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Environmentally Critical Areas Exemptions

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What Is It?

We restrict development in environmentally critical areas (ECAs). ECAs may include:

  • Landslide-prone areas (including steep slopes and potential and known landslide areas)
  • Peat-settlement-prone areas (sites containing peat and organic soils that may settle when the area is developed or the water table is lowered)
  • Liquefaction-prone areas (sites with loose, saturated soil that lose the strength needed to support a building during earthquakes)
  • Abandoned landfills
  • Flood-prone areas
  • Wetlands
  • Riparian corridors (a river, stream, or body of water and the land within 100 feet on each side)
  • Fish and wildlife habitat

In some cases, we will give you an exemption from the ECA regulations for your development. The types of projects that may qualify for an ECA exemption are:

  • Routine repair and maintenance of your buildings
  • Stabilizing an emergency situation so that you have time to obtain a permit
  • Replacing buildings destroyed by an act of nature (with limitations)
See section 25.09.045 of our Seattle Municipal Code for a more complete list of project types that may be exempted from the ECA requirements.

How Much Does It Cost?

The fee for your ECA exemption application is based on the how long it takes us to complete the review.

  • We charge an hourly rate to review your application
  • You must pay for one half hour of review when you submit your application for an ECA exemption
  • You pay the remaining review fee before receiving our ECA exemption decision

How Long Does It Take?

We try to finish the review of your ECA exemption application within 1 to 2 weeks.

Steps to Get an Exemption

You must receive an ECA Exemption decision from us before you apply for a building permit or master use permit. Your exemption application must be part of a specific project.

  1. Attend a coaching session. We recommend that you speak with one of our staff before you submit your exemption request. Coaching is available at the Applicant Service Center on the 20th floor of the Seattle Municipal Tower.
  2. Start your application. Begin your preliminary application and request your exemption or relief online through your Project Portal using the “Request an Exemption” link on the left side. You will need to upload a site plan and any documents you have to support your application. Examples of supporting documents include a geotechnical report, topographic survey, historical street grade profiles, and photographs.
  3. Schedule a pre-application site visit. 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 inspection. Your preliminary application materials will be sent to other departments for their review and comment as part of this process.
  4. Submit additional information. As we review your application, we may ask for additional information.

What Do You Want To Do?

Still Need Help?

 Ask Us

  • General Questions
    (206) 684-8850
  • Does Your Project Require a Shoreline Exemption?
    Ben Perkowski, Land Use Planner
    (206) 684-0347 
  • Visit the Public Resource Center
    700 5th Avenue, 20th floor
    M, W, F: 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
    T, Th: 10:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.