the 20th floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower.

Schedule an intake appointment. Call (206) 684-8850 to schedule an intake appointment at the Applicant Services Center, or schedule an electronic appointment. You may schedule an appointment without screening if you are a consistently prepared applicant with a rating of 80 percent or better.

Pay fees. You will pay an initial fee for one hour of review. We will add other reviews (e.g. geotechnical review) depending on the scope of your project. All reviews will be at our hourly rate.

Make corrections and resubmit your plans. Your project reviewer will send you a corrections letter if changes are needed.

4. Get Permit

Pick up or print permit. You will be contacted when your plans are approved. You can pick up your permit and approved plans at the permit issuance counter in the Applicant Service Center. If you submitted your plans electronically, you can print your permit and approved plans from your DPD Project Portal.

Pay fees. You will need to pay all outstanding fees to pick up your permit.

Display your permit. Place your permit in a visible location on the project site.

Get related permits. You may need to get additional permits or approvals from other departments.

5. Schedule Inspection

Request an inspection. See the construction inspections page for when to call us and how to schedule your inspection.

Get special inspections. If we assigned special inspections as part of your grading permit, some parts of your project will need to be inspected during construction. See the special inspections page for more details.

6. Complete Project

Close out Special Inspections for your project. See the special inspections page for information on how to submit a final letter to us for review.

Close your permit. Your permit information will be archived in our electronic document management system.

What Do You Want To Do?


Still Need Help?


 Ask Us

  • Call us at (206) 684-8850

 Online