Land Use / Master Use - Shoreline

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What Is It?

Properties within 200 feet of the shoreline are regulated by the Seattle Shoreline Master Program (SMP) in addition to our zoning requirements. Therefore, you need to apply for a land use permit for any project on a shoreline.

Our shoreline district includes Elliott Bay, Lake Washington, Puget Sound, the Ship Canal, Lake Union, the Duwamish River, Green Lake, associated wetlands, and all land within 200 feet of these water bodies.

The SMP includes specific rules and restrictions, including rules about:

  • Uses (for example, industrial, residential, or commercial)
  • Environmental impacts
  • Public access
  • Views
  • Height

Types of Shoreline Permits

Shoreline substantial development permit. Required when developments are proposed within the shoreline district. In addition to specific use and development standards, we review the environmental impacts of proposed development to shoreline waters, fish, and wildlife.

Shoreline substantial development permit exemptions. Some developments within the shoreline district do not require a shoreline permit if they are considered exempt. For more information on the types of projects that are typically exempt, see the shoreline exemption page.

Shoreline conditional use and special uses. Each shoreline area has a designation that specifies how you can use it. Some uses may be allowed outright, while others are not allowed or are subject to additional criteria. Some uses may be allowed as a shoreline conditional use or a shoreline special use if your project qualifies. Shoreline conditional use applications also require Washington State Department of Ecology approval.

Shoreline variance. A variance allows us, in conjunction with Washington State Department of Ecology, to grant relief from certain code requirements. Variances are requested from development standards listed in the shoreline section of the Seattle Municipal Code (SMC). You may not request a variance for a type of use.

If you want to develop near a shoreline that is in a fish and wildlife habitat conservation area, you may need to get an environmental (SEPA) review for your project.

How Much does It Cost?

Our review fee is $250 per hour, plus some flat fees, including fees for publication of notices. You need to provide a deposit 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 Does It Take?

How long it takes us to complete our review of your proposal depends on several factors, including the:

  • Complexity of your proposal
  • Quality of your plans and project documentation
  • Timely response to correction letters and requests for further information
  • Public interest

Steps to Get Your Permit


1. Research

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 one-hour sessions for $250.

2. Start Permit Application

Apply for a project number. Get a project number by starting your application online or by submitting a preliminary application in person, by mail, or by fax. You will need to provide a site plan.

Request a pre-application site visit. Pre-application site visits are required for all land use projects. Request a pre-application site visit online or submit a pre-application site visit form. Our report will include information about your next steps, potential right-of-way or utility improvements, what to include in your plans, and what to provide at your intake appointment.

Request a pre-submittal conference. You need a pre-submittal conference for projects working near shorelines.

Apply for exemptions. You may be eligible for an exemption from environmentally critical area and/or shoreline code requirements.

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. Your plans should be to scale and easy to read and scan. You may need to submit 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.

3. Submit Plans

Schedule an intake appointment. Call (206) 684-8850 to schedule an intake appointment at the Applicant Services Center, or schedule an electronic appointment.

Pay fees. You must pay a deposit for your review and noticing fees at intake. We will invoice you monthly for additional fees incurred 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. Once you've installed the sign, let us know and we'll begin our public notice process.

We'll consider all public comments we receive during the 2 - 4 week public comment period.

Make corrections and resubmit your plans. Once all of our reviews are done, we will contact you to pick up your plan sets and make corrections. Your project may require multiple correction rounds before our review is complete.

Pay outstanding fees. Once our review is complete, you must pay any remaining fees before we publish our decision.

Read our decision. We will publish our decision on your project in our Land Use Information Bulletin once all reviews are complete. We will also send a notice of our decision to everybody that submitted a public comment on your project. Our decision will include any required conditions of approval.

Submit an appeal. If you or a member of the public disagree with our decision, you may file an appeal with the Seattle Hearing Examiner within 14 days from when we publish our decision. If appealed, the appeal will be heard by the Shorelines Hearings Board.

4. Get Permit

Pick up your permits. Once Seattle DCI has approved your project, you will be contacted to pick up your permit and approved plans at the permit issuance counter in the Applicant Services Center.

5. Apply for Construction Permit

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.

What Do You Want To Do?

Still Need Help?

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  • Schedule a coaching session: (206) 684-8850