Environmentally critical areas (ECAs) include wetlands, flood-prone areas, abandoned landfills, fish and wildlife habitat conservation areas, and steep slopes and other geologic hazard areas.
In addition to our zoning regulations, properties within ECAs are regulated by Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) section 25.09, which includes specific development standards for each type of ECA.
If you cannot follow the rules for the type of ECA in which your project is located, and your project is not eligible for an exemption or waiver, then you may be able to apply for one of the following types of permits.
ECA Variance: This permit may allow you to:
If your project includes impacts to steep slope areas or other ECAs in the Shoreline District, you may need a shoreline variance.
ECA Administrative Conditional Use: This type of permit may allow you to modify some ECA and Land Use Code standards when:
ECA Exception: With this type of permit, you may be able to modify ECA standards if they prevent reasonable use of your property. To qualify for an ECA exception, you must demonstrate that your property could not be developed under all the other code options, including a variance or administrative conditional use.
We charge an hourly review fee based on our Fee Subtitle. You need to pay a minimum fee when you submit your land use application. After we accept your application, we will send you a monthly invoice for all review time completed in that billing cycle. If you do not pay your invoice, we will stop reviewing your project.
How long it takes us to complete our review of your proposal depends on several factors, including the:
Find your property information. Research your site to help you plan your project.
Determine restrictions to your project. Research the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC) to determine standards that will apply to your proposal.
Attend a coaching session. We offer 20 minutes of free coaching in the Applicant Services Center to answer drainage, land use, geotechnical, or construction permit questions. If you need a longer coaching session, we offer paid one-hour sessions.
Start your application. Complete the Building & Land Use Pre-Application online using the Seattle Services Portal. You will need to answer questions about your proposal and upload a site plan. You'll receive an email once we have added the pre-application site visit (PASV) fees to your project. (Most projects require a PASV.) After you have paid the fee, we will perform the site visit. Your preliminary application information will be reviewed by other departments for comment.
Review your preliminary application report. You will receive a preliminary application report that will include critical information about whether you need Design Review, SEPA, or street improvements. Our report will include information from the utilities about your specific site and proposal. Our report will also identify potential project stoppers.
Request a pre-submittal conference. We recommend pre-submittal conferences for very complex projects, including work in environmentally critical areas or shorelines. You must pay a minimum two hour pre-submittal conference fee before we schedule your appointment. We might charge additional hourly fees based on the number of City staff attending the conference, and the amount of follow-up time required.
Apply for exemptions. You may be eligible for exemptions from code or permitting requirements if your project is located in an environmentally critical area or near the shoreline.You need to apply for and resolve any exemption requests during the preliminary application process before you submit your permit application. Submit your exemption requests using the Seattle Services Portal.
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:
Prepare your plans and technical documents. Plans should be to scale. You may need to upload technical documents including a survey, geotechnical and wetland reports, and other types of reports. Our Tips and code standards provide additional detail on the type of plans and reports we require to review your proposal.
Schedule an intake appointment. Schedule an intake appointment using the Seattle Services Portal.
Pay fees. You must pay a minimum fee for your review, any accrued land use hourly fees, and intake and notice fees at intake. You will receive an email once we have added fees to your project. You must pay your fees using your portal before we will post any public notice or conduct any reviews. We will invoice you monthly for additional fees during the review process. We will stop reviewing your project if you do not pay your monthly invoice.
Wait for public notice. We will issue a public notice for your project as required by SMC 23.76.012. If required, you are responsible for building and installing a large environmental public notice sign. (This sign must remain in place until the end of the appeal period or the Hearing Examiner decision, if applicable.) Once you've installed the sign, let us know by submitting an Environmental Sign Installation Notification using the Seattle Services Portal.
We'll consider all public comments we receive during our review.
Make corrections and resubmit your plans. Once all of our reviews are done, you will receive an email telling you that corrected and/or additional documents can be uploaded into your portal. Your project may require multiple correction rounds before our reviews are complete.
Pay outstanding fees. Once our review is complete, you will get an email for any outstanding fees. You must pay these fees in your portal before we publish our decision.
Read our decision. We will publish our decision on your project in our Land Use Information Bulletin. We will also send a notice of our decision to you and everybody that submitted a public comment on your project. Our decision will include any required conditions of approval, some that you must meet before we issue your permit.
Submit an appeal. If you or a member of the public disagree with our decision, you or they may file an appeal with the Seattle Hearing Examiner within 14 days from when we publish our decision.
Note the expiration date. The expiration date of your permit is based on the date of the end of the appeal or the City Hearing Examiner decision. Your permit may expire, and therefore your application may expire, without having a permit issued.
Pay final fees. We will notify you if you need to pay any final fees before we issue your permit.
Print your permit. We will notify you when we have issued your permit and the documents are available in your portal.
You may apply for a construction permit at any time once you submit a land use application. However, the project can change and evolve through the land use application review process. Corrections required by our decision may require building plan changes that can result in costly design changes.