- Do I need a permit?
- How do I know if my property is in the City limits?
- Where is the Applicant Services Center (ASC) and what are the business hours?
- What are CAMs?
- Where can I find CAMs?
- Where can I find public information about my property or structure?
- What is the Microfilm Library and what can I find there?
- What is the difference between Land Use and Construction permits?
- Can I see a permit specialist without an appointment?
- How do I make an appointment and do I need one?
- How do I reach customer service?
- How do I find the zoning designation of my property and what does it mean?
A. In general,* projects in Seattle that involve new or changed uses of property, construction or alteration of a building -- even if you cannot see the alertations from the outside -- usually require a permit from the Department of Planning and Development (DPD).
For a complete list of what types of activity do not require a building permit, go online to the Seattle Residential Code or visit the ASC. Even if a building permit is not required, your project may, however, still be subject to other applicable codes and development standards. Find information about electrical, plumbing, side sewer, construction and land use permits for single-family, multifamily, and commercial/industrial buildings on the Packets page of our Forms web page.
Per the Seattle Residential Code, the following are examples of work that is exempt from needing a building permit:
- Minor repairs or alterations which, as determined by the building official, cost the owner $4,000 or less in any 6-month period. Such repairs and alterations shall not include the removal, reduction, alteration, or relocation of any load-bearing support. Egress, light, ventilation, and fire-resistance shall not be reduced.
- Miscellaneous work including the following, provided no changes are made to the building envelope: patio and concrete slabs on grade, painting or cleaning a building, re-pointing a chimney, installing kitchen cabinets, paneling or other surface finishes over existing wall and ceiling systems, insulating existing buildings, abatement of hazardous materials, and in-kind or similar replacement of or repair of deteriorated members of a structure.
- One-story detached accessory buildings used for greenhouse, tool or storage shed, playhouse or similar uses, provided:
- The projected roof area does not exceed 120 square feet; and
- The building is not placed on a concrete foundation other than a slab on grade.
- Fences not over 8 feet high which do not have masonry or concrete elements above 6 feet.
- Arbors and other open-framed landscape structures not exceeding 120 square feet in projected area.
- Cases, counters and partitions not over 5 feet 9 inches high.
- Retaining walls and rockeries which are not over 4 feet in height measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall, provided:
- There is no surcharge or impoundment of Class I, II or III-A liquids.
- Construction is not in a critical area or an environmentally sensitive area, nor supports soils in areas of geologic hazard, steep slope or having landslide potential as identified in the environmentally sensitive and critical area regulations contained in Chapters 25.05 and 25.09 of the Seattle Municipal Code.
- Possible failure would likely cause no damage to adjoining property or structures.
- Platforms, walks and driveways not more than 18 inches above grade and not over any basement or story below.
- Window awnings supported by an exterior wall of Group R, Division 3, and Group U occupancies when projecting not more than 54 inches.
- Prefabricated swimming pools, spas and similar equipment accessory to a building subject to this code in which the pool walls are entirely above the adjacent grade and if the capacity does not exceed 5,000 gallons.
- Replacement of roofing materials and siding. This shall not include structural changes, replacement of sheathing or alterations to doors and windows. See Energy Code Sections 22.214.171.124 and 1132.1 for insulation requirements for existing building.
Exception: In detached one- and two-family dwellings, the existing roof sheathing may be replaced and roof structure may be repaired without permit provided no changes are made to the building envelope other than adding or replacing insulation, and the work is equivalent or better than the existing structure.
- School, park or private playground equipment including playhouses and tree houses.
- Removal and/or replacement of underground storage tanks that are subject to regulation by a state or federal agency.
NOTE: A Fire Dept. permit is required for removal, replacement and decommissioning of underground storage tanks.
- Installation of dish and panel antennas 6.56 feet (2 m) or less in diameter or diagonal measurement.
Other permits required. Unless otherwise exempted by this or other applicable codes, separate master use, plumbing, electrical, and mechanical permits shall be required for the above exempted items.
A. Some addresses that seem to be in the City of Seattle are actually located outside the City limits in unincorporated King County. The best way to find out if your address is an official Seattle address or not, is to call our Applicant Services Center at (206) 684-8850 to check with a staff member. Or, visit our Online Tools web page and use the DPD GIS tool, to find your address on the provided map of Seattle.
3 - Q. Where is the Applicant Services Center (ASC), and what are the business hours?
A. The Applicant Services Center is located on the 20th floor of Seattle Municipal Tower, 700 5th Ave. Find directions and more detailed information on our How to Find Us page.
A. “CAM” is an acronym for “Client Assistance Memo,” and CAMs are our most popular document. They are brief guides to various, specific pieces of the permitting process. They contain information on construction and land use permit requirements. View the CAM web page, and check out the CAM Index if you are not sure what CAM you need.
6 - Q. Where can I find public information about my property or structure?
A. You can do research on your property and building online through our Online Tools web page, or by visiting the Microfilm Library, on the 20th floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower. On the Online Tools web page, use the DPD GIS tool to find your property's zoning designation, or try our Activity Locator to view active and recent projects in your area. You can also view our citywide zoning map.
7 - Q. What is the Microfilm Library and what can I find there?
A. The Microfilm Library has microfilmed permit information and plans that go back to 1974 for most single-family residences and some commercial projects. Most permits are microfilmed about 2 weeks after being issued.
8 - Q. What is the difference between Land Use and Construction permits?
A. Two major types of permits are issued by DPD — land use and construction. (Mechanical, electrical, side sewer, plumbing, sign, and street use permits also are issued by DPD). Projects often require both land use and construction permits, and they may be applied for separately or together. See our Permits web page for detailed information.
In general:* Land use permits assure that structures meet zoning requirements and comply with environmental regulations, such as the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and the Seattle Shoreline Master Program.
Construction-related permits provide reviews of the structural and fire/life safety elements of your project, based on the 2009 International Codes with state and local amendments.
9 - Q. Can I see a permit specialist without an appointment?
A. Yes. Visit our Applicant Services Center and sign in at the Welcome Desk. The staff member can help guide you to the person who will be best able to help you. Clients are assisted on a first-come, first-served basis.
10 - Q. How do I make an appointment and do I need one?
A. If you want to find out more information about your property, structure or obtaining a permit, you do not need an appointment to visit DPD. Clients without an appointment are served on a first-come, first-served basis. To submit a permit application, however, you do need an appointment. Call the Applicant Services Center or stop by in person to make an appointment.
11 - Q. How do I reach customer service?
A. If you got a question, you can contact DPD directly. You can find helpful information by visiting DPD's Applicant Services Center on the 20th floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower, at 700 Fifth Ave.
12 - Q. How do I find the zoning designation of my property and what does it mean?
A. To identify your property's zoning designation, click on our Online Tools web page and then visit Parcel Data. Use the tool to enter your address, and then click on the "View" link next to your address. "Zoning Info" is the second section on the Parcel Data Sheet. Your designation is listed under "Base Zone." If you click on that heading, you can see a table of all zoning designations, and a brief description of each.
To find out what your zoning designation means look at our Resource Center, and scroll to zoning information to find zoning charts. There you'll find links to general zoning standards for Seattle's Single Family Residential, Commercial, Industrial, and Multifamily Residential zones.
*Due to the nature of a list of Frequently Asked Questions, answers have been generalized and may not apply to every specific project. Please consult a permit specialist in the Applicant Services Center to find an answer tailored to your specific project.
April 24, 2012