Resolving Street Use Permit Disagreements
Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) Street Use & Urban Forestry Division manages all permitted activity in city rights-of-way (ROW). All permitted work follows one or a combination of codes, regulations, rules and policies that allow the city to manage ROW priorities that result in safety and mobility of the public. These requirements are often driven by local (city), state, or federal requirements and can be complex depending on the scope of the permitted work.
The codes, rules, and regulations are complex—in part because they regulate the full range of permitted work that is possible throughout the city. Language from codes, rules, and regulations can be ambiguous for some situations, and very specific for others. The more specific the language is, the less flexible SDOT’s response to a particular project can be. Conversely, the more ambiguous the language, the less predictable the requirements may be.
Achieving the right balance between meeting word for word, intent, or interpretation of a code, rule, or regulation, and defining an acceptable level of flexibility (deviation from codes, rules, regulations) is a constant dilemma in developing regulatory policies. It is not unexpected therefore, that in some cases applicants or interested citizens may disagree with a SDOT plan reviewer or inspector about how the code, rule, or regulation applies in a specific circumstance, or, how the process is being administered for their particular unique project.
SDOT is committed to continuously improving our customer service and responsiveness. We strive to continue developing consistent, clear, and predictable permitting processes and work practices that result in a positive experience for all permitees using city ROW. Stakeholders consistently remind us that clearing up disagreements about the permit process and policy or technical issues will reduce delays in permitting and avoid delays and disruptions of the public ROW. We agree, and have taken steps to ensure that we promptly address any disagreements you may have about how your application is proceeding or how a code, rule, or regulation applies to your project. It is in SDOT’s greatest interest to minimize safety and mobility impacts to city ROW. In the long term, we believe our prompt attention to resolving disagreements will reduce correction requests, enhance follow-through on agreements, and improve both plan and inspection quality and consistency.
How We’re Responding
To assist in resolving disagreements we are reemphasizing quick resolution with our permitting and construction supervisors and managers, and clarifying the process by which disagreements are resolved. By ensuring that production/process, code/rule/regulation/technical, or accounting/billing issues are overseen separately, we can focus supervisory attention on these types of issues without adding additional staff.
How to Resolve a Permit Disagreement
If you disagree with assigned staff about either a production or process related issue, about how a policy or technical issue affects a specific project, or about an interpretation of a code, rule, or policy issue you may wish to ask the assigned staff person’s supervisor to review the situation. The same would apply if you have disagreement on an accounting or billing issues. You will find the appropriate supervisor by referring to the list on the back, or by asking the assigned staff person for the supervisor’s name and contact information. If the supervisor is not immediately available, s/he will return your call within 24 hours. The supervisor will talk with you about your concern or disagreement, reviewing the circumstances with you and the assigned staff. After appropriate consideration—usually within a day—the supervisor will provide a verbal answer. If the answer will take longer than 24 hours, the supervisor will let you know the expected time frame.
Contact a Supervisor (Email is preferred, and often results in a quicker response)
ROW MANAGEMENT SUPERVISORS
ROW OPERATIONS SUPERVISORS
URBAN FORESTRY SUPERVISORS
BUSINESS ENTERPRISE SUPERVISORS
Contact a Manager
If the supervisor’s answer is one that you continue to disagree with and you feel the decision does not correctly apply to your project, you may request review of the issue by writing to the appropriate manager. In order to achieve finality with an answer from the manager that will be relied upon by all involved, resolution of the disputed issue should be sought in writing. Please send your letter to the appropriate manager below c/o SDOT, 700 Fifth Ave., Suite 2300, PO Box 34019, Seattle, WA 98124:
A written response will be made by the manager, usually within two weeks of the request, unless additional, time-consuming research, analysis or discussion is required. (The manager will let you know within a week of your request, if extra work will be needed). The manager will involve the assigned staff and supervisor to gain full understanding of the situation and inform them of the final resolution.
Contact the Director
We want to assist you as much as possible should a disagreement arise. If, after following the above process, you are still not satisfied that you have been given the highest of quality service, feel free to contact our SDOT Street Use & Urban Forestry Director, Barbara Gray, at (206) 615-0872.